By David Morgan
Hats are off to the organising committee of this conference. The venue was great, the plenaries, cultural engagement and talks were amazing and the atmosphere and climate was wonderful. The social functions covered all formats, from the formalities of the parliament house, to the laidback mood of the deck chair theatre, before exploding on Territory Day with an inspiring fireworks display on the water, the beach and on the streets (some way too close for comfort)! The conference dinner was in a fantastic setting and was a chance for final catch ups. It was great to see the Australian Society for Limnology co-host the event, which no doubt brought many people together for opportunities to meet and converse. The first time around photo competition was also a nice touch, with so many beautiful pictures of fish, landscapes and people, and I’m sure that all of the finalists were proud to have their image on display – I hope that this becomes a tradition.
The awards were well deserved and congratulations to the many delegates who received them. While there are too many award winners to list here, for me it was special in that the ASFB renamed the international travel award for 2014 in Honour of one of my students Jon Murphy, who tragically passed away earlier in the year. So congratulations to Rohan Brooker for receiving the 2014 ‘Jonathon Murphy International Travel Award’, and to the runner-up Bridie Allen, I’m sure that you will both do Jon and his family proud. This was not the only time that I choked up at the conference, or after it (like now), which in itself says a great deal about what the society means to me and its many members.
Apart from these deserved winners, there were many notable talks. For anyone attending ASFB, I can highly recommend talks by Adam Kerezsy and Brendan Ebner which often are emotive. Their talks are legendary and I feel honoured to be close mates with these guys. 2014 was no exception; again they ‘held the bar high’. But I was also inspired by a number of other talks, including one that was impeccably-delivered by Aaron Davis, who effectively explained his companion paper on the adaptive radiation of the terapontids; a video of this talk would be a great tool to play while reading his exceptional manuscript. There were many talks that moved me in some way or another, and for the record, here’s my top 10 (in no apparent order): Kate Buckley, Danswell Starrs, Krystina Mossop, David Crook, Teagan Marzullo, James Donaldson, Grant Johnson, Lara Suiter, Cameron Fletcher and Aurelien Vivancos. With four con-current sessions, and the need for me to deliver a colleague’s talk in his absence [and thus practice, practice, practice the word potamodromous (POT-A-MOD-ROM-OUS) for that] and to present another presentation, I apologise to those members who also put their time and effort into delivering a great talk, for which I was unable to attend. I did hear a lot of very positive feedback about the talks that I unfortunately missed.
After not being able to attend an ASFB conference since the joint ASFB/IPFC Symposium in 2009 (which was in my home State and in Fremantle) it was great to see so many old friends. Strange conferences they are indeed, in fact it is more like a big family gathering. A bit isolated from the Eastern Staters, I am now kicking myself for missing the last few, however, people treated me like we had caught up only yesterday, and new friends appeared like they had known me for years, which is one of the main reasons that I warm to these conferences. It is a great opportunity for young up-n-comers to meet people that they may have idolised the work of, or been referencing, only to find out that they also like a late night kebab!
While the talks were of very high calibre, it was speaking in person with people, rather than listening to formal speeches that made the conference for me. Without the well-organised social functions, people often drift off to different pubs, hotels or to dinner in smaller groups and the chance of meeting new people diminishes. In Darwin we found a watering hole to think in….the Wisdom Bar….which Adam Kerezsy coined the “Dirty Bar”. Everywhere you turned there was someone from the conference to talk to. After losing my wallet in Perth on the morning of my flight, a mate kindly offered me his credit card to use. Looking through the expenditures, now that I am home in Perth, not only was the Dirty Bar the most frequented with a 100% daily attendance by yours truly, and perhaps a good proportion of the delegates, but the kebab shop across the road also reaped the rewards of the conference and caused a little spike of activity on Pete’s card, with successive purchases occurring later as the conference progressed. It was here that I forged new friendships and cemented old ones, with each friendship defining who, why and what makes us tick. While the talks are important, talking and listening, being supportive, patting people on the back, holding open doors between sessions, shouting a few drinks or giving up your seat on a bus to a pregnant person are the things that people remember most.
Speaking of friends, the Duck, which sat on my desk for a year between the Sydney 2008 and Fremantle 2009 conferences, and was refused access to the Bondi pubs that all had ‘private functions’ on that night, looks a little older and wiser, and is also sporting a number of new fish tags. So appropriately, the Duck, which first became a member in Darwin, was drop-punted from the stage by Alison King to a leading Matt Taylor who took mark of the year with a difficult low grab to the right.
From there…in Darwin, the Dirty Pubs and clubs laid out the red carpet for the Duck’s final night, and no Duck or delegate seemed to want the night to finish. The Duck, clearly a bit ‘under the feather’, made it through the night (kebab in wing), as did we all, only to soon end up back in Sydney.
We all, as future conference organisers, could do worse than to take a leaf out of the Territree…. See you in Sydney!
Dave Morgan is a proud West Aussie Fish Ecologist and long-term member of ASFB. Some of his scientific contributions can be gleaned from www.freshwaterfishgroup.com