Marine Mammal Science – a big world made small

Our Masters alumni rocked marine mammal science! I have just returned from the Society for Marine Mammalogy conference which is the largest biennial gathering of professionals working on, with and around marine mammals. Over 2,500 conference attendees from all over the world gathered in San Francisco (not so sunny all the time California) in the second week of  December, including 40 of our Marine SMMDec2015_P240cMammal Master’s alumni from eight years of St Andrews Marine Mammal Masters. WOW! We managed to get most (sadly not all) together for a quick group photo at the SMRU instrumentation stand – a few showed up later and were added to the crowd :-).

Spot the new faces...
Spot the new faces…

Our amazing alumni (whether at the conference or watching from afar) are all at different stages of their careers with some on post-docs or in leading positions in goverment organisations while the most recent graduates were busy soaking up the vibes of the field and pursuing contacts for possible jobs or PhD positions. It was great to catch up and hear our alumni’s most recent stories (some who could not attend had given me great updates before the conference, more about those in the new year).  Across alumni years new and old contacts were forged. After all, we’re all part of the vibrant St Andrews community. If you add my SMRU colleagues, our PhD students, postdocs and former SMRU folks then I reckon you were never more than 5m away from anyone of the SMRU crowd at the conference, and with our alumni dispersing all over the world we truly have global coverage. I must admit, I was more than a wee bit proud to have been part of our Master’s story since its beginning….

And of course it wasn’t just all social and networking, presenting and discussing science played a very big part too…. our alumni gave talks (11), presented posters (12) and contributed to the pre-conference workshops. Big congrats go to our Master’s alumni Chris McKnight who was runner-up for best PhD-level talk on innovative methods.

It was an action-packed week which ended with a grand finale conference bash in the city hall, and more than one sore head, a crackling voice and serious sleep deprivation…..

Merry Christmas (from Scotland) and may the force be with ya’ll for 2016…..

Sonja (MSc headquarters)