By Brian Gallagher, PhD Candidate at Concordia University
As a PhD student at Concordia University, I was fortunate to attend a conference entitled “Advances in the Population Ecology of Stream-Dwelling Salmonids” (http://www.troutsymp.com/) with support from a QCBS Excellence Award. The conference was held from in Palma, the largest city on the beautiful island of Mallorca in Spain. After a long winter and (mostly) cool spring, I was thrilled to experience the warm Mediterranean climate before the peak tourist season. My time in Mallorca got off to a great start after a long day of travel, as my plane landed just in time to see the sun set over the Serra de Tramuntana, the impressive mountain range just beyond the city.
Photo of the Serra de Tramuntana at sunset taken from my airplane window after landing in Palma.
The conference was the sixth meeting of researchers studying salmonid fishes around the world, ultimately attracting presenters from 14 countries across North America and Europe. Despite this range of backgrounds, the conference was small and intimate, with only 60-70 people in attendance and all presentations held in the same room. I saw many fantastic talks throughout the week, spanning a diverse range of species and locations, but a common theme was the impact of human activities on salmonids (and freshwater biodiversity in general) especially dams, aquaculture, and climate change. Although I have enjoyed attending much larger conferences in the past, the small setting had the distinct advantage of allowing me to meet almost everyone there and talk to them at some point during the conference, while sharing a meal or while taking a trip outside the city (see below). For this reason, I think small conferences like this are fantastic for networking with people who you didn’t know before, and the beautiful low-key setting helps facilitate this process.
Catedral de Santa María de Palma at sunset, with mountains in the distance.
As an avid traveler, one downside of going to such a beautiful place for a conference is that I didn’t get to explore the city as much as I would normally want to. Nonetheless, I found some time to walk around Palma alone and see some breathtaking sights, including its iconic cathedral. Additionally, on the third day of the conference, we left the city and took a bus to the eastern side of the island. With the driver acting as our tour guide, we learned about the surge in tourism in recent decades (apparently Palma has the busiest airport in Spain, with more arrivals than Barcelona or Madrid), the agricultural history of Mallorca, the local industries in the town of Manacor, and the background of tennis star Rafael Nadal, the island’s most notable celebrity. After a beautiful drive, we ended up in the scenic town of Porto Cristo, where we saw some of the most famous beaches on the island (Cales de Mallorca) and walked through interconnected limestone caves containing one of the largest underground lakes in Europe (Cuevas del Drach). We sat down for a long lunch overlooking the beach in Porto Cristo, then headed back to Palma in the evening, relaxed and ready to take in more presentations during the next two days.
Blue water and rocky shoreline around the Cales de Mallorca in Porto Cristo.
At dinner on the last day of the conference, I talked to dozens of people about how amazing the meeting was. We all raved about the quality of the presentations, how easy it was to get to know people, the fantastic food and scenery. The last item on the agenda was getting some ideas for where the next conference should be in two years, and whether it should continue to be in Spain or move elsewhere. No matter what the organizers decide, it seems like everyone can’t wait to come back. If given the choice after my experience in Mallorca, I would rather attend another small and highly specialized conference like this one instead of a larger meeting with hundreds of people. The combination of networking opportunities, like-mindedness, and a beautiful setting is hard to beat.
A chandelier-like set of stalactites hanging from the ceiling at the Cuevas del Drach (Dragon Caves).
About the author: Brian Gallagher is a PhD candidate at Concordia University supervised by Dr. Dylan Fraser. He is fascinated by within-species biodiversity, and studies how this diversity impacts responses to climate change in brook trout and other salmonid fishes across multiple spatial scales.