ECRS: A Rainbow of Experiences


by Austin Yeung 2017-12-17

Never have I thought that as a high schooler, would I be presenting at Oxford University to an audience of world renown researchers. It was never in my realm of possibilities before I decided to submit an abstract. But there I was, presenting my own research conducted in Palau. Original, unique data that only I had. I felt an immediate sense of gratification and appreciation for the opportunity after stepping into Oxford’s Examination hall. The lecture halls were grand, and I felt a sense of purpose just being present at the university. It is the oldest English-speaking university after all.

While being anxious before my talk, I felt an overwhelming wave of pride for offering the information I had with the scientific community. Coral reefs became a passion of mine after I received my scuba diving license, and I’ve loved the ocean ever since. The chance to make a contribution, regardless of its significance, was a once in a lifetime opportunity for any high school student. The talk was successful with an engaging audience asking questions, although I was advised not to jump to too many conclusions (haha).

My dad had also given a presentation about education, using my personal experiences in project-based learning and interdisciplinary studies as examples. It was an eye-opener to me; as much of the learning he described being ‘innovative’ to the world it was rather typical for me. I guess that’s what they call living in a bubble.

I sat in on multiple presentations and attended student workshops. Almost everything I heard was fascinating as undergraduates, graduates, postdocs, and professors alike shared their work. To be able to witness the revolutionary discoveries taking place was like taking a peek in a book about the future. There were new techniques in coral mapping, scanning, printing, and even modification! I had attended ICRS2016 last year, but having a foundation in this area of knowledge and being a year older made a big difference in extending my enthusiasm for corals.

In between sessions, I met up with Prof. Rupert Ormond and his wife Mavis, also a marine biologist and shark researcher, whom I had met in Scotland last year. We were able to catch up on our work and Prof. Ormond was glad to hear of my involvement with the ISRS Student Committee. A recently founded branch of the International Society for Reef Studies, the Student Committee is a recently founded branch of the ISRS, one in which I helped to kickstart a few months ago. Thinking back on it, I have realized how simple conversation and continuous communication can really open doors. I’ve always been taught “to build bridges”, and I see the importance of initiating and maintaining relationships now. I am very lucky to have met such acquaintances, and I hope to continue to build similar connections in the future.