Monday, 2 June 2014

10th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management

Jan Factor, author of the 'lobster bible' and me
being utterly starstruck.
So, I'm home...! For those of you I haven't already bored half to death about it... On the 18th May 2014, I travelled to Cancun, Mexico for the 10th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management, hosted by the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

This was my first international conference, which only happens once every 2 to 3 years, so it was therefore a very important opportunity for me to attend in terms of career development and networking. I gave an oral presentation on some of my PhD research findings under the title 'Does the importation of live American lobster (Homarus americanus) pose a threat to native European (H. gammarus) populations? Shell disease susceptibility', which consisted of a culmination of my findings, published recently in two papers; MicrobiologyOpen and Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. As you can read in my previous blog, they investigate the disease susceptibility of the European lobster in relation to the American lobster as an ‘invasive’ species. Lobster catch in the UK is a multimillion pound industry so my work is important for fisheries and future research – there is currently a team in Norway looking into Euro-American hybrid lobsters being found in Europe!

Team lobster PhD UK at the Tulum Ruins
Being able to present my work and receiving feedback the experts in my field, was, although nerve-wracking, a fantastic experience. I had questions from researchers such as Kathy Castro and Jan Factor, who, in the lobster world, are big scientists! In my opinion, the talk went well, and I remembered pretty much everything I wanted to say. I also had a little extra on the end of my talk, about my current studies looking into lobster health in the UK Marine Conservation Zone around Lundy Island - just so people know what else I am working on.

In addition to being able to attend presentations on areas such as fisheries, management, stocks, genetics, behavioural ecology and diseases and parasites, there was also a poster session. I must add here actually, that the 'diseases and parasites' session, had the biggest number of talks (23)! Pathology is cool guys! This event also enabled me to catch up with past collaborators (Anita from NEAQ was in attendance) and share ideas with possible future ones, some of whom have been a great inspiration to me since I began my PhD – is it possible to be ‘starstruck’ by lobster scientists?!

The clear blue waters of Puerto Morelos..
(and some lobster scientists!)
The conference dinner was accompanied by traditional music, dancing and an abundance of tequila, standard in Mexico! We were also able to enjoy a mid-week free afternoon activity of snorkelling on the coral reefs followed  by a lobster sunset barbecue meal! This was a nice informal way to get to know a lot of the delegates.

The conference proceedings are to be published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science, for which I am aiming to submit an abstract involving my current work surveying a UK Marine Conservation Zone... the deadline is 31st July, so I'd better get a wiggle on!

Apart from attending the conference in Mexico, I was able to do a little exploration, I met a few like-minded lobster lovers from the UK, with whom I rented a car and we explored the ruins at Tulum, where we were also lucky enough to see some recently inhabited turtle nests (complete with turtle footprints... awwwww), we also snorkelled in a 60m deep cĂ©note;' Kim Ha', which amazingly we managed to get all to ourselves - it was a little scary as since it was in reality, an underground cave, it was full of bats, and the uneasy feeling of not knowing what is beneath you whilst swimming made it slightly eery for me! We also enjoyed an afternoon in Puerto Morelos and I dragged the boys to a flea market (which, I know they enjoyed really!). I would really like to explore more of Mexico in the future, maybe away from the hub of the 'Zona Hotelera', where the conference was based - it is a great country full of culture and colour!

Turtle nests...!
I think for me, reflecting on this conference I can say that it was one of the most useful events I have attended since beginning my PhD, and it came at the perfect time. Being able to meet and talk with so many scientists whose work I have read and cited in my own, was a great experience - even just meeting students from all over the UK, who are working in a similar area to me, was great. I would like to thank the Challenger Society for Marine Science, the British Ecological Society and the Society for Experimental Biology through the Company of Biologists for the travel grants, without which I would not have been able to take part in this event. I would also like to thank the coordinators for not only organising a conference where I was able to learn so much, but an event which was amazing fun – there are not many conferences where you would be able to spend a free afternoon snorkelling on a coral reef!

Definitely at a conference... 

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