Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conference 2015: Liverpool

Rebecca Atkins

University of Georgia (USA) and Swansea University (UK)


The Aquatic Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conference (ABEC) was an incredible undertaking for all those involved in its organization. Building off of a previous conference that took place in 1990, ABEC was organized to both reflect upon the past 25 years of marine and aquatic research, and also to set the stage for future work and collaborative efforts. Having yet to attend an international conference, I was unsure of what to expect.


ABEC surpassed all of my expectations, encompassing a breadth of disciplines and actively seeking to bring together a diverse group of researchers, both established and emerging. The city of Liverpool, with its rich history and an abundance of pubs, was a brilliant choice to not only host this eclectic gathering, but to also foster dynamic interactions and collaborations. Amidst several days of contributed and invited talks, were a smattering of lively tea breaks, special topics workshops, and an exciting evening of pub exploration. Throughout this time, I had numerous opportunities to attend a variety of presentations. I was able to converse with researchers who shared similar interests and enthusiasm, while also networking with fellow graduate students from around the world. As a first year PhD student, attending ABEC gave me the motivation to continue exploring my ideas, expanding my perspectives, and seeking input from others. I also took another stab at conquering my fear of public speaking by presenting both a talk and a poster. Both were well received and resulted in insightful feedback.


One additional, and personally rewarding, result of this conference was earning recognition for both best student oral presentation (first place) and best student poster (third place). This was truly an honor that I will not forget. Being surrounded by a global network of scientists, enjoying a vibrant city, and talking about innovative and engaging research has instilled within me the desire to continue fostering broader collaborative efforts that seek to answer globally relevant questions.


I am extremely grateful to the Challenger Society for giving me such an incredible opportunity, and for allowing me to experience my first conference abroad. Having attended, I feel that I have formed a number of valuable professional and academic connections, which will likely result in future collaborative work outside of my host institution. I have also gained greater confidence in my ability as a researcher, and I’m excited to convey my experiences to peers back at my home institution. Personal profile: I am a first year PhD student at the University of Georgia. Currently, my systems of interest include salt marshes and the rocky shore. I enjoy the dynamic nature of coastal ecosystems, and hope to better understand how intraspecific variation in consumer and resource populations leads to variation in food web interaction strengths and structure. More information about my research interests and academic background can be found on my website:

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