15th DSBS Travel Award Report – Poppy Hesketh Best



by Poppy Hesketh Best

University of Plymouth, United Kingdom

The 15th Deep Sea Biology Symposium (DSBS) was hosted by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) California, September 2018. Prior to the symposium, I attended the Deep-Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI) meeting with my research group. This was not something I initially expected to attend or knew much about. As a Microbiologist it is easy to forget the bigger picture of what your research encompasses. Despite feeling out of my depth, and comfort zone, around researchers focusing on policy and conservation, I was surprised at how engaged I quickly became. It was my first insight into how welcoming the deep-sea community is, and I finished the symposium with a considerably increased degree of motivation and desire to become more involved with the community.

Then DSBS started, and I was blown away by the calibre and range of research presented. Coming from a microbiology and biochemistry background, and being relatively new to deep-sea research, so much of what was presented to me was new knowledge. It was exciting to watch a presentation from another PhD student in my field of research, then spend the next two hours chatting and picking each other’s brains. I came away from the experience knowing that I now have a range of approachable contacts who I can just email with questions or ideas.

It was fun to start putting faces to authors whose papers I have read or twitter accounts I follow, meeting and chatting with them after a full day of talks. It grounded me in the reality that there are actual faces behind the names of citations placed in my literature review to the extent that I now look forward to the possibility of working with them in the future. The early career researcher events helped expand my network of deep-sea biologists from different fields of expertise all over the world, this made the prospect of networking a little less intimidating.


The poster session was humbling with how interested and engaged people were about my work. I met other researchers focusing on bioprospecting deep-sea habitats, and even some who are bioprospecting deep-sea sponges. Picking their brains about methods and future work made me realise that I wasn’t a complete fish out of water. It was definitely hard to manage how much time I spent presenting my poster or talking with others about their work. The flash-talks engaged my interest in so many other scientists work. The lightning-talks where a definite highlight of the conference. Presenters had only 2 minutes to summarise their posters and it was an engaging way in which to scout out the key focus of the posters. It was energising and fun, with frequent laughter, and the passion expressed by the presenters was overwhelming. This was an outstanding strategy to distil the essence of a varied body of work in a short and engaging manner, and I hope to attend conferences that utilise this presentation method in the future.

Hands down the best part was Monterey Bay Aquarium. I have never been left in so much awe, I wondered around for pretty much a whole day just wanting to see everything twice. After taking about 200 photos of the jellyfish and giant kelp, I managed to tear myself away and check out the sea otters. Free entry into the aquarium was so generously given to the conference delegates and I could not be happier about it.


DSBS was my first international conference, and I had such an overwhelmingly educational and amazing time. I left Monterey feeling a part of this incredible community, and rejuvenated in my motivation to jump back into my own research. I am incredibly thankful to the Society for awarding me a travel grant and my supervisor Kerry Howell who all made my trip financially possible. Thank you and hopefully I will be back at a 16th DSBS conference in 2021 in Japan presenting the final results of my PhD!

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