Last week I had an absolutely brilliant time at the Student Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) at the University of Cambridge. Since I had such a good time, here are 5 reasons why I think you should go to SCCS next year!
1. You will meet other young, fantastic, inspiring conservationists from around the world
This really is the main reason you should attend. As students, opportunities to meet other young conservation scientists can be limited to our university and sometimes even to the lab group we are part of. Attending conferences is an excellent way to network and find out what other conservation research and activities are going on outside our own university. So why should you attend the Student Conference on Conservation Science specifically? Well, the clue is in the title! This conference is fantastic for meeting young conservation scientists who are conducting conservation research for their Masters or PhD projects and are at the same stage in their career as you! This was a huge benefit as I was confident approaching other students, asking about their projects and talking about our experiences in our respective universities and conservation programmes. Around 200 students from over 60 countries were represented at SCCS at the University of Cambridge this year and I managed to meet the majority of them (for the few I didn’t meet I still got to check out their poster and see what they were up to!). On the second night of SCCS a party was organised at one of the university college bars which was ideal for making new friends and contacts which will hopefully be valuable for a future career in the world of conservation!
2. The plenary speakers at the conference are fantastic!
I really cannot stress this enough, the line-up of plenary speakers was just phenomenal and each of them exceeded all of my expectations! The conference got off to an incredible start with Brendan Fisher, a behavioural economist from the University of Vermont, who delivered a highly entertaining talk about how people are weird and how we can use this weirdness to achieve conservation outcomes. The whole audience was laughing from start to finish and we all left thinking about conservation issues from a completely new perspective. Brendan has attended SCCS before and is likely to attend next year which is seriously a good enough reason to sign up! Juliet Vickery passed on many valuable lessons she has learned about translating conservation science to conservations policy while working with the RSPB. Mwangi Githiru with Wildlife Works in Kenya gave an informative and memorable talk about Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) meaning that everyone left with a good understanding of how REDD+ works (something I had always found confusing!). On the final day, Heather Koldewey from ZSL gave a truly inspirational talk about the various projects she is involved with in her quest to save the oceans. From recycling ghost fishing nets to make carpets, to her campaign to stop the single use of plastic water bottles in London, and her efforts to restore mangroves and improve community livelihoods in the Philippines, meant we all left SCCS with a huge amount of #OceanOptimism (cheesy I know). The plenary speakers lined up for next year look fantastic (SCCS always attracts the best!) and I’m already looking forward to them.
3. You will get to visit the University of Cambridge (or one of the other locations SCCS is held)
The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209, making it the second oldest university in the English speaking world (113 years younger than the University of Oxford). The university is spread around Cambridge, in amongst historic churches, cathedrals, the River Cam and some rather grand university buildings. If you do attend SCCS in Cambridge next year, make sure to arrive a day or two early or stay for while afterwards so you have time to have a go punting along the river and get to check out Cambridge’s colleges where some of the world’s brightest minds have studied. However, if Cambridge is a bit too far for you to travel, you can attend one of the SCCS sister conferences that have been organised in places like New York, India, Brisbane, Hungary and Beijing! The next SCCS is being held this year in New York on October 11-13th so do check it out if you haven’t already. The Cambridge SCCS18 conference is booked for the 27th-30th March 2018, so I’m hoping to see you there!
4. You will learn A LOT
The conference programme is absolutely jam-packed with student talks, workshops and evening events, so make sure you have time for coffee in the morning as you will definitely need it! Some of my favourite student talks this year included John Mittermeier, who spoke about how we can use Wikipedia to quantify cultural interest in species, Ardiantiono who showed us that community guarding was the most effective way to reduce human-elephant conflict in Sumatra (and won the best student talk in doing so!), and Esteban Brenes-Mora who spoke about how his research is helping to reduce the number of tapirs killed in road collisions in Costa Rica. In between the student talks, workshops are run by leading conservationists meaning you can learn how to use the conservation evidence website, write a scientific paper, plan a conservation research programme, as well as a classic introduction to statistics workshop (which I will definitely attend next year!). I came away with my brain bursting with new ideas and a list of papers to check out so make sure to bring a shiny new notepad and be prepared to learn!
5. You might even win a prize!
Before I arrived I didn’t know there were prizes for the best student talks and posters! But the conference programme had a slot on the last day for prize-giving and I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn what makes a good talk/poster to learn for next year. So you can imagine how absolutely surprised, humbled and pleased (and couldn’t wait to phone my mum) I was when my poster was awarded 3rd prize for the best student poster! The very generous prizes included 2 books kindly donated by Cambridge University Press and CABI, and free journal subscriptions. The positive feedback I received for my poster included the topic being relevant to conservation and having potential for conservation outcomes, the colour scheme, clear & relevant visuals and making space to thank my supervisors. Please feel free to take these tips on board for when you attend SCCS next year with your own poster!
A huge thanks to the GFS lab and my supervisors (Ayesha Tulloch, James Watson & Lucie Bland) for supporting me during my Masters and my attendance at #SCCS17!