HDR student at Geographers Conference in Perth

HDR student Jen Li blogs about her time at the 2013 Institute of Australian Geographers Conference in Perth.

By Jen Li (opens in a new window)
15 July, 2013

Jen Li laying on the desert inspecting a big rock

It was a relief to arrive at Perth airport. After a week of rain in Sydney, finally, there was sun. I flew to Perth with Ellie, a friend and colleague from the University of Southampton, to attend the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) conference on the 1st of July. This year the conference was jointly hosted by the University of Western Australia and Curtin University, and my attendance was funded by IAG, ICS and UWS.

The conference was held at the UWA campus, which is beautiful and open and boasts a magnificent geography building. On Sunday, the day before the conference officially began, I attended the postgrad day. Around 15 other postgrads from various universities across the country turned up. In a bid to get us all to network and bond, and impart some adventure into the program, we were taken on a day tour. First through the historic town of Guildford, then to Lancaster wineries for wine tasting (completely wasted on me as all wines tasted the same) and then to a brewery for beer tasting (again, all the beer tasted the same). It was an enjoyable day and a great opportunity for me to keep abreast other research topics in the geography discipline.

This was my third IAG conference, and once again, it was wonderful to see the reference lists throughout my university career come to life. The first day featured two excellent plenaries from Professor Iain Hay from Flinders University, talking about the world’s super-rich (the uber-wealthy, made up of just 11 million people in the world), and from Dr Rob Brander from the University of New South Wales talking about rip currents.

Given that my presentation was the last of the conference, at 5pm on the last day, I expected only two people in the audience - the chair and Ellie. Happily, there were about eighteen people in the audience, and the discussion after the presentation was really interesting and useful.

The most fun part of the trip was the conference field trip afterwards (geography field trips are always excellent!). Organised by Amanda Davies at Curtin University, we travelled north out of Perth. On the trip, we went on a tour of New Norcia (Australia’s only monastic community), prayed with Benedictine monks, went to the Gravity Discovery Centre at Gingin, toured a lobster farm, and visited an orange orchard. We also stopped by Jurien Bay, a ‘SuperTown’ (part of the Regional Centres Development Plan in the wheatbelt of WA to prepare towns with high growth potential for the future in terms of economic development and business opportunities). 

Perhaps the most inspiring part of the trip was at the airport, where Professor Hay, Dr Sherval (both field trip participants) and I waited for several hours to board our flights to our respective homes. I hadn’t spoken to either of them too much during the trip, so this was the perfect opportunity to have a proper conversation. They asked me about my PhD - what exactly I was doing and how far through it I was. We chatted about my research, data analysis, careers in academia, which altogether made for a fruitful and inspiring conversation. I arrived at Sydney Airport on Sunday night, excited about my PhD and the years of research to come.

 HDR student jen li dressed in jeans jumping in the air
Above: at The Pinnacles in WA, Perth

 HDR student Jen Li in an astranaut costume in the desert
Above: at the Gravity Discovery Centre in Gingin, WA