QRA@50 Conference

Royal Geographical Society, London

 I’d decided to attend the Quaternary Research Association’s 50th birthday conference really just to find out how conferences work before I have to go and present a poster or talk at one. Turns out this was a pretty good idea and QRA@50 was the ideal place to do it. This event is billed as the ‘Annual Discussion Meeting’ and so is a low key event with a 50:50 mix of academics and postgrads – nice and low stress! Plus this year the theme was all about looking back over the progress made in each area of Quaternary science over the past five decades. So a real broad range of talks and no horribly in depth and technical sessions to try (and likely fail) to understand! Brilliant for a first ever conference.

There were too many excellent talks and speakers to list them all here but I will pick out a couple of real highlights. Obviously I enjoyed the icy presentations of Geoff Boulton and Richard Hindmarsh as well as the Wiley-Blackwell lecture by Maureen Raymo, which taught me basically all I’ll ever need to know about identifying orbital climate forcing in ocean cores. But I also found interesting other talks in a more diverse range of subjects, particularly John Lowe’s dating techniques 101, Sandy Harrison’s look at model validation (clever use of a George Orwell quote!) and the sea level double-act of Ian Shennan and Roland Gehrels.

Apart from the talks the poster session was especially valuable to me and I spent a fair bit of time noting down what does and doesn’t work on an academic poster. I’m sure this will come in very useful someday soon! Poster sessions are also a great opportunity to chat to academics and other postgrad researchers. Everyone says that more science is done at these sessions than is ever achieved via the lectures.

So I’d say if you’re a postgrad student (Masters or PhD) and you get the chance to go to a small conference definitely do it. It’s a great way to break yourself into the academic conference scene, do a bit of networking, pick up some top hints and tips, and of course you might even learn something. But definitely bring a notebook, you’ll need one.

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