Throughout my academic career I have attended and presented at several conferences. The ISDSC was by far the most exciting, interesting, and beneficial conference I have attended. Not only was this conference held in South America for the first time, but it had a diverse group of attendees from all around the world who all shared a similar interest in understanding and protecting deep-sea corals and their ecosystems. The entertainment and food provided by this conference allowed everyone to become immersed in Colombian culture, something not everyone gets to experience in their lifetime.
My roles during this conference was I) to present my M.Sc. research during the poster session and educate other researchers on the population structure of deep-water sea pens and their skeletal geochemistry, and II) network with other research students and research professors about PhD opportunities involving the deep-sea. I was able to network with just about everyone at the conference as it wasn’t too big, meeting a handful of professors who will be in search of a PhD student in the upcoming year. Having the opportunity to express my interest in their projects and get to know them personally as well as some of their current students made the search for a fitting PhD advisor and possible job opportunities much more enjoyable and effective.
When collaborating with other researchers I was able to receive some new input on my project including ideas on how to reorganize my data, how to look at my data with a different perspective, other analysis techniques to use and how to further expand my project. I had the opportunity to discuss and relate my research to other students’ projects, understanding the struggles and accomplishments they made during their studies and how they got to where they are today. This allowed me to remember that every student conducting graduate research is in the same boat, that we all struggle with similar issues but are all working towards the same goal and using that as motivation to keep pushing forward and not give up when morale is low. Attending conferences like this serves not only a professional purpose but a personal and mental purpose as well, reminding us why we are pursuing this research and how we are all contributing to something bigger than ourselves. This conference provided me with the drive I’ve needed to push through this last year of my M.Sc., having the utmost excitement for what opportunities will come next.