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Nov. 14, 2012

A Meeting of (Ento)Minds

by The Bug Chicks

Click to enlarge images
This week, we’ve been attending the Entomological Society of America’s (ESA) annual meeting in Knoxville, TN. Over the past four days we’ve been immersed in the science of entomology. Each night we talk to our families who ask “What are you doing there all day?” In this post, we thought it might be interesting to give people a glimpse at what goes on at scientific conferences. 
 
Each year, scientists gather at different professional meetings (depending on their area of expertise) to discuss new research findings, network with colleagues, meet potential collaborators and check out new products from supply vendors.
 
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During the day, scientists, extension agents and graduate students present the latest in entomological research.  We have seen presentations on everything from delusory parasitosis, to the evolution of slug-like caterpillars, from trap-jaw ants escaping antlion pits to how professors can engage students via online learning. In fact, we were asked to speak at a symposium that focused on facilitating a global society with social media.  We spoke about our experiences with blogging and online video.  Scientific posters are another great way to disseminate in-progress research findings. By the time the conference ends, 1803 talks and 620 posters will have been presented! 
 
The diversity of events at conferences like these is astounding. Meetings are held to discuss journal publishing,  and you can go to training seminars, awards ceremonies and symposia celebrating the contributions of famous scientists.  You have to schedule your time carefully, otherwise it’s easy to miss out on something you’d like to attend.
 
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In the evenings, people gather to socialize, catch up, and network.  Different universities hold mixers for current faculty, students and alumni. We attended a “Tweet Up” with several active Twitter users from the entomological community (Twittermologists?).  It was a great opportunity to meet with people that we’ve been communicating with for months and we even got to know their real names, as opposed to their Twitter handles!
 
Finally, (as if that weren’t enough), there is an exhibit hall where vendors display the latest in scientific equipment and merchandise.  We saw incredible microscopes, collecting equipment, insect jewelry and specimens like the ones below for sale from BioQuip.  
 
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We hope this gives people a bit of insight into what its like to attend a scientific conference.  It’s been a great experience and we’re enjoying the last day before we head home.
 
About The Bug Chicks

Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker are The Bug Chicks. They each have Masters Degrees in Entomology and love to teach people about insects and spiders.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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