A bear biologist walks into a bar…
Make that a ton of bear biologists and enthusiasts and change the setting into a conference venue and tadaaaa: you have the recipe for the weirdest, most wonderful collection of people, ideas, and, of course, bear stories! Warning: Potential brain explosion with possible domino effects is also on the cards.
I have managed to sneak my habitat modelling research to another International Bear Association (IBA) conference. Which means I got to see some old friends, make some new ones, meet some of my heroes, and learn a great amount more than my brain can handle.
I am writing this post from a little hotel in the middle of nowhere in a Serbian village. Maria, who works on large carnivore-human conflict in Greece, and I left Ljubljana by car this morning and arrived at our overnight stop, a little guest house next to a small wetland. The 5-day conference ended yesterday and my little brain is trying very hard to process it all. Revisiting my notes, making lists of people I want to email, trying to recall all the times I sounded stupid and place them on a scale of \’I am sure they didn\’t even hear me\’ to \’Urgent need for the invention of time travel\’.
Events like this have a big impact on your life as a researcher.
There are so many amazing bear scientists, conservationists and enthusiasts out there who do remarkable work. From evolutionary biologists to geneticists and microbiologists, every single person shares my passion for bears, this familiar glow when the animal is mentioned. This is a different kind of family I feel so honoured to be a part of. I wish I could share with you all their stories, but I only have a small sample so far. The short video I made from the footage in Alaska will soon be online and I will share a link here.
I am not doing enough. As a PhD student you get a set amount of time and you are encouraged to focus on a small amount of things and dive in deeper – go where no one has gone before. But meeting more and more people who do such outstanding work out there has inspired me to work even harder.
I want to travel and work with more bears and bear people around the world. Because the only thing that\’s better than a bear, is two bears. Or eight.
Trying to follow a genetics workshop at the end of a 5-day conference is brave but foolish. At least I tried…
I will never forget:
1. The laugher with my crazy bear sisters after the long conference days – when we go braindead, what is left can only communicate with pretty insane dark humor interrupted by the occasional presentation rehearsal.
2. How much some of the IBA members helped to make sure my little film is shown to everyone at the closing ceremony. Thank you, lovely people, this meant the world to me.
3. The time people took to look at my poster and chat about my work. Their ideas, comments and suggestions are the real treasure I am bringing back home. Don\’t worry family, I also bought little peanutbutter-filled pretzel sticks.
4. The great walks, food, sorbet and cwoffee I had with my dear bear friends. Together we learned that in Slovenia chickens are a symbol of beauty and that sage is a remarkable addition to lemon sorbet. I will trully miss hanging out.
I will spare you from a detailed commentary on the rest, but please do check the IBA\’s website and perhaps, if you are a very passionate bear friend, become a member or help in any way you want! The bears of the world will appreciate your love.
I leave you with this great piece of wisdom: