A Graduate Student's Introduction to the International Biogeochemistry Scene

This year, the five-day conference was entitled “From cells to Earth scale processes: traversing the breadth of temporal and spatial scales in biogeochemistry.” The program featured a diverse delegation of scientists presenting on a wide range of topics within the interdisciplinary field of environmental Earth sciences, from tropical forest ecology to the efficiency of storm water biofiltration systems, biogeochemistry of mine environments, forensics, and bacterial-mineral interactions. Between keynote speakers, oral and poster presentations, 93 delegates presented their research this year at ISEB. The breadth and scope of the symposium was exemplary of the ISEB community’s interdisciplinary aims and its traditions in advancing scientific knowledge and methodology of biogeochemistry—a project of increasing urgency as our world is in a time of massive environmental change.

Four excellent keynote speakers opened each day of the conference, followed by sessions grouped broadly by topic in which researchers gave 15-minute presentations of their work and answered questions from the audience. Coffee and tea intermissions between sessions allowed not only for an opportunity to admire the stunning Australian landscape from the conference centre’s second-floor terrace, but also for further discussion and networking among symposium attendees and the organization of future collaborations and research directions. This element of intimacy and flexibility extended to other social events organized for the conference, such as an evening trip to Port Douglas for dinner at any of the town’s fine restaurants, or the Wednesday excursion day with options to traverse the lush rainforests of Mossman Gorge, or snorkel and dive among the denizens of the stunning Great Barrier Reef.

The symposium was a perfect mix of scientific exposition and discussion, guided by an expertly-structured conference program, and interactions and networking opportunities among delegates, from world renowned professors to first-year graduate students. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience for a first-year graduate student like myself, one that I will cherish throughout not my professional career, but my entire life. For any graduate student or early-career researcher in biogeochemistry, ISEB should be at the top of their list of conferences to attend.