By Kelly Strzepek

I can’t wait to get on the road again, ho-hum. The life Willie Nelson loves is making music with his friends, nothing is mentioned about preparing a talk and trying to understand what on earth those data points actually mean before you hit the road. That would be my song. It’s time for me to head back to the airport again, this time to present my research to a crowd of my peers at the International Deep-Sea Coral Symposium, and I’m not ashamed to admit it (well maybe a bit) BUT I’M NOT READY. I fly to Amsterdam on Saturday, the conference starts on Sunday, and then it’s a week of talks. My poster will be presented on Thursday, and my big debut on the international circuit culminates in an oral presentation on Friday morning. My poster is ready, all fancy and printed on cloth so I can stuff it in my suitcase and not have to worry about leaving a poster tube on the plane. The talk however, well that is just plain stuffed at the moment.

Presenting at an international conference can be quite daunting, there are experts a-plenty and you just never know where the questions will come from. We all secretly hope that they are not from left field but you never can tell. We have been allotted 12 minutes to talk and 3 minutes for questions. Personally I quite enjoy public speaking, it’s the 3 minutes of question time where I come unstuck. I’m not sure what is worse: too many questions, or no questions at all. Too many questions can mean either the presentation was bad, or that your work just happens to be terribly interesting….I’m hoping for the latter. No questions means that either the audience is sitting in awe of your amazing contribution to science, OR they haven’t understood a word you’ve said because you have done a terrible job at communicating your science….I’m hoping for the former.

On the bright side, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to get some feedback as to how I am doing. I find my work fascinating, and I do believe that the data I recently collected in Hobart happens to be telling a lovely story. A story of two very different oceanographic regimes that meet, and intertwine somewhere around Tasmania. How very Romeo and Juliet! Unfortunately I’ll need more data to tell you whether it’s a happy ending for regional ecosystems…stay tuned.