The 2016 TWS Annual Conference: A student’s perspective

By Val Watson, University of Maine TWS Student Chapter Representative

Aurora Trails. ©Mike Lewinski

As many of you likely know, this year’s Annual Conference for The Wildlife Society was held in Raleigh, NC from October 15-19. The University of Maine sent five undergraduates, and several professors and graduate students met us at the conference. Over those five jam-packed days, we presented research, networked with professionals and fellow students, and competed in the annual Quiz Bowl. Here I present an overview of the conference from the perspective of a student going for her first time.

Throughout the entire conference there were several rooms that constantly hosted short presentations of research on an enormous variety of topics, from “Feral Horses and the Western Landscapes” to “Managing Coastal Habitats for Migratory Waterbirds in a Changing Climate,” and just about anything in between. For me, that was one of the best parts of the conference. There were so many talks that it was hard to decide which one to attend! As someone just starting out in this field, it was great to be able to see such a wide array of topics and hear about the latest research that’s going on in each area. My interests are in environmental education and climate change, and I was thrilled to see those subjects very well represented. I learned a lot about the work that’s going on in those areas, and when I went to other talks I tried to think about how techniques from the education-related research could be used to communicate this other research to the general public.

One of the coolest parts of the conference by far was the Student-Professional Networking event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. That place is fantastic! The museum covers four stories on two sides of the street, and students, professors, and professionals were allowed in after-hours for a networking event. Not only did we get to make some great (and likely useful) connections, but we also were able to explore the entire collection all night. The seniors in our group found this and other networking events especially useful, as they are thinking about graduate school and jobs post-graduation. Networking events like this one also helped us connect with other students in our state and section. We got to know the crew from Unity, and we participated in two impromptu meetings of the Northeast Section to plan this year’s Conclave. This year we’ve decided to take a new approach, with one school hosting but all attending schools pitching in in some way, whether it be finding people to lead workshops or making Quiz Bowl questions. I’m excited to see how it goes.

I was amazed how much we managed to pack into five days. We all learned a ton, and on the trip home we compared notes from the different talks we’d each attended. We also made some great connections, especially in our state and section. I’m excited to go back next year to present my own research and introduce the next round of my peers to the wider wildlife world.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2016 newsletter of the Maine Chapter of TWS, which is available here.

For more information about the University of Maine TWS Student Chapter visit their Facebook page.