Something that I’ve been looking forward to for almost a year now is the SyngBio conference. Last week I was at the University of Tampa on the west coast of Florida to attend the meeting, which was the third of its kind. Researchers, zoo aquarists and other professionals from around the world, who work with syngnathids (Seahorses, pipefishes and their relatives), formed the 100 plus attendees.
Although I attended the full four days of lectures and seminars, I was invited as a keynote speaker at the ‘Scientific Storytelling’ evening event that was held at The Florida Aquarium on Monday 15th May. Besides floating around on a boat in remote Papua, it was probably one of the most amazing places I have ever done a talk. My podium was directly in front of a huge aquarium window, with sand tiger sharks, huge turtles and moray eels all going about their business behind me.
It has been a few years since I finished my PhD ‘The Biology and Conservation of Gorgonian-associated Pygmy Seahorses’ but the highlight of the SyngBio conference was finally meeting the researchers that I’d cited so many times during my work. Honestly, I was a little intimated to meet some of them. Forget those Kardashian folk, these people are real celebrities! In reality, I have rarely met such an amazing bunch of people. The collective drive and passion was truly inspiring. There are sure to be some interesting projects that will come from the meeting, which I know was the motivation for getting the world’s syngnathid researchers together initially.
Apart from my talk, the other main reason for my visit to SyngBio was to attend the first meeting of the IUCN Seahorse and Pipefish Specialist Group, which was formed last year. This group is part of the Species Survival Commission and, as the global authorities on these fishes, the group’s main aim is to ensure that their wild populations are healthy and well-managed. I was very honoured to be invited to join this small group of fifteen or so members last year. We gathered on the fifth day of the conference and worked on putting together a Species Action Plan for these animals. The fruits of that will become available over the coming months.
I was very kindly sponsored to attend SyngBio by the HW Hoover Foundation, Project Seahorse and a donation from
our own Our Beloved Seas (Wendy and I always donate to a conservation organisation from our trips).