My trip to PopGroup got off to a shaky start this year when a “potentially suspicious” package shut down Edinburgh Airport hours before we were due to fly to Bristol. Thus, while everyone else was drinking wine in the roman baths, we were stuck in a hotel lobby waiting for updates via twitter. Eventually we were allowed back in the airport and made it to Bath around 1am.
Despite this, the conference was very enjoyable. The venue (the Assembly rooms) was beautiful and conveniently placed a short walk from the centre of Bath and the long lunch breaks gave us ample time to get out into the city. We even had a bit of sunshine!
The quality of the talks was very high (I feel like everyone always says this about conferences, but it is true!) My favourite was the plenary given by Dr Lilach Hadany on stress-induced variation. She talked about the ways in which stress-induced recombination, dispersal and mutation can all spread through populations. The idea being that individuals of low fitness (that are therefore stressed) have more to gain from changing their phenotype than successful individuals. Thus, “the living dead can take any risk”. I also liked Krzysztof Kozak’s talk on the non-hybrid origin of the butterfly Heliconius hermathena. The talk pretty much does what it says on the tin, despite its hybrid phenotype, genotypic evidence suggests that the species is not the result of hybridisation at all. Instead its characteristic zebra pattern may be ancestral, or have evolved multiple times.
As for prizes, the Scottish universities clearly came out on top. The prizes for best student and best post-doc talk went to Sam Lewis and Susan Johnston respectively. The prize for best post-doc poster also went to Edinburgh. In fact the student poster prize was the only one to go to a different university, as I won it! A clear indication of the value of summing up you findings clearly and succinctly, even if they are not what you were hoping for.
Finally, the conference dinner was delicious and the live band very impressive. I only wish I could say the same for the DJ! At least he did his bit for the local pubs of Bath by forcing us all out of the venue in search of better music.