(Photo above of the Scott Polar Research Institute, where the conference was held. Photo from the SPRI website)
Last week the Quaternary Research Association’s (QRA) 20th annual postgraduate symposium was held at the University of Cambridge. Followers of this blog will know that I enjoyed last year’s conference in Exeter (read about my experience here) and wasn’t about to miss this year’s event, especially as it included a tour of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
Speaking of which, the conference kicked off on Wednesday with the tour of BAS. We got to check out the aquarium (so many starfish), the MAGIC GIS mapping workshop, the ice core labs & cold rooms as well as the fossil collections. All very cool and really interesting. A particular favourite were the fossils, which included some weird uncoiled ammonites and a glitter-covered fossil shell. The glittery shell was odd but extremely well preserved from the time when Antarctica was around the Equator and had a lovely tropical climate. It must have looked great sparkling away on a coral reef.
Following the trip to BAS was an icebreaker event at the Sedgwick Museum, surrounded by more nice fossils. This was a good chance to get to know everyone and was so well provided with free booze that the conference organising team were practically begging people to take home some of the leftovers. Obviously I did my bit to humanely dispose of a couple of bottles of ale! We also had a very nice conference dinner on the Thursday night that was equally well provided for with alcohol – although I do think the food at Exeter may have been slightly better (but only just & mainly due to the pizzas and the cream tea!). But Cambridge certainly provided the best booze in terms of both quality and quantity. Nottingham will host next year’s symposium and I’m very interested to see how they will rise to the challenge.
The conference proper ran all day on the Thursday and Friday at the Scott Polar Research Institute. This is mainly a chance for people to present posters and talks on initial or preliminary results to get some feedback or to do a ‘dry run’ of a presentation destined for a larger conference. It’s always interesting to find out what other Quaternary postgrads are studying, to share some ideas and get feedback on your own work. This year we had a lot of ice and ocean research being presented, which was very interesting and led to some good discussions around the posters. We also had a strong international showing with researchers from Ireland, Germany and Argentina alongside the Brits.
So once again I had a good time at the QRA PG Symposium and would thoroughly recommend that any Quaternary postgrads reading this check out next year’s event in Nottingham. I’ll certainly be pushing it to the other postgrads at Sheffield; after all we’re only an hour away on the train and hopefully there’ll be more free food and booze (as well as Quaternary chat, obviously!).