September 2023 OES Beacon

Participating in OCEANS 2023 Limerick

Intertidal show and tell during one of my field trips

Amelia Ritger, OCEANS 2023 Limerick SPC First Prize winner

My name is Amelia Ritger, and I’m an ecologist. If you met me at OCEANS 2023 Limerick, this is likely how I introduced myself to you. Although it was not my first conference, OCEANS 2023 Limerick was my first engineering conference, and I arrived in Limerick feeling like an imposter. What was an ecologist doing at a meeting for engineers? Yet, by the end of the week, many of those feelings dissipated. I met you and your colleagues, learned about your research, taught you about my own, and shared stories with you during the plentiful mixers, receptions, and gala dinner. I now firmly believe that more ecologists and other scientists must attend engineering conferences, and vice versa, because OCEANS 2023 Limerick was the tip of the iceberg for cross-disciplinary collaborations.

You are doing extraordinary and brilliant work, finding creative solutions to the issues afflicting our oceans. You have developed technologies I did not know were possible, and much of your work can be applied to ecological questions. As a marine ecologist and climate scientist, I study how marine species are responding to climate change events like ocean acidification and marine heatwaves. I rely upon technologies such as oceanographic sensors, developed by engineers, to accomplish my research. I am certain many of my colleagues would benefit from a conversation with you to discuss how to infuse engineering more into our research. How much more progress could we make towards our collective goals if more engineers, biologists, chemists, physicists, and others sat down and talked with each other? We share similar concerns about the health and future of our oceans. It will take all of us to tackle these huge, global issues.

OCEANS 2023 Limerick was not just a crash course for me on the benefits of cross-pollination across research disciplines. It was an opportunity to connect with an international group of like-minded researchers and explore Ireland with new friends. As a participant in the Student Poster Competition (SPC), I was fortunate to be initiated into a cohort of students with a shared experience. It was not difficult to bond while enduring the heat in the exhibition tent where our posters were set up! The SPC students were a friendly, supportive community I could always turn to if I was feeling particularly introverted or overwhelmed with the abundance of networking opportunities throughout the conference.

When I stepped outside of my comfort zone and sat down with strangers during breakfast or lunch, we often ended the meal as acquaintances. It was comforting to be able to walk around the University of Limerick campus and recognize faces and share a smile or a wave. I knew my conference networking had peaked when I traveled to the Cliffs of Moher with two new conference friends and, by coincidence, ran into other conference friends! Although these gestures may appear small, your recognition and kindness went a long way toward alleviating my imposter syndrome at a conference overflowing with talented researchers.

Thank you for welcoming me to the OCEANS community with open arms. It was easy to be excited to share my research with you during the SPC because you expressed genuine interest in my work. I look forward to more conversations that foster new collaborations. Together, we can discover unique solutions that benefit our society and our oceans. If we didn’t get the chance to meet in Limerick, I look forward to meeting you at OCEANS 2024 Singapore!