The summer has begun and my travels along with it! Last week was the Society of Experimental Biology (SEB) conference in Seville, Spain and I'm now in Delaware, USA with Erin Sparks who I met on twitter, skype with monthly and until last Sunday had never met in person!
To set the scene it's a sunny, humid 29 degrees Celsius outside, the tables are set for this afternoon's party. I have a bag of pretzel M&Ms (a new discovery!) open on the couch beside me, and the most adorable bull mastif called Izzy at my feet!
Conferences are a challenge for me for many reasons. For one I struggle with crowds and I'll go sit in a corner with my music playing in my headphones. But I also struggle with my own imposter syndrome. Some years this can be truly crippling but this year's SEB meeting was attended by some of the most amazing people. Along with catching up with friends and collaborators, I reconnected with Australian's I've not seen since I was a PhD student. There were also a lot of PEPG (Plant Environmental Physiology Group) members at the meeting and it was great to have an opportunity to discuss the details of next years Field Techniques Workshop in person. These different groups of positive and supportive people made this year a really positive experience.
The great turnout of physiologists this year was down to the great selection of physiology sessions which also made it quite an intense week! The first day was filled with some really useful teaching sessions - I also presented my teaching using a mobile phone app. I learnt about some really useful tools including the Dejargoniser http://scienceandpublic.com/. This software was designed by Tzipora Rakedzon, a linguist working within the sciences to teach writing skills. the tool is free online and all you do is copy a section of text into the box click start and the highlighted text are words that would be considered jargon. It's a great tool to help with making writing accessible! The whole day was really useful and always a really nice group of people.
The rest of the week was filled with really interesting plant physiology sessions with drought responses from the bottom up, then water use efficiency, and then in silico plants. Each of these talks were engaging and filled with excellent science!
One experience casts a shadow on the plant science community and it's the behaviour of certain individuals.
On the second evening I was out with a group of people for drinks. I wanted to ask someone (lets call them Bob) some questions about their talk. I went over to join the conversation. The other person was saying they work with people from my institution to which Bob aggressively told her the methods at Nottingham are crap and not reliable (and a bunch of other really nasty things about the people) and then said that he had the right tools that she should use.
I was so shocked and disgusted by this behaviour that I walked away and talked to someone else, swearing never to work with this person (or their institution). I don't understand why some people can't just be good human beings.
But the story gets worse... The next day I'm chatting with a colleague from a different institution and who should I see? Bob cosying up with one of the big names from Nottingham and looking at data on a laptop.
It's one thing to not trust people from somewhere else, or to not be compatible personalities - I get that - but to publicly, aggressively insult those people one minute and brown-nose the next is utterly dishonourable. And I honestly struggle to understand people who do this or let this happen. When I'm setting up new collaborations it requires trust so I will never work (or share my data) with people who demonstrate a lack of integrity. The point of having collaborators is that I can't do what they do and so I need to know that the data they collect is reliable. Otherwise how can I be sure we wont be in a situation like this.
Overall SEB was a really great week held in Seville - a beautiful city! I did manage a few hours in the centre one afternoon but I will definitely have to return!
The next leg of my summer travels brought me to Delaware to work with the amaizing Erin Sparks!
Erin contacted me by twitter 2 years ago and we've been skyping regularly since, but when I stepped out of the airport in Philadelphia was the first time we had met in person!
This first week has involved discussions, building our paper plan and preparing for a field harvest next week.
Travel is also about learning other cultures. This week I've discovered pretzel M&Ms, the biggest bag of dried mango I've ever seen from Costco (as an Australian I get regular cravings for Mangoes that can almost be satisfied with dried mango), crab nachos and Corn Hole (a game that's really big over here).
And then there's the language differences: cart/trolley, Koozie/stubby cooler, pruning shears/secateurs and granola/toasted muesli.
Next week will be filled with science and data and icecream!
Stay tuned for the next edition of my travel blog.