We all have our favorite conferences. Mine is a little strange as technically it’s not even my field. Back when I was doing my masters I had planned on being a geneticist, and PopGroup (The Population Genetics Group) was the first conference I ever attended. Since then, while I certainly haven’t attended every year, I always try and find some excuse to go. My success this year was partly due to my being in the UK around that time anyway (saves on transport costs) and partly because I made a point of helping out the geneticists in my labgroup with some of their more repetitive work. This has the added benefit of making sure I don’t totally forget all the skills I learnt in my masters. Its always good to remind yourself how to build a haplotype network, even if you’re a chemical ecologist.
This year’s journey was thankfully free of bomb scares and, despite my initial doubts, the students union in Sheffield was a lovely venue (I really liked the food as well). As usual the quality of the talks was very high, although there seemed to be fewer method talks this year, or perhaps I just missed them. One benefit I find of attending PopGroup is I learn about the latest shiny new technique for sequencing, but this year the emphasis seems to be less on the techniques themselves and more on how to interpret the data they produce.
There were a lot of talks I particularly enjoyed, but since I’ve talked about them in the “Not those kind of doctors” podcast (see the end of this post for the video) I’m not going to repeat myself here. Sadly I didn’t see either of the winning student talks (Simon Martin and Martina Rauscher) this year, although I did hear good things from people who did. Rodrigo Pracana won the poster prize for her poster on “Genetic variability of captive populations of a highly eusocial stingless bee.” Alas it seems the Scottish universities have lost their edge this year.
I will mention however the final plenary talk by Simon Myers. The final slot of a conference is always a mixed blessing, and having done a bit too much Cèilidh-ing the night before, I was admittedly expecting to doze through it. However, Simon’s talk on ancient admixture in human populations really woke me up. The study focused on looking at gene flow into and within the UK and Spain. As someone who was really into early human history as a kid, learning about the genetic signals of things like the Viking and Anglo-Saxon colonisations was fascinating.
I also got to see a lot of old friends and, hopefully, make a few new ones as well. The next PopGroup is going to be in Edinburgh so that is extra motivation for me to start preparing my reasons to attend for next year!