Essay 1: Totally overwhelmed

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Totally overwhelmed is the best way I can describe my first ESA meeting. I thought ESA would be the perfect venue for presenting my first professional talk (which turned out to be the scariest thing I don’t remember). I was amazed at the thousands of earthy folks milling around Madison, Wisconsin, that sort of looked like me. It was great. I had finally found my niche and I was ecstatic to be there, however the vast number of people at the meeting was intimidating.

At that time, talks were scheduled back-to-back, so I found myself running around the conference center trying to be punctual for each presentation. My effort usually proved useless given that talks rarely started on-time anyway. Since then, I have learned that interactions that occurred in-transit to oral or poster sessions have been the most productive for me - both personally and professionally. Although I have missed many presentations that I had planned to attend, I have met and been introduced to many fascinating people in route. The world really is small and after a few ESA meetings, you will definitely begin to appreciate what a wonderful family we belong to.

Finally, my biggest suggestion for new and old students attending ESA for the first or fiftieth time is to participate at each and every meeting. DO SOMETHING - give a talk, present a poster, be a session organizer, attend sessions you don’t organize, attend the keynote address, join the ESA student section, be a SEEDS mentor, interact with your fellow scientists, introduce yourself to 5 people you don’t know during the meeting, and invite the scientists that intimidate you the most to lunch, dinner, or the bar for cold beers. Ecologists, in general, are a cool bunch of people that like to hang out and shoot the breeze about their research among other more important topics. Of course, you will find a few egotistical folks that can’t be bothered by ordinary students. But, don’t let that deter you from meeting your colleagues since the majority of famous and not-so-famous scientists in attendance at ESA are happy to talk to whoever will listen.

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