This September, I was fortunate enough to present my research at the Pathways 2017 Conference in Estes Park, Colorado. The focus of this conference is to increase professionalism and effectiveness of human dimensions in fisheries and wildlife management. In other words, the conference is designed to address issues in the struggle for sustainability and healthy coexistence between people and wildlife. This conference included keynote presentations from Dan Ashe (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), Joel Berger (Wildlife Conservation Society), and Laurie Marker (Cheetah Conservation Fund), along with 9 symposium sessions, and over 100 oral and poster presentations from different students and researchers.
I presented a poster on my research from Belize that I had done the past summer when I was accepted as a USDA Research and Extension Fellow. The objective of the entire project is to take a holistic agroecological approach to farming and forest management in the Vaca Forest Reserve, this includes conventional and organic agriculture, economics, forestry, wildlife conservation, and social science. I was one of seven students accepted on this project. While my primary focus was on the human dimensions of wildlife, I also aided in other projects looking at mammal densities, bat species, crop densities, and soil nutrients. My project focused on farmer attitudes towards wildlife, forest management, and sustainable farming.
The research I presented at this conference was specifically on the wildlife attitudes of farmers in and around the Vaca Forest Reserve, Belize.
Presenting a poster at this conference allowed me to reflect on my own research, gain experience from talking with professionals, and increased my scientific communication skills. I talked for 2.5 hours straight about my poster with people who were interested in human dimensions of wildlife. Most of the conferences I have attended in the past were general undergraduate conferences, while these were great at teaching me how to create a poster and communicate small bits of research, they never contained anyone who was interested in conservation biology. Rather than asking specific questions about my research, they merely would state “So tell me what you did.” These interactions often limited the usefulness of the experiences because I was talking to people who couldn’t critique my research. However, during this conference, I had to defend my methods and interpretations constantly, as well as concede on specific points I had not considered.
Presenting a poster at this conference allowed me to gain a better understanding of how to present and communicate research. Another reason this conference was different from other ones that I have attended is because it contained no other undergraduates. The people I was interacting with were either professionals or graduate students. Presenting and receiving feedback from them encouraged me to grow both academically and professionally.
As it is my goal to attend graduate school, I need to become an effective communicator especially in a scientific setting. Presenting at this conference has allowed for me to get a better sense of what graduate school will entail, as multiple masters and Ph.D. students conversed with me not only about my own research, but about their experiences as well.
A Standout Presentation – Read about the presentation at the conference that impacted Hannah’s views on poaching behaviors.