The first joint WDA-EWDA conference took place in Lyon this July 2012. According to the attendees it was a success. But it wasn’t only about sharing knowledge : it also was about connecting people and some activities were especially dedicated to the networking of students both between themselves and with mentors.
The Student Week-End
The conference officially began on Monday 22nd but for some fortunate students, it began on the Saturday before. Collected in Lyon and gathered on the VetAgro’Sup’s campus they were transported to Les Bauges, in the North of the Alps, for an amazing adventure : the capture of chamois. The first step was to hike up to the base camp where a dinner and a fire camp were organized. It was the first opportunity for the students there to begin to know each other and some chatting preceded a short, chilled night under a sky full of stars and shooting stars. The second step to the top began very early, at dawn. The scenery was breathtaking and the feeling of beeing almost alone was worth the effort of this 2 hours hike and this is without speaking about what awaited us on the top. Our guide, Jean-Michel Jullien, had set the dropping net the day before and let us rest while waiting for the best time to drop it on chamois. And then, the signal was shout : chamois were trapped under the net ! We had to get to them as quicky as possible to prevent them from hurting themselves by trying to escape. The catch was good : 3 adult females and a 3-months-old male. According to Jean-Michel Jullien this has never been done with a group as large as ours. The chamois were blinded with a bonnet, their legs tighted and they were grouped together to reduce the stress.
Tagging, blood sampling, weighting, measuring metatarses and horns were some of the steps requiered before releasing them. After one last look at the amazing scenery and it was time to head back to the base camp for lunch and return to the village to take the bus back to Lyon. On the way down we halted at the chalet usually used by the teams on trapping missons and we passed by a herd of cows grazing of which we bought a delicious cheese (la Tome des Bauges). This is how the chamois capture trip ended but it was neither the end of the fun of the week nor the fun of the day! Once we were back, everybody got the chance to rest a bit before the BBQ organised for both the hikers and the other students that arrived during the weekend to participate to the conference. In a friendly atmosphere we continued to entcounter our fellow companions for the upcoming week and hopefully for upcoming events. The weekend was almost over and everyone went home (or should I say to their host’s home or to their hotel) to prepare for the week ahead.
The conference itself
Monday was the “workshops day”. There was a range of workshops to choos from but one in particular was dedicated to some lucky students and held by Estelle Rousselet (a student from Lyon): the Turtle and Pigeon necropsy.
Tuesday is our first day in the ENS (Ecole Normale Supérieure where all the conferences took place). The days there were fully occupied by sessions and on Tuesday the evening was organised for students and mentors to interact : the famous and eagerly awaited Student-Mentor mix. It was held in a room reserved in a bar with tables organised on themes. Mentors, ie well-known scientists who agreed to participate, were set according to their area of expertise and students were free to sit where ever they wanted to interact with them. After a certain amount of time, all the students were asked to switch tables and to meet up with other mentors. What an amazing opportunity to ask questions you don’t have time to ask during the coffee breaks (or you don’t dare ask out of the blow if not in is kind of atmosphere!). The exchanges with those mentors were made very easy by the atmosphere (music, a free drink, tacos…) and since the mentors came willing to share their experience and to help students to evolve in their projects, it was a very good opportunity to ask for advice, contacts etc.
On Wednesday a visit was payed to the bird park, where we could ask questions to the veterinarian of the park. No other specific event was planned for students during the rest of the week, but there was no real need for that, connections had already been made and coffee breaks or posters sessions were other opportunities to go on with the networking that started earlier within the week.
Most of Thursday was dedicated to students talks (the Terry Amundson Award) and students posters competition. The winners were announced during the last evening during which was held a banquet on the City Hall of Lyon : Heather Bryan (from the University of Calgary) was awarded the Terry Amundson Presentation Award for her presentation on “Grizzly bears show hormonal responses to changes in salmon consimption and abundance” and Janie Steele (from the Royal Veterinary College) was awarded the Student Poster Award for her poster on “Preliminary characterisation of respiratory microorganisms i the long-finned pilot whale, Globicephalas melas, from the strait of Gilbraltar, Spain”
This week was an amazing experience and no doubt everyone there now awaits the 2013 Conference which will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee.”
Batshéva Bonnet (student in VetAgro’Sup – Campus vétérinaire de Lyon, member of the Student Organising Committee of the 2012 WDA-EWDA Conference)