For the record none of my supervisors actually look like this. I just searched for ‘slave driver’…honestly (Source:

By Kelly

And so the Australian Marine Science Association conference has ended. I had heard that in previous years the focus had definitely lay with the charismatic megafauna (think whales and dolphins) however this year there was a really impressive breadth of subject matter. I imagine this is largely due to the location of the event. As I have mentioned before, if you are an Australasian marine scientist -not working on tropical coral- then Hobart is the place to be. I learned so much last week, things that I am sure that I should have already known…but let us look on the bright side, I know now.

The coral records that I was presenting were taken from the Lord Howe Rise which lies in the path of the East Australian Current. While there were no other coral record to compare – except with my office mate and my supervisor – there were so many talks that provided context for my work; particularly those that discussed changing circulation patterns and the influence of climate anomalies like the ENSO cycle. I now have a list of papers I need to read, a list of tests I need to do on my data to show  it is a statistically robust, and a list of samples I need to get to in the lab. Is that a whip I hear cracking? The lead up to a conference is always a very busy time….then the aftermath perhaps busier when you come to realise what you should have done (I have a few of things), and what you could be doing (I have a few more things).

This conference was more relaxed than some I have been to, and perhaps there was nothing on the calibre of announcing the possibility of the Higgs Boson, but there is some really interesting work and potential for great collaborations. And like Brendan mentioned in a previous post, at the two-year mark of one’s PhD you have to start thinking about who in the room may be able to give you a j_o_b at the end of it all. And so, with my batteries recharged and enough inspiration to get me through the long hours, I head back into the lab. I have another week and a half in Hobart with the instrument and I plan to make the most of it. I have some particulate samples I need to look at to see the condition of my coral’s food (yes this matters). I am running some tests on a very different type of coral to see if the technique will be appropriate to use (heaven forbid I cut up something priceless, or WORSE spend hours on the chemistry only to find out I can’t use it). And more importantly I am going to run the next door neighbours fingernails. I’m not kidding. The technique I use is able to discriminate differing trophic levels, or position in the food web. The neighbour is a strict herbivore whereas I am a carnivore so I thought it would be a neat way to be able to describe the technique in future talks. I wonder if you need ethics clearance on fingernails?Exactly, how awesome is it being a scientist!