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Annual ABS meeting hosted by W&M

  • This little birdie...
    This little birdie...  Professor of Biology Dan Cristol studies the behavior of birds. Here he checks on a Carolina Chickadee nesting on campus.  Photo by Irene Rojas
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From July 26 - 29,  more than 600 professional ecologists and evolutionary biologists will be on campus to attend the 47th annual meeting of the Animal Behavior Society (ABS).  This is the first time the Society has come to the College of William & Mary.


John Swaddle and Dan Cristol, professors of biology, were approached about two years ago by the then-president of the ABS about the College hosting the event. After months of preparation, they are excited for the meeting to begin.

"This is the big international conference for the primary professional organization of people who study the behavior of animals," said Swaddle.  "This is a huge event for W&M to host. Having all of the world's experts here in one place for our students and faculty to interact with gives our biology program a big boost."

Throughout the four-day event, students and professors alike will present their research.  Not only will these ecologists and evolutionary biologists get to see what research others are conducting, but this conference is also a huge opportunity for social networking.

"The events and presentations are concurrent," Cristol said. "There are multiple talks going on at the same time.  You get to choose which one you would like to attend."

The presentations will explore hundreds of issues in animal behavior. 

"The single holy grail of animal behavior is to try to trace a complex behavior, such as choosing a mate, all the way back to the brain and then even beyond that to the molecules in the brain that are making it happen.  We are trying to see if we can really understand behavior at that level," said Cristol.

Swaddle and Cristol agree that having ABS hold the annual event at William & Mary is great exposure for the university.

"We are gaining international exposure and it also helps us to recruit new faculty and graduate students to W&M," Swaddle added.  "This conference normally gets a fair amount of media coverage, too. Both the BBC and Discovery Channel will be in attendance, so having the ABS conference at W&M will also help raise our profile in non-academic circles. All-round, it's a great thing for us to be involved with."

The event has attracted more members than expected. 

"We were planning on hosting around 450 people, but we are up to almost 650. We are really happy that so many wonderful colleagues will be here," said Swaddle.