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Staying inspired, updated and connected through conferences

By Tania Moyikwa*, Master’s Student, University of Cape Town
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Tania presents her poster titled “Resonance between scientific findings and local indigenous knowledge in fishing communities along the South African coast under climate change” (Picture: Sourced from the WIOMSA Facebook page)

As a young and upcoming scientist, I find academic conferences both rejuvenating and inspiring.

I have grown to appreciate conferences for their ability to link me with the greater scientific community and inspire me to come up with innovative ideas and strategic approaches to my research.

I therefore found it a great privilege to attend the 10th Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) symposium in Tanzania, where I presented a poster titled “Resonance between scientific findings and local indigenous knowledge in fishing communities along the South African coast under climate change”.

I am pleased to report that through this platform I managed to position myself and my work within the bigger picture of fisheries and climate change research in the east coast region of Africa. All the presentations I attended had incredible scientific content and were beneficial to my development as an upcoming researcher.

The conference programme offered an impressive balance of social science and mainstream science, which was particularly important to me as I had just made a shift between these two streams. With my background in Oceanography I have now become interested in applying the knowledge and skills I acquired to address social issues.

The importance of reading and staying abreast of the latest scientific literature cannot be stressed enough in the academic world. This conference allowed me to interact with the authors of some of the papers I have read. It gave me the opportunity to ask questions about their work, plug into the human motivation and broader context behind their publications, and finally discuss possible collaborations, as well as study and job opportunities.

It is worth mentioning that this was the first international conference I attended. I had the opportunity to make new friends (very important as the life of a graduate student can be a little insular). It was also comforting to know that I am not alone, as switching between streams can be daunting.

Furthermore, finding myself in a place I had never visited before was refreshing. I did not hold back on any opportunity to explore Dar es Salaam and learn more about the culture of the city. I did not mind going solo or with a group of new friends, whether by foot or by taxi.

WIOMSA Youth Network

Being part of the establishment of the WIOMSA Youth Network was a definite highlight. For the first time in the history of WIOMSA, the young researchers attending the conference from all over the world had a meeting to brainstorm and discuss the formation of a youth network that would operate under the objective of this association. I committed myself to secretariat duties by writing the minutes and preparing a register of the meeting, which was attended by more than 200 young researchers.

In conclusion, the conference gave me the opportunity to hone key skills such as communication, research and networking. I explored a new place and met new people. I learned more about fisheries science, climate change and related topics. Furthermore, I am updated about the institutions that deal with coastal and marine research in Africa.

I am grateful to WIOMSA for making it possible for me to attend the conference, and to my supervisors (Dr Serge Raemaekers, Professor Juliet Hermes and Dr Ross Blamey) for their tireless efforts in making sure I get all the exposure required to produce quality research.

* Tania is carrying out her Master’s research in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town. She has been collaborating with SAEON since being part of its education programme seven years ago.

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