My Adventures in Boston for the International Symposium on Deep Sea Corals By Danielle Glynn

Traveling is never my favourite thing to do…
My trip to Boston started out like this: wake up at 5am on a Saturday, get to the airport by 6am, leave San Jose, arrive in Denver, and then loiter for 4 hours until plane number 2. Now this is where things get a little rocky – as apparently there’s a huge storm system sweeping across the country and causing all kinds of mayhem in the skies. Right before we take off, our Pilot opens the mic and tells us all, “Sorry folks, but we have to detour south around this storm system and I’m not sure we have enough fuel. Sit tight while we crunch the numbers to figure it out.”
As everyone groans, we settle back for a flight that just keeps getting longer. Almost an hour passes while sitting in an unmoving plane before the pilot breaks the bad news – we have to head back to the gate to refuel. But we don’t move. Another half hour goes by and the pilot gets back to us. Apparently they were wrong, and yes they do have enough fuel but now have to get back in the queue for takeoff. Not exactly a confidence inducing start to a flight; left me wondering the whole time if maybe they were right the first time and we would fall crashing from the skies. But after a 6 hour flight (which should have been closer to 4), I eventually got to Boston at 11:15pm local time. Finally.

danielle denver

But finally being at my destination is wondrous…
Rested and refreshed after my stay in a hostel, Boston in the Sunday morning daylight was awesome. I wandered the North End – doing part of the Freedom Trail before even knowing what it was. I saw the statue of Bobby Orr (a famous hockey player), the Old North Church where the lanterns from the Revolution still hang, and sit outside Paul Revere’s house (the oldest house in Boston!) as I wrote post cards to send back home. (Did you know he had 16 kids? Wow.) I grabbed a bite on Hanover Street – such tasty Italian food! Then I wandered over to Columbus Park and picked up my fancy badge and poster tube before relaxing on the grass, listening to a musician play some smooth tunes while watching the ships in the harbor and the kids playing in the fountain. Today was soooo much better than yesterday.

old-church bobby-orr


Opening night…
Almost 5pm now and time to meet up for the aquarium meet-and-greet – but oh wait, there’s a mix up of the times. (Auspicious start to a conference, right?) But it works out rather wonderfully when the aquarium people let us in for free! And wow, what an aquarium! It was such an awesome place to have an opening night. As names of other attendees float in one ear and out the other, I chatted with what felt like everyone and had a very enjoyable time drinking wine with the penguins and fishes (the frog fish was my favorite). This night wound up being my favorite conference start ever!

aquarium frogfish

And then it all begins…
If I had to put it into words, I would say that I am a geochemical paleo-climatologist. Quite a mouthful right? But one other title I had not given as much thought to recently is that I am also a deep sea coral scientist. This conference taught me so much more than I had ever thought on deep sea corals – their biology, how conservation policy works, how they grow, feed, and reproduce, just to name a few. It also taught me that there are so much more to learn about these creatures!
Some of my favorite talks were by Harriet Harden-Davies on policy (United Nation’s Law of the Sea Convention), Scott France’s plenary talk (all about bamboo corals), Meredith Everett’s genetic sampling technique (using groundbreaking eDNA sampling through the water column), and Frank Parrish’s talk on coral location preferences (hydrography helps determines where corals settle themselves). But there were so many good ones, I was quite pleasantly amazed. It was also pretty awesome being able to stay in the same room to listen to them all, and not losing my mind by running from room to room like at AGU or other large conferences. The smaller size of ISDSC makes for a much more enjoyable experience overall.
Every day began with wonderful fresh fruits, pastries and delicious coffee to get our minds jump started before we dove into the science. I very much appreciated the conference lunches and the delicious dinner on Tuesday – definitely helped keep my poor grad student wallet from going completely empty. (I still dream about that lobster bisque – soooo good!) Also, it was awesome how even despite all the talks during the day, most nights ended with further discussions on corals over food and drinks at some of the marvelous restaurants in Boston. After I gave my talk on Thursday, I even treated myself to a wonderful lobster dinner – my first time ever ordering one!


But it was not all work and no play…
There was a free day on Wednesday which was super necessary to decompress and soak in all the tons and tons of information that had been presented. Honestly I wish more conferences had free days like this! I used the free time to explore the city of Boston – I caught one of the trolleys for a tour of the city and even went on a boat tour of the Boston Harbor. I got to see the Bunker Monument Hill, wandered through Boston Commons to see the swan boats and the golden State House building and learned all about this old city. Did you know ~75% of all the land of Boston was made by humans carting soil and filling in the land? Pretty remarkable feat of human engineering.
I also used an itty bit of that day to get in some more practice with my talk – which went really well. I successfully kept myself under 12 minutes (11min 47 sec to be exact) and got a ton of great questions. I might have been one of the few geochemists there, but hopefully I kept my talk simple enough for comprehension. And hearing all the complements from people boosted my confidence immensely. Everyone was supportive and seemed interested in what was possible with the dead skeletons of these creatures – since most everyone else needed their live bits! So I was happy to share.

sate-house boston

All good things must end…
After a long, productive week where I met so many new people and gained so much more knowledge about corals, I finally checked out of my hostel and headed on my way home. I am so honored to have been awarded a travel grant from the Deep Sea Biology Society – without it I would not have had quite as awesome as an experience as I did. So thank you to everyone who is a member!

Hope to see everyone in Columbia three years from now!

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