Early career researchers are sometimes encouraged to organize a symposium. It’s a great way to meet important people in your field, and potentially also to find a job. When I saw a notice last year about an upcoming meeting, my first reaction was that there probably wouldn’t be very much to interest me. But then I thought, why not create a meeting I was excited to attend? So I made exactly the symposium I wanted to attend. It was an amazing, wonderful experience, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
The meeting in question was the 2017 Entomological Society of America (ESA) conference in Denver. First, since I’d never done this before and wanted help, I reached out to some colleagues for advice and suggestions for co-organizers. Unfortunately Jason Chapman was unavailable on the meeting dates, but he suggested a couple of other recent PhDs who were interested, Tyler Flockhart and Aislinn Pearson. We quickly realized that a top desire was to build a community of insect migration researchers. We focused on identifying other early-career researchers who had done work on the topic, invited them, and to our amazement almost all of them agreed to join us. We established a symposium theme of talking about our research in the context of how others could use similar methods, but honestly it didn’t really matter that much. Since many of our participants were outside North America, we were very fortunate that ESA supported us by waiving registration fees and covering some travel expenses. Because of this, all of the originally invited speakers were able to join us at the meeting.
Once in Denver, we converged on a large house we rented not too far from the convention center. Sharing the house meant that we saved a lot of money and had extra time to hang out and get to know each other. Countless research collaboration ideas came up over the week and some are already bearing fruit, such as a grant proposal to study North American butterfly movement or a planned field trip to look at hoverflies in California. The title of our symposium was “Igniting the future of insect migration research” which sounds kind of cheesy but originally chosen to echo the main conference theme of “Ignite – inspire – innovate.” I believe the title will prove apt, however, as I expect the collaboration coming out of the symposium will have a substantial effect on the future of insect migration research.
The symposium itself was even more fun and exciting than I had imagined. Since we shared the basic flow of each presentation earlier at the house, speakers were able to cross-reference material and we each got even more out of each presentation. Attendance was good, hopefully amplified by those of us on Twitter, and many people stayed for the entire set of eleven talks plus the follow-on discussion. Afterward, a catered reception in the meeting room ensured that the discussion continued with many familiar and new faces. Special thanks to the reception sponsors Tréce, Bioquip, and Scentry!
From left to right in the top photo, standing – Karl Wotton, Constantí Stefanescu, Myles Menz, Kristjian Niitepöld, Tyler Flockhart, and Aislinn Pearson. Seated in the audience: Dara Satterfield, David Soto, and John Westbrook. Not shown: Jeremy McNeil.