2018 Society for Women In Marine Science Spring Symposium

This past Saturday, the Society for Women in Marine Science URI chapter hosted their first spring symposium.  The event offered active discussion about issues relevant in science while encouraging the participation and success of women in marine sciences.

I became aware of the event when a fellow Oceanbites author and organizer of the event shared details via social media. The convenience of it being nearby (URI-GSO), hosted on a Saturday, and affordable ($30) prompted me to sign up early-on so I was lucky to evade the waiting list.  I attended the symposium as an early career scientist in my effort to stay active in the science community.

The day opened with two well-selected keynote speakers: Drs. Bethany Jenkins (URI) and Catalina Martinez (NOAA). Both woman shared their experiences navigating the science field while dealing with life’s obstacles along the way.  Listening to their stories, which were quite different, highlighted that our paths in marine science are not a straight line, and that taking chances, and getting back up after being knocked down, is worth it. Their talks were live streamed and are available here.

After the keynote presentations, meeting participants were broken up into 10 randomly assigned groups. The discussion in these groups was guided by questions. Much of the discussion focused on our views of effective mentors and the roads we are all taking.   I thought it was a great way to break the ice in a group of people I mostly had not met before.  It also made it easy to recognize the diverse group of backgrounds from which we all came. My group included high school students, recent undergraduates, graduate students of all stages, Fulbright scholars, and research technicians.

Following the morning discussion, there was an optional poster session scheduled during lunch. A total of 29 posters were presented from a range of topics such as: Anthropogenic Impacts and Conservation, Biological Oceanography and Marine Biology, Education and Outreach, Geological and Physical Oceanography, and Hydrology.  Within a meeting of ~100 early-career scientists and students, it was inspiring to see a diversity of research. Also offered during the lunch session were tours of the Inner Space Center on the URI-GSO campus and the opportunity to anonymously share individual stories of coming into marine science.  This time was also a great time to network with other meeting participants.

After the poster session, I participated in a science communication workshop as part of the skill-based session. The workshop was held by Dr. Sunshine Menezes (Metcalf Institute). She provided valuable guidance to approaching scientific communication based on our specific audiences. As part of her presentation, she introduced us to a template that can help frame blogs/articles to effectively engage the target audience. I enjoyed the workshop because it was informative and because the in-class exercise was a helpful example for using the presented skill. A different skill-based session that I could have attended was a workshop on How to Get Your Publication Noticed. I also could have opted to attend panels on any of the following: Work-life balance, Career, and Graduate school: Application to Graduation.

After a brief coffee break, a second set of group-discussions was scheduled.  This round of discussions was topic based. The participants chose one of seven group discussions: Work-Life Balance, Confidence and Image, Lab/Field Experiences, Mentorship, How Can Men Best Support Women, Inclusion and Intersectionality, and Career Chat.  For this session, I chose to participate in the Work-Life Balance discussion.  In our group there was ~30 people.  The discussion leader shared a few leading questions, but the majority of the discussion was between the participants.  It was a very comfortable setting to ask questions, express concerns and uncertainties, and share advice and personal experiences.  The overall conclusion of our discussion group was that when it comes to work-life balance, staying organized and remembering to take care of yourself are two key factors in achieving a near balanced feeling.

The day concluded with each discussion group sharing the general topics covered from that session. It was evident that all of the group discussions were engaging and fostered  personal conversations rooted with individual experience and perceptions.

I was very glad that I attended the SWMS symposium. It offered the opportunity to interact with a strong group of mostly female scientists from different backgrounds.

Five important themes of the day were:

  • Staying confident in yourself and in your science.
  • Remembering to keep your support system filled with people who lift you up. 
  • Being kind to yourself. 
  • Supporting others within in your tribe.
  • Collecting your people.

One thought on “2018 Society for Women In Marine Science Spring Symposium

  1. I am delighted to see about this society. When I began fisheries research in 12946 there were no females allowed because British fishermen ddid not allow women to be in the crews!!! Sidney Holt.

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