Baltimore 2021 – Why You Should Attend the AFS Annual Meeting

Bradley Stevens & Bob Murphy | General Meeting Co-Chairs

You would not be alone if you were wondering why you should attend the AFS Annual Meeting in Baltimore in 2021. Like most of us, you may be concerned about your health; after all, isn’t there still a pandemic going on? And really, airports? Hmmm….

As a budding young graduate student or early career professional, perhaps you are wondering: Will it help me professionally, either in my current career or future job prospects? And really, all those people in masks? Hmmm….

And as a seasoned professional, maybe you are thinking that you just saw all your peers and colleagues at the last meeting. And besides, 2020 was basically a bust for fieldwork, so I don’t have anything new to tell them this year. And really, Baltimore? Hmmm….

Well, dear reader, allow us to improve your thinking on this subject. While the pandemic may not be done with us yet, hopefully most of us will have been vaccinated by November, and also hopefully, infection rates will have declined enough to consider attending in‐person meetings. If so, then the rest of your fears are wildly misplaced.

Graduate students, attending professional meetings is the best thing you can do to kickstart your career. Professional meetings are incredible opportunities to give presentations in front of an audience of both your peers and seasoned scientists. You need this experience to practice and gain confidence in your public speaking. It might surprise you to know that those authors whose papers you have been reading ad nauseum are just normal people and are just as eager to talk to young upstarts as you are to pick their brains. Where else can you meet up with those scientists whose work you both idolize and envy and share a beer and some scientific chit‐chat? It’s also the best place to look for potential openings in graduate school or for finding post‐graduation jobs. Meeting new people in the profession can help you create and foster your own professional network.

If you are an early‐ or mid‐career professional, what better way is there to share your recent findings and start to make a name for yourself? Meeting others doing work in your field can stimulate your own work and create new collaborative opportunities. Getting to know potential reviewers and editors of journals in which you plan to publish can also greatly help your career.

As seasoned professionals (aka “mossbacks”), we attend primarily to support and cheer on our students and junior colleagues, who may be presenting their work to a national audience for the first time. Even though we may not be presenting (grad students get that role these days), their success is our success and we get to bask in their praise for a while longer. And we always like to reconnect with peers and colleagues who we haven’t seen for a while, even if only to discuss our careers, kids, and future retirement plans.

And Baltimore? If you haven’t been there recently, you will be pleasantly surprised. The downtown waterfront is remarkably walkable, with lots of interesting shops, restaurants, bars, and other entertainments. Fort McHenry is just around the bay. The Guinness Brewery is not far away. The National Aquarium is astounding (fish nerds regularly have to be escorted out due to lingering), and the networking event at that location will be one for the record books. And the food! Where else can you get raw oysters, softshell crabs, and crab cakes virtually fresh off the boat! So, that’s why Baltimore!

So really, what are you waiting for? It’s going to be one of the best meetings you ever attended. Register now!