Conference in Montpellier
So our trip continued from Paris to Montpellier. Our mode of transportation: carpooling or as the europeans call it "BlaBlaCar". The car was a small Fiat and we were pretty much squished into our seats and held there by gravity and by our own sweat making us stick to our seats. Yeah it was pretty hot. Not to mention that the air in the car seemed to not circulate. After a 20 hour car ride (which was meant to be a 7 hour car ride) we finally made it to Montpellier, and to the door room where I was gonna stay for the conference. Rewind: I was accepted to present a poster at an international conference for the Society for Conservation Biology. Thus, here I was ready to present. One small issue though: I dragged my brother with me so we had to manage and sleep in this small twin size bed. Dark times. But we did it!
The conference went well. I learned a lot about the issues that are plaguing conservation biology, met a lot of interesting people, and went to a lot of discussion. Out of the whole conference two things really caught my attention: 1. There is a new wave of issues plaguing conservation of marine areas and we are trying to learn more on what works and what doesn't from their counterparts on land and 2. hunting and conservation. So let's start with the first issue: marine protected areas. MPAs are though to work with because it is difficult to strictly delineate where the protected area ends. Also, it is costly and time consuming to constantly enforce rules in these areas. So during my time at the conference I attended several talks about both involving communities and increasing stewardship of these areas. Another important area was to develop models to aid in the establishment of managed areas, as well as the establishment of open access areas where locals can come and sustainably fish. While it would be great to say "hey lets protect everything" it is completely unrealistic. Most of the human populations now inhabits coastal areas and depend on the ocean for their livelihood. Thus, we need to find ways in which to sustainably work with nature to ensure it's well being and ours (notice how I put nature here first!). Now on to the second issue that caught my attention: hunting and conservation. There has been a growing debate (even more now with the news of Cecil) about the ethics and effectiveness of hunting as means of conservation. In my opinion, I do not agree with trophy hunting. Nevertheless, there are countless studies looking at the economics of such hunting plotted against eco-tourism. There is a high revenue, for both the community and the conservation parks involved with such activities. But in my mind is it really necessary? And even though the revenue is not as high, could eco-tourism still serve as a more ethical alternative? Again, these are just my personal thoughts and there are many more aspects of this issue to consider.
Now moving on to the more fun part: being a tourist! Before arriving I had no clue that Montpellier was going to be such a vibrant town! It has both a young and hip atmosphere combined with the architecture of a historic site. Thanks to my friend Christine Lacayo (who planed the sites to visit) I was able to explore Montpellier in a day. While there was much left unseen, I still explored this magical town. Like any good european town, there are many churches and religious points to visit such as Saint-Roch Church, Holy Anne (which had at the time a display of modern paintings which blew my mind!), and also had many historic points such as the Peyrou Walk, the aqueducts, and many little areas where people could sit and enjoy a nice lunch or coffee and do some people watching. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to see the beauty of Montpellier and experience it with my friends. We really enjoyed it.