Thursday, April 9, 2015

Between The Hedges

       On one March afternoon, a group of my colleagues and I caravanned down to Athens, Georgia to attend The Southeastern Ecology and Evolution Conference (SEEC).  Armed with a will to win and truckload of confidence derived from a 2nd place victory in a previous poster competition, my partner Jac Whitt and I had our eyes set on first place.  Athens however, proved to offer more than what can be gained from victory.
       We began our weekend with dinner in Athens as a group, then after a late-night board game session in the lobby of the hotel, it was off to bed to rest up for SEEC in the morning.  The first thing we all noticed when driving onto campus was the beauty in the architecture of UGA's buildings.  With stone archways and marble columns, it looked more like Greece than Georgia.  The next aspect of SEEC that swept us off our feet was the plenary lecture given by Dr. Nalini Nadkarni.  I believe she inspired us all to be better scientists and better people.  Following Dr. Nadkarni's lecture, there were talks being held all over about a multitude of different ecological topics and research projects.  It can best be described as an all you can eat buffet of science.  We attended several talks until noon, when we were served a box lunch provided by the SEEC organizers at UGA.  Following the meal, my Clemson colleagues and I took the remaining lunches to homeless shelters in the area.  While this was not associated with SEEC, it was a memorable and fulfilling experience that I believe deserved mentioning.  After the afternoon session of talks, the poster presentation began.  Strangely our cut-throat attitude and drive to win seemed to have faded in the wake of our experience thus far.  I believe it was then that we learned that conferences such as SEEC aren't about winning, but about fellowship with like-minded people from around the country.
       SEEC proved to be an unforgettable experience that renewed our appreciation for what we do.  We were able to present our research with perhaps a bit more pride than before.  We made new friends and shared new experiences with old ones.  I certainly look forward to returning to SEEC in 2016 with more research, a new poster, and a fresh outlook on science. 
-Daniel Coster

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