24 June 2013

Monocots at Evolution 2013!

Given my tendency to stalk plants wherever I go, including conferences and college campuses, it should be no surprise that I took some time photographing the most interesting monocots (to me) here at Evolution 2013 in Snowbird, Utah. First up (right) are some lovely irises, which are likely ornamental but more petite than those I'm used to seeing in the southeast United States.
Next (left) is a (rather blurry) false Solomon's seal, featuring the characteristic spray of white flowers at the tip.
I'm not one to normally get excited about grasses and relatives, but sedges are really adorable and this small one (right) was in full bloom.
My personal favorite (left) is this lovely onion in full bloom. My old labmate, Erica Wheeler, would know the species, but I just like the magenta color.
Then finally, I have an enigma (right). These vegetative stalks stood over two feet tall, and not a single flower bud was visible. Obviously I'm not very good at western United States/Rocky Mountain flora.
Sadly, no Commelinaceae, but still plenty of monocots to keep me entertained.

21 June 2013

Making the most of your conference experience.

I sat next to an undergrad on the shuttle from the airport to the meeting site for Evolution 2013 this afternoon. My first Evolution meeting was in 2003 in lovely Chico, California, and I've attended this meeting nearly every year since (I've been to Botany and Ecology on occasion, too). I'm acutely aware now how much my conference experience has changed over the years. It's overwhelming at times to sort through the myriad talks offered concurrently, and the undergrad with whom I spoke was appreciative to hear a few ways to think about strategizing his conference experience.

My post yesterday mentioned three basic goals for any conference as instructed by my PhD advisor. In case you're interested in more, here you go: conference philosophy and practice.

  1. I spent approximately half of my first Evolution meeting running between buildings to try and catch talks in different sessions. That was a practice which quickly fell away. Now I pick one session in each time block, arrive a bit early, and sit through the whole thing (this is also in part because I knit and sometimes use my laptop to take notes, as I've mentioned before). 
  2. How do you choose which sessions? Sometimes it's obvious, and sometimes it's not. If you have a few friends with similar interests, I like division of labor: go to different sessions and compare notes later.
  3. Choosing sessions part 2: Go to talks given by people you know (but see #4 below). Going to someone's talk, especially if they're a new friend, can be an effective way to show interest in their research. Sometimes grad students and undergrads appreciate having friendly faces in the audience, so it is a nice show of support.
  4. Choosing sessions part 3: Albert Meier, one of my undergraduate mentors, told me you shouldn't go to a talk given by someone with whom you work (or have worked in the past). Basically, you should probably already know about their research, or feel comfortable asking them about it. Use your time to seek out folks unknown to you, or people you would like to meet. (Note: I prefer this strategy to #3)
  5. Pace yourself. I've dealt with social anxiety at various points of time over the last decade, and sometimes I can't handle too much socializing with new people. I make sure I can retreat to a corner of the venue, take a walk outside, visit my room, or otherwise recharge.
  6. Use technology and informal events to your advantage. There are often announcements or informal gatherings organized on the fly. Also check the job/announcement bulletin boards for opportunities to score field trip/banquet tickets, etc.
There's lots more I could write, including many issues related to large-scale conventions (for an example, see this entry on con crud). As with anything, your personal preferences may vary.

I think I'm supposed to be doing something with a conference somewhere RIGHT NOW, though...

20 June 2013

A prelude to Evolution 2013

I'm heading to Snowbird, Utah tomorrow for Evolution 2013. I've been attending these meetings for over a decade now, and always look forward to the breadth of science discussed. Here are the activities with which I'm involved this year:

  1. My talk is on Saturday, 4:15 pm in Cotton D/Snowbird Center: "Genome-wide transposable element insertion frequencies change with selection for accelerated development." It's the first time I'm not talking about plants at an Evolution meeting! I'll be talking about a pretty sweet side project (collaboration with other NESCent and UC Irvine folks) about population genomics of TEs from an experimental evolution study in Drosophila.
  2. My poster is on Sunday, number P240003: "Transposable element proliferation and genome size evolution in Asparagales." This is my main NESCent project and the subject of my recent paper from Genome.
  3. I'm co-hosting NESCent's Evolution Film Festival on Sunday night in the Ballroom. I've watched the entries and am impressed by the variety of topics and approaches.
  4. I'm participating as a mentor for the Undergraduate Diversity Program, and am looking forward to meeting with budding young scientists.
  5. I'll be hanging out at the NESCent booth at various times during the conference.
  6. Looking forward to attending iEvoBio on Tuesday and Wednesday!
Definitely a busy schedule, but that's the way I like it! In terms of continuing activities at the conference:
  1. I'll likely be knitting during talks (the hows and whys are worthy of another post altogether, but I assure you I'm still paying attention).
  2. I'll be typing furiously on my laptop and/or iPhone by tweeting (as @k8hert, using #evol2013 for the main conference and likely another for iEvoBio) and taking notes using Evernote.
  3. I'll be following my PhD advisor Chris Pires' advice for conferences: "Meet someone older than you, someone younger than you, and watch a talk that changes how you think about things."
See you at the conference!