Attending Evolution, the premier international conference for evolutionary biology, had a big influence on my recently spawned, yet still vague, choice to pursue a career in evolutionary biology. Held in Austin, Texas this year and the largest conference in its field, Evolution is a joint event for three major societies: the American Society of Naturalists, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Society of Systematic Biologists.
By observing well-seasoned Evolution attendees, I noted their strategy for making the most of the busy conference: Attend talks on emerging methods, and spend time re-connecting with old lab mates and collaborators. For those transitioning from undergraduate, this conference was an optimal space to explore the breadth of current evolutionary biology research and to casually meet and chat with potential graduate advisors.
For me (someone recently starting on their PhD journey with broad interests in ecology, evolution and environmental biology) attending this conference felt like a well-timed bonus. I was able to attend talks and posters ranging from genomics, population genetics theory and ecological genetics to speciation and adaptation, biogeography, and conservation biology.
While this breadth of selection was nothing short of overwhelming for someone that struggles with indecision, the payoff of defining where my interests lie was well worth it. The challenge of navigating which talks to attend and how to traverse the conference center in time to make my next session of interest, was balanced by the reward of gaining insight into how to appropriately ask questions in this field and how to try to answer them.