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NTU PhD students win big at the Mammal Society Spring Conference 2021

School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Science PhD students Bethany Smith and Katie Lee recently won awards for best student presentation and best student poster at the annual Mammal Society Spring Conference 2021.

Katie and Beth news story

The Mammal Society’s 66th Spring Conference is an opportunity for mammal experts and enthusiasts to meet in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, discover results from new research, explore gaps for future research and discuss ongoing issues in conservation. Due to the Covid-19 situation, this year the Spring Conference was held online from Friday 16 to Saturday 17 April.

Both Bethany and Katie are active members in the Mammal Society and have previously attended the annual conference. Bethany has been volunteering as the Student Representative for the Mammal Society, helping to organise the overall conference alongside paid members of staff.

Bethany won Best Student Poster which displayed key findings from the first published paper of her PhD, which was a literature review investigating how livestock guarding dogs can affect wildlife. The paper was co-authored by NTU researchers Richard Yarnell, Antonio Uzal and Katherine Whitehouse-Tedd, and it can be read in full here.

Katie won Best Student Talk for her thesis comparing the diet of intra-guild competitors, badgers and hedgehogs, where she found lots of dietary niche overlap in terms of the food they consume.

We spoke to Bethany and Katie to find out more about their involvement in the conference, and their recent awards.

“Any student poster or talk was automatically entered into the competition. Student talks and posters were judged by a panel of three researchers,” Bethany told us.

“The judging process was independent and the decision was made without my involvement or knowledge. It was decided that I was allowed to win the Best Student Poster despite being involved in organising the conference, due to my position being voluntary and my student status. The announcement that I’d won was very much a shock to me,” Bethany went on to say.

Katie and Beth news story

“I submitted an abstract for a talk last year and unfortunately due to Covid-19 the conference was postponed until this year. I was really pleased to be given the opportunity to share my work at this year’s conference, and enjoyed it thoroughly,” Katie explained.

The conference was virtual this year, with talks being given on Zoom and posters being hosted on Gather.Town, a platform that allows attendees to experience the conference in avatar form.

“When your avatar gets near to another, you will pop up on each other’s screens, so it’s possibly the closest simulation of being at an in-person conference! During the conference breaks, I would take my little avatar to stand by my poster so if anybody wanted to ask me questions about it they could.”

“This poster presented the first bit of research from my PhD that was published in December 2020, so there’s still a lot to come! I am continuing the research this summer when I’ll be monitoring livestock guarding dogs and co-occurring wildlife in the Carpathian Mountains, Romania. I’m also hoping that the work in general will stimulate discussions around the use of livestock guarding dogs and any potential unintended effects of their use”, Bethany went on to say.

As part of the award, Bethany received a £50 NHBS voucher and Katie received a place on an online course of her choice in conservation and monitoring and analysis techniques courtesy of VerdantLearn.

“It’s great to be able to present my research at conferences. With every talk and every poster, I get a little more confident with speaking publicly and expressing my research in a way that makes sense to people who are new to the topic. I’d like to stay in research and I think it’s really important to be able to clearly communicate scientific findings to different audiences, so getting more experience of this is definitely of benefit to my future career,” Bethany concluded.

NTU PhD students win big at the Mammal Society Spring Conference 2021

Published on 22 April 2021
  • Category: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
  • Location: Brackenhurst Campus

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