The first ESA meeting I attended was in Montreal, Canada, 2005.
I was very excited for the trip – to see a new place, to
meet new people, and to learn. I remember that before going to
ESA, many people had warned me of its size and to not get overwhelmed,
therefore I decided not to sign-up for any field trips or extra
ticketed events, to try and keep it simple. This is not necessarily
a good idea, because you may miss out on very interesting trips
or events. ESA is very organized and if you are interested in
attending a field trip or extra event I recommend it, all should
go smooth and not add extra stress to your day. Every night before
bed, I went through the schedule for the next day and chose talks
that I wanted to see. I would like to advise that it can be difficult
at large venues to jump around from session to session and you
may end up missing out on parts of a talk because sessions may
not be on the exact same time schedule. I recommend finding an
entire session that interests you, but also if there is a speaker
you really want to see, you can leave one session and go to another.
I really enjoyed my time between sessions, walking the corridors
and running into old classmates and professors, and of course
meeting new ones. Furthermore, if I got tired of sitting and listening
to talks after long periods of time, I would go for a walk, either
outside around Montreal, or through the vendor and poster booths.
It is okay to take breaks!
Being a part of the poster session was very pleasant, because
people who were interested in the topic of my poster made an effort
to find me and talk to me about my research. I also enjoyed attending
the poster sessions and talking to others about their research.
This is another great opportunity to run into old friends and
people you want to meet. Speaking of meeting new people –
if there are professors you would like to meet you should use
the opportunity of ESA to do so. You could attend their talk and
chat with them after, or send them an email ahead of the conference
and set up a time to meet and talk while you’re both there
– most professors are interested in meeting with students.
Another suggestion is to set up a meal with them and maybe invite
a few other students from your lab. Meet new people!
Lastly, I think it is important to enjoy your time at ESA and
get out of it what you want. Use it as an opportunity to learn
something new – if a session that is not focused on your
research interests you, then go – why not? Also, one point
of view that I experienced was that being part of such a large
meeting, with so many people, made it is easy to just walk around,
observe, learn, and enjoy without feeling like you are standing-out
or out of place. The ESA annual meeting was the most interesting
and enjoyable conference that I have attended, and I cannot imagine
a more pleasant gathering of ecologists.