Article By: Alisa Luthra
Photo Caption: The poster presented at the 87th SAA Conference, authored by Alisa Luthra and Lazaro Vinola.
Between March 31st and April 2nd, I attended the 87th Conference for the Society of American Archaeology, in Chicago, Illinois. I was presenting during the Conservation and Work with Museum Collections poster session on work that I had completed as an undergraduate researcher of the 2021 iDigBio-Summer Internship Program.
This was the first professional conference I had ever attended, and it was a very valuable experience, as attending the conference provided me the opportunity to meet new people, network with others in my field, and gain first-hand knowledge of how to navigate a conference setting.
I arrived late in the evening to the conference on March 31st, and so I was only able to meet and chat with colleagues I knew from the Florida Museum of Natural History that first night. However, I took full advantage of all the talks, activities, and events that the conference had to offer on the second day. In the morning, I attended a symposium session relating to my field of interest, zooarchaeology. There, I was able to be exposed to new and exciting research that was happening in the field, as well as gain experience in how symposium sessions typically run.
The symposium took up most of my morning, and in the afternoon, I presented my poster during my designated session, where I ended up talking for almost the full two hours. Presenting a poster during this session gave me the chance to talk with a variety of different professionals, as well as make connections to individuals who have worked in my region of interest, or who have contacts to people with similar research interests. The session also allowed me to gain insight and inspiration into other new research endeavors relating to museum collections and conservation. Overall, presenting a poster was both an exciting and rewarding experience, and gives me confidence as an aspiring scientist to present at other conferences in the future. A picture of myself with my poster are included on the next page.
In the evening, I attended a Geoarchaeology Interest Group meeting, as I had been invited to join by an attendee I met during the poster session. Attending the interest group meeting was also a wonderful experience, as I was able to get to know my peers and colleagues in an informal setting. Like several of the other events, attending an interest group meeting was new to me, and so I was able to better grasp how these meetings typically run, and gauge what are important topics central to the operation of these groups. Attending the meeting also exposed me to areas of study that I may not have encountered otherwise, which was helpful to me as well.
As I had to fly back to Florida on the third day, I was limited on the amount of time I had remaining at the conference. Thankfully, I was able to spend the morning at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, which had been a goal of mine. As I am interested in pursuing a career working with collections in natural history museums, it seemed remiss not to pay the Field Museum a visit. As can be imagined, visiting the Field Museum was an eye-opening experience; their collections taught me equally about the natural world as they did about public outreach, community engagement, and exhibit staging. These topics are passions of mine, and so it was very valuable to me to see how other natural history museums – that I may not otherwise have the chance to visit – display their collections for the publics that they serve.
Overall, I would consider attending the conference to have been a very successful experience. I am proud of what I was able to complete with my time there, excited to have been able to present my undergraduate research at such an esteemed conference, and grateful to the FLMNH for providing me with the opportunity to accomplish these goals.