Recently, The Sigma Psi chapter of Tri Beta Biological Honor Society sent three delegates to West Virginia to present at the district conference and I was lucky enough to be one of those delegates. On Thursday, April 11th, Brian Bement, Tyler Sloan and I all boarded a plane headed to West Virginia to present our research and hopefully take home some awards for our chapter at Florida Tech. But Brian and I ran into a hitch on the way.
Brian and I were presenting posters and Tyler was giving an oral presentation for the meeting, but Delta Airlines wasn’t keen for us to bring the poster on board because of our backpacks and carry-on luggage. The man working the Delta counter at the Melbourne Airport was extremely rude, yelling that we could not bring our posters onboard because we already had two items. I asked him why we couldn’t just put the poster at our feet and he screamed at me about some large amounts of fines. The woman behind me was clearly as angry as I was and she told me that she would take the poster for me because she only had one bag. But the man running the counter would not let her, so I tried to put the poster in my backpack to consolidate my luggage. The poster was a little too long, sticking out of the top and the man continued to yell at me and tell me that I needed to check my bag. I went to the counter and another man, much nicer than the first, was just as confused about this problem as I was. He saw my frustrations and checked our bags for free.
Once we arrived in West Virginia, we took a shuttle to the hotel, excited to present in the morning. The minute I hit my mattress, I fell asleep. At 8 a.m., Brian and I headed over to the conference center to register and set up our posters when I noticed something strange – we were the only non-molecular presenters at this conference. We set up our posters, anxiously waiting for the judges to come by at 9 a.m. When the judges finally came, I was not impressed with how the conference was organized. I was only able to speak to one of the three judges and all the judges were of molecular/medical backgrounds. At around 11:30 a.m., the judges began delegating. They were talking about how they ran out of time seeing everyone and they were just going to compare their lists and make a decision from the people that all three judges had seen. At 12:15 p.m., the judges finished their final rounds and we were dismissed, waiting for the district meeting and the award ceremony at 4 p.m.
I thought my presentation went very well. I discussed my research on a newly discovered species of bonefish that was identified in the Indian River Lagoon for the first time. I characterized their diets by counting and identifying gut contents to the lowest practical taxonomic level. Given the stomach content findings, I decided to look at the gill raker morphology and discovered a unique set of rakers. These findings will promote further research on this species, as well as other species of bonefish this coming fall.
At the end of it all, I was elected secretary of District I for the upcoming year! We headed over to the awards ceremony where Florida Tech dominated the district. Brian Bement won 1st place for his poster and Tyler Sloan won 1st place for his oral presentation. We also won furthest distance traveled and Dr. Grace won Chapter Advisor of the Year. Even though it was a rocky start, Florida Tech swept the conference. Two of our delegates will go to nationals in Pennsylvania, next summer, and I will be flown to the district conference next spring! Good job Sigma Psi Chapter!