Last year I attended the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting for the American Fisheries Society. I had never attended a conference or presented a poster before. When the pandemic started, it halted in-person meetings for my lab. Luckily, we were able to pivot to a new project that looked at and analyzed a legacy data set on fish species biomass from 1227 rotenone surveys in USA reservoirs. From this data, I built the poster that I presented at last year’s conference.
I didn’t know what to expect from my first conference. I wasn’t sure how presenting a poster worked or what symposia I wanted to watch. In addition, my peers who had been to conferences in the past were unsure of how the challenges of online presentations and learning would be addressed. What I did find was that there were more benefits to an online conference than shortcomings. During last year’s conference, I was taking summer courses and working part time which didn’t give me much freedom to move around my schedule. However, because of the flexibility that comes with online programming, I didn’t have to miss anything. I also didn’t have to pick between the different lectures and programming like you’d normally have to at an in-person conference because everything was recorded so I could watch it when I had time. I also felt that I was able to enjoy papers and presentations more because I was able to read them even after the conference had officially ended.
I think the only thing that I felt like I was missing out on was the connection to the other attendees and presenters. I believe that is one of the most difficult challenges that people face when creating an online event. Despite the limitations, I was able to meet a few people through the conference and have kept in contact through other platforms like twitter. I can’t wait till I’m able to attend an in-person conference so that I’m able to meet and interact with more people from this amazing fish fueled community.
By Kiana Lindblad