Challenger Society Conference II

So today was the last day of the conference. I was fortunate enough to attend almost all the sessions I wanted to attend. It was a great opportunity to build my network and also to learn from current phd students, researchers and lectures. I was given advice on what I should do next, what would help me advance my academic career. I attended over 30 talks, delivered from young researchers, most of them in the early stages of their phd. The talks varied, although this conference is primarily an oceanography and marine science conference, there was plenty of relevant material for a zoology graduate. however, I must add that it was brilliant to hear and learn about a new discipline.

The ocean is fascinating, I knew that before the conference, but I must say I didn’t know just how amazing and interesting it truly was before this week. Learning about the ecological effects of sea fronts. Or how nutrient and even chemical composition changes with depth and distance from the shore. Ideas like these examples really got me thinking about how so many zoologists, including myself, would so easily overlook the detail complexity, intricacy importance of oceanographic system and how they influence the zoological world. For instance, I know that small pelagic fish such as anchovies and sardines favour waters with a warmer sea surface temperatures and are associated with fronts. However, what is it about fronts that cause these aggregations? A week ago I would have said, in a very generic way; ‘its probably something to do with mixing and nutrients…’. I may have not been wrong, but I now see how this answer is embarrassingly simple. I now know that these aggregations can be caused or even dismissed by the most minuet changes in salinity, sea surface temperature, nutrient composition and of course chlorophyll concentration. Again I am grossly oversimplifying things, I know this, but I am planning on increasing my understanding of these ecological systems. As increasing my understanding of the ecosystem that animals live in, helps significantly in gaining a much greater understanding of the animals themselves.

I know I am not an oceanographer, and I know that my knowledge on oceanographic processes is patchy. But if this conference has taught me anything, its taught me that you can’t have a branch of science and expect to be successful. Science is a multidisciplinary profession, it is not simply split into biology, chemistry and physics, this is extremely evident in marine science. The number of people I have spoken to in this conference who did their undergraduate degrees in a physics or chemistry based subject who then progressed onto an oceanography post grad course or even a marine biology based course was surprising.

If anything the week has thought me to keep my options open when it comes to post-graduate study and research experience.

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