Thanks to the GoAbroad Fund, I spent a week in late August attending the European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) conference in Ghent, Belgium. This is one of the largest animal science conferences in the world and there were around 1,400 delegates. While it was quite intimidating to attend such a large and prestigious event, it was also exciting to have the opportunity to present my work on such a large scale and to have the opportunity to interact with scientists from all over the world.
I gave a presentation on some of my PhD work on modelling the effects of climate change on European pastures. I have looked at the effects of increasing CO2 concentrations, rising temperatures and changes in water availability on grass growth in different European regions for various grazing systems. In most areas, grass yields increase, thanks to the higher CO2 concentrations and increased temperatures. This is particularly true in northern Europe. In Southern Europe, yields change very little. This is an area which already experiences high temperatures, and raising them further is potentially detrimental to plant life. It is also an area which is expected to become a lot drier in future. However, plants here still benefit from the increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
Here you can see me giving my presentation. It went well and I got a lot of questions about it afterwards:
The conference also featured a busy social programme. I attended a Belgian evening, which was a chance to enjoy the local cuisine, and the conference dinner. These gave me additional opportunities to network with the other conference guests and to make connections which can potentially help me in the future.
I learned a great deal about the many different aspects of animal science. An event like this really makes you realise just how big the field is. I especially enjoyed the talks and discussions about the future sustainability of the sector. Beef and dairy farming in particular have huge environmental impacts and are currently experiencing a lot of negative press. It was fascinating to see how scientists in these fields responded to this. Some argue that we need to decrease our reliance on these sectors and move towards more sustainable protein sources, while others are of the opinion that cattle farming practices can be altered so that they have less of a negative environmental impact. Some of the discussions became quite heated and I found myself questioning some of my own habits and opinions, regarding both my personal dietary choices and the areas I would like to work in in my future career.
Overall I found the conference both enjoyable and enlightening and I’m looking forward to more experiences like this in future.