This past Christmas break, I had the opportunity to travel to West Palm, Florida to participate in the annual meeting for the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, also know as SICB. I ended up being the only undergraduate student that was able to attend the meeting, but Dr. Childress’s graduate student, Kylie Smith and Kea Payton, a former lab technician and current graduate student in Charleston joined me. The event lasted for four days and consisted of short talks by both graduate students and faculty from universities across the country. Kylie gave one of the best talks at the meeting about her work with coral reef conservation in the Florida Keys. I was also able to hear about the work of several other graduate students from Clemson, and they all did a fantastic job. There were several large poster sessions for students where I was able to present some of the research that I had been working on that semester with the fabulous Randi Sims. The project Randi and I are continuing to work on this year, correlates most directly with Kylie’s master thesis. By using two computer programs, Image J and CPCe, we analyze pictures from the field to estimate how much our coral transplants are growing and how influential macroalgal competition is. By going to conferences like SICB, I am realizing even more how important our work on marine conservation really is. I was able to hear so many talks on species that are directly impacted by the health of our coral reefs.
Conferences like SICB are just one aspect of the many wonderful opportunities I have had by being a part of Dr. Childress’s creative inquiry. I have learned more than I could have imagined outside of a classroom setting by both my peers and mentors in the lab. I have become a more effective student, researcher, and learner. As I near the end of my last semester at Clemson, I am incredibly thankful for the time I had in this program. In addition to the many lessons and skills I have obtained, I have also gained invaluable friendships and bonds.