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Featured articles in 2008

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August 14th, 2008

The Gordon Research Conference: A Week Long Conversation
Article and pictures by Julie Messier

Two weeks ago, from July 5th to 11th, I was at the University of New England in Maine for the Metabolic Basis of Ecology Gordon Research Conference (GRC). This was the funniest and most informative conference I have ever attended.

The GRCs  stand out because they are organized around the stated purpose of "promot[ing] discussions and the free exchange of ideas at the frontiers of […] sciences". Every detail of the conference is designed to favour social interaction and the communication ideas, knowledge and the most recent findings in the field. They certainly succeed in doing so.

Networking and discussions are favoured by, amongst other things, the small size of the conference (80 to 120 attendees), the week-long interaction, the free afternoons on the relatively remote campus and the many poster sessions that do not overlap with the talks. The exchange of ideas at the frontier of science is favoured by, amongst other things, the pre-selection of high quality speakers by the chairs of the conference, the 40 minute talks followed by the 20 minute question/discussion periods and the off-the-record policy stipulating that anything said and presented at the GRC is not for public use.

The conference was all the more stimulating for the crowd was eclectic in its experience, background, age and origin yet shared a common passion for nature and science and a curious mind.

Although I am tempted to keep on rambling about what a great experience I had and the various reasons for which this meeting was marvellous, I'll stop here and conclude by advising that if you can only attend one conference a year, make sure not to miss the GRC !

Julie attended this conference thanks to a CEF Grant. She is a Masters student at McGill under Brian McGill and Martin Lechowicz.

August 11th, 2008

International Conference in Entomology 2008
Article and pictures by Alida Mercado

International Conference in Entomology 2008
Durban, South Africa 6-12 July

This year I had the opportunity to participate in the ICE 2008. A CEF grant to participate at the conference helped me make the trip to South Africa. It was my first time in such type of conference, as they only take place every four years. With more than 2,000 participants from over 103 countries, with many presentations and posters, I had my poster presenting some of the work I’ve been doing as part of my Ph.D. research in Panama. In the conference I had the opportunity to meet entomologists from all over the world: Slovenia, Germany, Colombia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, Mexico, Canada and many more. And of course there is the great experience I had outside the conference, my first time in Africa! I learned a lot about the history of South Africa, the current political situation preparing for elections next year, saw several football stadiums in construction for the 2010 World Cup, and enjoyed the great Indian food of Durban.

I took a tour around Durban one morning, before the opening ceremony for the conference, and visited the Victoria Street Market, where lots of crafts are sold as well as Indian spices, ivory and paintings, on little stores next to each other. I also visited the botanical gardens, the north beach, a house where Nelson Mandela stays when he’s in the city, the house of the Royal Family of England (both of which I just saw from outside) and the market on the Marine Parade. I enjoyed very much the market by the beach, so many people fishing, swimming, surfing, and walking around with the family. It was a place where all the cultures that are part of the city mix and come together to enjoy. I also visited the Museum of Natural History in the City Hall where there was a special exhibition on insects organized in relation to the conference. On the second floor there is the art museum, where also another exhibition prepared in conjunction with the Conference was presented. South African artists presented their work that related to insects. Durban was a great city to host the conference, the long and clean beach with so many activities taking place, its colorful markets and the great and friendly people made it an unforgettable experience for me.

While in South Africa I did a safari to Kruger National Park. I had a fantastic time there, met some great people on the tour and we enjoyed all the nature around us, elephants, lions, zebras, kudus, impalas, rhinos, hippos, warthogs, hyenas, giraffes, waterbucks, wildebeest, fish eagles, many colorful birds, some butterflies, buffalos, to name some of the animals we saw there. It was great trip to South Africa, so much culture, nature, sea, mountains, and entomology!

Alida Mercado is a Ph.D. student at McGill, under the supervision of Christopher Buddle

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