With a travel grant of the DSBS in my pocket, nervous, but mostly full of expectations, I travelled from the small mussel town of Yerseke in the Netherlands to Boston to attend the 6th International Symposium on Deep Sea Corals (ISDSC) – my first big, international conference and at the same time exactly that one gathering the expertise on my favourite topic: Cold-water corals.
I should not be disappointed, my hopes and expectations were fully answered: The deep-sea coral community turned out to be a growing, but still rather small group of greatly enthusiastic people, and the feeling of coming home to a ‘research family’ took my fear of presenting the results of my first PhD project. Exchanging ideas, getting mentorship from more experienced scientists, but also discussing ideas and concerns with other PhD students made my trip to Boston a very fruitful experience. Within this conference week, I have gained so much first-hand knowledge on the reefs of the deep. It was especially the great diversity of topics which allowed me to view my own research in a bigger picture: How are hydrodynamic processes driving CWC reef growth, and how are the same processes shaped in turn by growing coral reefs? What do we know about the factor ‘food’ linking these processes, what remains to be investigated, and how could our group at NIOZ contribute? How does reproduction come into play here? And will those processes be maintained in a future, warmer, more acidic ocean, potentially threatened by direct anthropogenic actions such as deep-sea mining or oil drilling? Presented highly elaborate new methods might help the future scientific quest and have invited for applications and cooperation: 3Dmodeling of pictures to give a detailed estimate on deep-sea organisms’ surface area or a new soft-robotics ROV arm to carefully collect deep specimens.
Altogether, these new ideas, insights and especially all the great conversations during this week got me much closer into the network of CWC scientists, and at last resulted in several plans on future cooperation.
I am greatly thankful to the DSBS for funding my travel to the ISDSC in Boston and facilitating this important step in my cold-water coral researchers’ life.
PhD student, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research