This past November I attended my first international conference, the International Congress of Zoology (ICZ) held this year in Okinawa from November 14th to the 18th. Not only was it my first international conference but also my first time traveling to the tropics, which in all honesty was a more exciting experience than the conference itself. The first venue was at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) where the opening ceremony and first 2 days of symposia were held. This was followed by 2 more days at the Okinawa Convention Centre (OCC) where poster presentations and more lectures were held.
During the conference at OIST I stayed at a dive house/shop on the Maeda Cape, my hosts lent me an old mountain bike which I will be eternally grateful for since that made getting around so much more fun. Unfortunately their were strong winds and a large swell making diving in the best spots impossible, but myself and many other people still enjoyed swimming, diving, and snorkeling in some of the shallower sheltered areas, to be perfectly frank this was the highlight of the whole trip.
The second venue at the OCC was in Ginowan City (a little north of Naha), here myself and some 700+ biologists gave our poster presentations in the late afternoon for two days while taking lectures earlier in the day. The OCC was next to a beautiful little artificial beach, and given the temperature swimming was the only thing on my mind, however the beach season for Ginowan City was only from April until the end of October and so swimming wasn’t permitted, which was a source of constant annoyance given how inviting that water looked.
My personal feelings of the swimming (or lack thereof) aside, the conference had a large number of very interesting lectures and presenters. While the conference is mostly focused on physiology and genetics there were a wide variety of lecture themes for other disciplines of biology. Some of my favourites including sea cave exploration and species description, grotesque (in a cool way) experiments in developmental biology, and a presentation on paleontology using 3-dimensional modeling, stuff I’ve only ever seen on television documentaries. While admittedly not exactly a priority conference for people studying ecology and evolution, the ICZ was a good experience, only dwarfed by the experience of going to the tropics.