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Sophia N. Wassermann


PhD Candidate in Marine Science & Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar. Interested in computational approaches to issues at the intersection of fisheries and climate change. Currently modelling mackerel collective behaviour.


Deck the Halls with Shoals of Mackerel: I Presented a Poster!

To start my festive season, right around the start of Hanukkah in fact, I attended Ecology Across Borders 2017, hosted by the British Ecological Society (BES), with The Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (GfÖ), Nederlands-Vlaamse vereniging voor ecologie (NecoV), and the European Ecological Federation (EEF) in snowy Ghent, Belgium.

Snowy Ghent

View from the conference center on the first day!

The highlights of the conference for me, besides the delights of Belgian beer, were the pre-conference individual-based modelling (IBM) workshop and the final plenary by Dr. Iain Couzin. The workshop focused on NetLogo and integrations with R, but for me, the most useful aspect by far was meeting other students and academics working with IBMs, as I am somewhat isolated at my university. Similarly, Dr. Couzin’s talk was particularly inspirational, as he is one of the leaders in collective cognitive behaviour research in an ecological context. I especially appreciated that he highlighted the work of his students and collaborators, instead of focusing on his own achievements. He also talked about inserting holographic fish into experiments to control the transmission of information and study interactions, something straight out of sci-fi!


I also presented a poster. As I’ve mentioned before, poster sessions are one of my favorite parts of conferences, as they provide a structure for talking to other attendees, who are often students. Unfortunately, there were so many posters for this conference that they split them into two sessions and therefore I wasn’t able to peruse the other posters during my session, but I still enjoyed giving my poster. Having to explain your project to strangers, especially scientifically-informed ones, is a great way to conceptualize your own work. Also, when people asked me how far along I was and I answered with “a little over a year”, they seemed to think I’d done a fair amount of work for the time I’d been at it. External validation is always appreciated. :þ

If you missed my poster, or were nowhere near Ghent, you can download it here.


I Hope your holiday season is off to a good start and that you’re heading into the new year with optimism and hope. Best wishes!

Ghent Canal

Beautiful Ghent, with no snow, on the last day.