I have successfully survived the trials and tribulations of my first semester of graduate school! Huzzah! That being said, a student’s work is never done – you can still find me sitting in my office, plugging away at data and up to my eyeballs in pdfs and textbooks. Although it certainly helps when I know that, in a few short weeks, I’ll be showing off my preliminary data on a nice warm beach in California. Well, the Gordon Research Conference that Ali and I will both be attending will probably not be held directly ON the beach, but it’s a nice fantasy to have when your fingers are freezing off in Minnesota.
The theme of the conference is predator-prey interactions, but approached from a very interdisciplinary standpoint. Topics range from genes and the causes of childhood anxiety up through ecosystems, evolution, and Craig’s presentation on man-eating lions. It’s been over a year since I last attended a conference, and it’s going to be intimidating and inspiring to meet the Who’s Who in our field. All the papers piled up around my desk, underlined and annotated and thoroughly mulled over? Hopefully I’ll have a chance to chat with their authors in person and get these scientists’ input on the direction of my current research ideas.
My particular focus, predator intimidation (“fear”), is delightfully billed in the conference descriptions as “the persistent threat of immediate violent death.” The blurb continues on to state that “most wild animals are in peril every moment of every day of being torn limb from limb by any number of predators.” Language far more colorful that I can get away with in most of my proposals, but certainly right on point! There will be talks on fear’s impacts on evolutionary ecology and population- and ecosystem-level processes as well as about the effect of predators as stressors that I’m am particularly keen to attend.
As excited as I am, I’m honestly a bit frantic trying to synthesize our Snapshot data to produce distribution graphs and other basic preliminary results. A few months ago, I couldn’t have programmed my own name into “R” – the bread and butter statistical program of beloved (well, it’s a bittersweet relationship) by biologists. With long evenings in front of the computer and by the generous grace and goodwill of Ali, I’ve been making progress. Ideally, I would like to show up to this conference with not only an outline of my research to be picked apart by the aforementioned greatest minds in the field, but also with maps of the monthly distributions of several herbivore species in relation the changing vegetative landscape and predator movements. No breakthroughs so far; I foresee a great deal of coffee in my future between now and January…
P.S. Congrats to Margaret for defending her PhD!!!