By Braeden Lampard
In June 2014, Darwin hosted the first combined congress for the Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB) and the Australian Society for Limnology (ASL). When told I could attend and present a poster I was quite excited and had a bubbly feeling in my stomach for a couple of reasons. It was the first time I had been to Darwin, the first conference I had been to, and first poster I have ever presented. I didn’t quite know what to expect being my first conference, but I was pleasantly surprised on the first day (when Scott Huntley and I were mingling between the groups of attendees) with the interest that came from other people regarding MDFRC and the projects that we work on.
The main highlight for me was the social aspect – having the opportunity to meet and greet people who work in the same field as me and learn of the projects they work on, and having the chance to see the new technology that is emerging in our field of science. One example of this was Craig Boyes who presented ‘Defining downstream fish passage guidelines for the protection of fish in the Murray-Darling basin’ which looked at the forces (and therefore stresses) exerted on a sensor ‘fish’ when passed through a structure such as an undershot weir. This really hit home for me as I had recently been working on the Hattah Fish Pumps project and we knew that some fish where being chopped up. I hadn’t personally considered the pressure or the stress on the fish that survived the passage through the pumps. After his presentation, I thought it would be a good opportunity to bail him up and talk to him more about his project and the technology he used – which I found very beneficial.
Surprising to me, throughout the conference it was quite easy to approach researchers for a chat because of the relaxed easy going atmosphere, and it encouraged me to contribute a little in question sessions. Presenting the Murray hardyhead poster also gave me a good opportunity to work on my limited presenting skills, and provided a background on what is in involved in making a scientific poster and the amount of effort that goes into one. While attending the poster session it provided a good opportunity to look at what made a quality poster and what didn’t – which will help in the future.
Iain encouraged Scott and I to attend the annual general meeting for ASFB which is held at lunch during the conference, as it would be good way to see the background of the society. As it turns out the Alien Fishes committee was in danger of being dissolved as no one could commit to running it (as convenor) for the next year. I thought it could be something I could take on after talking to David Morgan (a West Aus fish guru) about the role and responsibilities. Although scary for someone at my early stage of career, there have been many benefits to filling the role of convenor (Alien fishes committee, ASFB) including broadening my network of contacts in freshwater research, improving on my limited writing skills and learning a whole lot more about alien fishes in a very short time. There have been some big hurdles too, but my colleagues have been by my side helping me all the way.
Overall the conference was very beneficial and I have noticed improvements in my capabilities since attending (such as considering application of new technologies). I have also noticed improvement in my writing skills as I collate and summarise information for the alien fishes committee.
I want to thank MDFRC for permitting my attendance at the joint congress – no words can describe how thankful I am for the opportunities have been given me so far in my career at MDFRC. I will keep trying to use the skills that I have learnt from the presentations and the talks that I had with fellow researchers at ASFB.