EOU2019 was an inspiring conference with a broad programme

Having attended previous EOU conferences, the 12th EOU event held in Cluj-Napoca (Romania) made me feel like a seasoned attendee. Indeed, this was the fourth time I took part in these biennial meetings, where ornithologists from all over Europe (and beyond) gather with the objective to promote and advance the field of ornithology. Without a doubt, the event is a must-go for any early-career researcher within the field, not only for promoting exciting results, but also as a unique opportunity to meet and interact with other peers. In this latter aspect, the EOU always organises an inter-ECR evening (the EOU “Fledglings” meeting), with the objective that junior researchers meet each other and interact. I have to confess that this year I missed the meeting – perhaps feeling that I am getting closer to be a juvenile – but I heard from friends and colleagues that attended it that was a success.

Symposium: “Shifting the focus: avian life-history stages from the perspective of understudied hormonal systems” presenters, closckwise, Suvi Ruuskanen, Frédéric Angelier, Sara Lupi and Ádám Z. Lendvai (with the talk timing system in action . . . ) © Pablo Salmón

Also, EOU2019 was extra-exciting from a social aspect as many of the attendees where based either in Spain (approx. 30), where I did my undergraduate studies, or Sweden (approx. 20), where I completed my PhD. So, in addition to meeting colleagues from previous EOU conferences, travelling to Cluj was a kind of re-encounter with old friends and colleagues, and when I mean old I mean that in some cases I haven’t seen them in the last six years (though we keep in touch)! It was great to catch up with Josué Martinez de la Puente (@JMartinezPuente), Hannah Watson (@hydrobates1), Johan Nilsson (@_Jni_), Jaime Muriel (@JaimeMuriel82), Fredrik Andreasson (@AndreasssonFDK), Petra Sumasgutner (@PeSumas) and many others, including the “always busy” past, present and future EOU Presidents – Barbara Helm (@BBirdClocks), Jocke Nilsson (“no Twitter yet…”) and Alfonso Marzal (@AlfonsoMarzal).

Almost top of the Piatra Secuiului Peak together from left to right with: Petra Sumasgutner, Juan Manuel (Juanma) Pérez-García, myself, Juan Diego Ibañez-Alamo and Jaime Muriel. © Pablo Salmón

But EOU is not just about socialising, it is also about presenting some ornithological science! Looking back, I feel I have made a good deal of progress since my first EOU in Norwich (UK), where I presented a humble poster on my MSc results. At EOU2019 I had the opportunity to give an oral presentation, this time on the latest results of my current postdoctoral position on the physiological mechanisms underpinning the relationship between growth and lifespan. However, on this occasion, the circumstances were slightly different as, together with Sara Lupi (University of Western Ontario/ University of Veterinary Medicine of Vienna), we were the convenors of our own symposium: “Shifting the focus: avian life-history stages from the perspective of understudied hormonal systems”! This was the first experience for both of us as international symposium organisers, so the responsibility and stress levels were high. However, and despite being scheduled for the first round of parallel symposia, just after a great plenary from Petra Quillfeldt on small seabirds, I feel that the session went very well. Of course, we had some incidents with the talk timing system, which was a recurrent challenge across the conference, but overall the symposium was well attended and our speakers presented really exciting “unpublished” results. Thanks a lot Suvi Ruuskanen (@RuuskanenSuvi, Univeristy of Turku), Frédéric Angelier (Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé) and Ádám Z. Lendvai (@LendvaiAZ, University of Debrecen)!

Getting your presentation over and done with on the first day of a conference is a real luxury as you can relax and enjoy the rest of the oral and poster sessions without thinking about your own work. It also gives you more room to discuss your results with other attendees. I have to admit that I did not enjoy any particular symposium or oral session any more than another, but instead the multiple great talks spread across them. From my perspective, this means two things; firstly, that the lack of stress helps me to meander between sessions and second, highlights the multidisciplinary nature of the current ornithological science. I might define myself as an evolutionary-ecologist with particular emphasis on the underpinning mechanisms, but at this EOU I attended a huge range of sessions ranging from the effects of weather to forest ecology and conservation. This definitely helped me to return from Cluj with a notebook full of ideas and hypotheses waiting to be tested, some of them will stay in ink forever, but many others will for sure help me to ask new questions or broaden the context of my daily research.

Finally, I want to praise the local organising committee, including the members of the Evolutionary Ecology Group of the Babes Bolyai University (@EvolEcolUBB) and Milvus Group. Together, with the help of all the local volunteers, they led and ran a fantastic conference, including evening drinks with local beer brewers (that is a plus on its own), a traditional Romanian craft market in the coffee courtyard and of course the unmissable mid-congress excursion, in my case to the Piatra Secuiului Peak! And hopefully the 13th EOU Conference in Gießen (in 2021) will be as enjoyable as this one!

Of course, there are not words enough to acknowledge the BOU for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference by supporting me with a BOU member travel award. Thank you.

Views during the descent of the Piatra Secuiului Peak in the mid-conference excursion with the village of Rimetea and the Colțești Castle in the background. © Pablo Salmón