Summer – time for fieldwork and meetings

For many university faculty who are associated with museum collections, summer is a very different time than the academic year.  Many of us do not have teaching and departmental responsibilities then and so we are able to get out to do fieldwork, focus more intensively on research projects, and attend meetings.

When I say meetings, what do I mean?  Most scientific societies hold meetings for their members periodically – many on an annual basis.  These meetings bring together researchers and educators to exchange ideas about their work.  We present talks and posters that summarize results of projects.  As a plant systematist, I usually attend the “Botany” meeting that is held this week in Savannah, GA.

Logo Botany Conference 2016The meeting is large enough (with over a thousand attendees) that there are many parallel sessions on different topics, so it is not possible for one person to attend all of the talks.  You just have to make a schedule and choose what you want to hear – and talk to your colleagues to find out about talks that you missed.

In addition to oral presentations with projected graphics, posters are a great way to communicate the results of your scientific work.  The nice thing about posters is that they are available for viewing for several days and you can take your time reading them (usually they are assembled in a large room or two).  In addition during “poster sessions” – dedicated times when there are no talks going on – individuals will be standing by their posters to speak with meeting attendees about their work.  Another nice thing about posters is that after the meeting they can be brought back to your institution and displayed there.

What about biological collections and their relevance to these meetings?  Biological collections come into play in several ways.  First, much of the work that is being presented at evolutionarily-ecologically focused meetings is based in some way on specimens, so they are important as the basis for the data.  Second, there are often sessions at these meetings that are focused on specimens and museum collections – including exchanging ideas about best practices in curation and organizing larger-scale initiatives for the community.  At this year’s Botany meeting, for example, I will attend a session for herbarium curators and for anyone who is involved with and interested in aspects of herbaria.  Perhaps not surprisingly, much of the discussion in recent years at those sessions has centered on specimen databasing initiatives and how we can better work together across the community.  Lastly, there are professional societies dedicated to the promotion, improvement and educational aspects of natural history collections, such as the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections and the Natural Science Collections Alliance.  These societies also have meetings for individuals who are curate and develop natural history collections.

Check this blog on Friday – I’ll post some photos from the Botany 2016 meeting in Savannah so that you can see some of what has gone on there.  If you can’t wait, you can follow the meeting on Twitter (#botany2016).


About the AuthorDr. John Freudenstein is a Professor in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and Director of the OSU Herbarium.

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