On Monday morning I made my way to the airport, to catch a flight down to Raleigh, North Carolina to attend the Water Microbiology Conference at the University of Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill is one vertex in Research Triangle, and together with North Carolina State in Raleigh and Duke University in Durham, it makes up one of the largest research and development centres in the United States.
Much to my dismay, when I arrived I found it would be raining my entire stay, and that it would be warmer back home. Nonetheless the scenery of Chapel Hill was incredible, despite the constant drizzle, with lush green trees, punctuated by beautiful stone buildings and charming plazas. Even my hotel was surrounded almost completely by the areas beautiful temperate forest.
Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to meander about campus enjoying the scenery as the agenda was packed. The water microbiology conference was founded two years ago at The Water Institute at UNC and brings together a host of academics, USEPA and government scientists, as well as scientists and microbiologists from regional state water quality monitoring agencies to share data, and collaborate. It also apparently attracts two parasitologists from Canada, who felt more than a little out of a place in a room with so many bacteriologists and virologists.
Nonetheless, to those who work in water, the tools of the trade don’t really change, regardless of your organism of interest. I attended this conference for a number of reasons; predominantly to present the findings of our wastewater-monitoring project, but we are also starting a recreational water-monitoring project this summer, and so I was interested to see what those in the field have been doing. The conference certainly delivered, as more than half of the sections I attended involved beach or recreational water monitoring.
I would recommend this conference to any student whose project involves waterborne transmission of infectious disease. While the conference was not particularly student focused, it was great to chat and learn from public health and water quality experts in applied and academic contexts. I found it very useful as a student to be able to see the field beyond my very narrow scope as a researcher in an academic context, and consider how my findings might fit into the much larger context of the field.
I would like to thank HPI for providing funding for me to attend this conference!