Friday, August 5, 2011

Lessons learned from my conference

Yesterday I returned home from the "Midwest Bird Monitoring" conference that was 2-1/2 days long. This conference was primarily run by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and was a bit different from conferences I've attended in the past. This conference didn't center around research projects and new techniques, but rather the administrative end of bird conservation. I learned some new lessons on this trip and here are the conference and non-conference things I learned.

1) Apparently having "resort" in the hotel name gives them license to overcharge for an average-sized room with less-than-adequate air conditioning, a smaller than expected dining room that over charges on average food from a limited menu. Which leads to:

2) Resort in the hotel names just means the place sits on a beach.

3) Government agencies speak almost exclusively in acronyms. I don't think I've ever heard so many acronyms spoken in a single sentence. For example, I overheard the following statement in a conversation:

"We have a JV (joint venture) with PIF (Partners in Flight) and an NGO (non-government organization)."

The following sentence was in one of my handouts:

"Coordinate with USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) and FSA to determine how to create a better grassland core and matrix for bird conservation."

I still don't know what FSA means.

4) Children who are noisy after 9pm annoy me much much more than children who are noisy before 9pm.

5) Many of the biologists at the conference had the responsibility of determining how to manage their land based on bird population models. The statistics that predict a future population number of a given bird species looked frightening. I didn't realize that enormous responsibility hinged on so much math and computer science. I'm glad I'm just a field grunt who gets to hold birds and kiss them on the head. Which in turn leads to:

6) I may be just a field grunt, but the numbers from my bird census and mist netting is a meaningful contribution to the Midwest melting pot of bird conservation and I'm grateful there are computer gurus who know how to manipulate all that data.

7) Bird Whisperer knows how to liven up a long car ride and make a trip fun. Chick-in-charge knows how to read people and is a very patient person.

8) My pillow at home is what is causing my persistent neck pain. My neck did not hurt once during the entire trip and after one night at home in my own bed, I woke up with neck pain...again.

The conference was overwhelming in the sense that a large number of techniques on measuring bird numbers and ideal habitat were casually tossed about which in turn meant that a lot of mathematical formulas were thrown at me. I understood just enough to realize that I'm falling short on my little prairie because there is so much more I can do, so much more I can measure and I don't have many resources to show me these lessons.


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