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“A Vet Student Experiences a Biology Conference”

Erika Brigante from Ross University sent us this wonderful piece about her experience attending the 4th International Marine Conservation Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Thanks Erika!

How is anthropogenically produced noise affecting wild cetaceans? Why are rhodoliths important to the ecosystem? What management issues could arise when changing the fishing quota in certain states? How can we, as scientists, best communicate with the public? How is Inuit food security being managed and what can others learn from this? How are veterinary epidemiologists and biologists working together? How well are sea stars recovering from the wasting disease? How are invasive and endangered species being managed, and what are some ways to overcome the obstacles?

These questions highlight a few of the many topics I was fascinated to learn about while attending the 4th International Marine Conservation Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland for a week in July and August, 2016. Scientists from around the world came together to learn from each other and to, ultimately, better the ocean through conservation.

While there, I was able to present my own research project on diet assessment of Lionfish in St. Kitts. My abstract was accepted for a poster presentation in which I was able to practice my presentation and communication skills, observe other research projects and presentations, and personally engage with the public and experienced scientists from varied perspectives to build professional relationships. This was my favorite part of the trip because it made me realize how much I could enjoy public presentations, something I had previously dreaded. I got to teach enthusiastic people about my project while getting taught other methodologies which would improve my work. I loved being able to participate in a dynamic, open dialogue that was fun and intellectually stimulating, and it even lasted longer than the duration of the poster session. Occasionally, I was asked why a vet student was attending a bio conference, which led to discussions exploring how veterinarians and marine biologists are working together and in what areas improvement would be especially beneficial. Furthermore, I was honored to have met some of the authors that I had cited in my
poster and to receive great advice and knowledge from them. This experience really brought home the ideology set forth by the One Health Initiative, and I hope to collaborate in this same way throughout my career.

In between the lectures and workshops, I was able to explore the beautiful outdoors of Newfoundland, especially along the shores. I took a whale watch tour and observed some wild Humpback Whales as well as thousands of puffins and guillemots. The conference attendees were also given the chance to participate in one of the town’s annual traditions by attending the George Street Festival in which talented artists performed. We also got to view an early screening of the inspirational film, Sonic Sea which details how humans are impacting wild cetaceans and what resolutions are possible. Overall, this trip further encouraged me to pursue my passion to become an aquatic veterinarian with a focus on positively impacting the marine environment and wildlife.
It also helped me discover how to pursue these goals and what specific roles I could take to be the most impactful.

In addition, I brought home some resources for my friends and family to practice more sustainably on a daily basis as small steps toward a healthy future.

If there are any students considering attending a conference, I would highly recommend it because actively learning from professionals outside of the classroom as they expressed their passions and work greatly enhanced my perspectives, knowledge, curiosity, and drive to pursue this field. Furthermore, it helped prepare me further for my future career path, which I think is invaluable.


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