NVG meeting: all 4 “whys” and more

16 12 2013

The NVG meeting itself, organised by Martine Maan, was great (though admittedly I missed chunks working on my talk and ANSC *4090’s final exam). The Netherlands produces some of the world’s best behavioural biology, and — perhaps unsurprisingly in Tinbergen’s home country — the talks spanned the full range of evolutionary, functional, mechanistic and developmental approaches, with some good applied work thrown in too (like an OEEEC, only better). My favourites were Ulrika Candolin‘s lecture on how pollution affects sticklebacks’ courtship and mating; Camilla Hinde‘s fascinating account of male and female great tits negotiating parental care; Elferra Swart‘s slightly creepy findings on mating role choice in hermaphrodite snails (where playing the female is bad because receiving sperm is harmful); and Nele Zickert‘s excellent experimental work on why cognitive processes are lateralised within the brain. It was also lovely catching up with old friends like Claudia Vinke and Ton Groothuis too.

As for my talk, my strong feeling while giving it was that it could have been better: despite my mind map, I wasn’t convinced I had truly found what Carole (and, it turns out, the Dutch!) calls the “red line” (the logical thread) through my material. However, this must have been tiredness giving me negative cognitive bias, because afterwards people said really nice things about it… and these weren’t any old people: they were DUTCH people, and when Dutch people think something is boring or disorganised, they say things like “Hey, I thought your talk was boring and disorganised”.

minkyNele even drew me this cute picture of a happy, enriched mink. I guess the key experiments – Becky’s work on boredom and Maria’s on mate choice – are just intrinsically very cool…