By Danika Kleiber
Day one of 2011 International Marine Conservation Congress and I hit the volunteer jackpot. The IMCC put me on registration, letters R-Z. I spent four hours looking up people's names, telling them about their drink ticket for the reception in the evening, and giving them their goodie bags. When I wasn’t busy searching for tote bags, I spent some time matching faces to the names I know from scientific journals: "Why hello Anne Salomon, here is your conference tote, and make sure to find the Guylian chocolate at the bottom."
But perhaps the best thing about volunteering is that it saved me during the reception later on that night. I generally dread receptions. I was expecting to stand in a corner peering over my free drink and carefully piled plate of food (a survival skill of many graduate students). I was just beginning this ritual when another student recognized me from the registration table and we had a fascinating discussion about the potential of dynamic marine protected areas.
A significant portion of the talks at the conference are devoted to marine protected areas (MPAs). People are examining how big we should make them, what rules we should use to regulate them, how they change the way people fish, and so on. MPAs are often stationary no-fishing zones, which we know can help increase fish abundance and diversity, not to mention in some cases save habitat from destructive fishing practices. But we can always think of ways to make them better!
As the conference gains momentum, our team will be reporting on the debate about MPAs as well as many other hot-button marine conservation issues.
Danika Kleiber is a Ph.D student with Project Seahorse.