By Nick

I’m in a sleep deprived state of tense nervousness. I’m about six hours in to my seven and a half hour layover in Kuala Lumpar airport, after a three hour bus ride from Canberra to Sydney and then an eight hour flight to KL. If there is one downside to doing a PhD in Canberra, it is that it takes one hell of a long time to get anywhere.

I am intensely excited about my destination, the tropical west Indian city state of Goa, where I am traveling to for the PAGES conference. One of the biggest paleoclimate conferences there is, held only once every four years. An exciting opportunity to meet paleoclimate scientists from all over the world. And my first time in India too. Being somewhat of a travel bug, this is very exciting too. But this traveling is making me nervous and full of worry. Because this time, I am carrying a very precious cargo, my beloved conference poster.

There are two ways of giving presentations at conferences. The first is the good old talk. Typically given by PowerPoint, in front of an audience who you wish was a bit bigger, a bit more interested, and a little less hungover. I’ve only ever given talks before at conferences. I guess I like the mini power-trip of standing up and telling people about my work. But conferences are big events. There simply isn’t enough time for everybody present to talk about their work, even when they only get 12 minutes to do so. This is where posters come in.

Big, brash, colorful posters, lined up on pin-boards in a large room, not only help to break up the monotony of sitting in darkened rooms but also give a different way of presenting information. You get lots of people wander past, only some will take an interest. But those that do, you get to have a real scientific discussion with. You get to chat over the results and discuss ideas. It helps that there is often a glass of wine involved too. I’ve never presented a poster before, so I’m quite excited. I’ll let you know how it goes!

I’ve been working on my poster for a few weeks, spent a ridiculous amount of time agonizing over every detail of the presentation. A bad poster is a nightmare, a good one a delight. I have put so much effort into presenting my data in the best possible way. It is the sole product of my last month’s work. No hair is out of place. It is my pride and joy. And now it sits, rolled up, in a poster tube, in some airline metal crate, hopefully being moved from one plane, to the next plane. My fate is in the hands of the baggage handling crews of multiple airports. It would be a disaster if it didn’t make it.

My main thought at the moment is to the gods of geology and air-travel. Please, please, please let my poster arrive at the same airport as me in a few hours.