Friday May 23- all factors that must be taken care of to officially receive my doctorate are in place. As I read the email, I thought to myself “where are all the balloons, the marching band, Slash from Guns N’ Roses playing on his guitar in celebration of me receiving my doctorate. Nothing- nothing happened. Pretty anti-climatic for something you put 6 years of your life into. But I love my work, and I am ABSOLUTELY GRATEFUL that I was able to investigate parasites in alligators as not everyone gets to be able to pursue their passion. Thank Buddha that I am as stubborn as my grandfather!
So with the now move to Seattle, there was no time for celebration of becoming Dr. Tellez. The celebration had to wait until I set foot in Lake Charles, Louisiana for the IUCN/CSG 2014 International Working Meeting. And it was well worth it!
This was one of the biggest meetings- 363 people from at least 41 different countries. Amazing! So much networking, collaborations- it is amazing how so many different researchers with similar interests and different backgrounds can come together and put aside their ego and share data and thoughts. At the end of the day everyone has the same goal- to ensure the conservation and preservation of crocodilians internationally. At least with other meetings I have gone to, it is unusual to have so many people work together and be friendly. In all honesty, it is so hard to go to any other meeting after this one as nothing can even come close in comparison. And I feel so bad for my undergrad Helen. This was her first scientific meeting ever! And everyone told her, “No other meeting will compare in the fun or the collaborations.” I ruined her without even knowing!
Stephen Platt was the winner of the Castillo Award for his amazing work all over the world for croc conservation and research, particularly in Southeast Asia. It was well deserved, and I am sure he inspired everyone to go beyond the call of duty.
During the banquet the last night, an amazing event happened- a picture was taken of the women of the CSG. Sixteen countries were represented in this photo. I was speechless to be taking a picture with so many intelligent and hard-working women, fighting the stereotypes that are still out there about women and “un-feminine” animals. As I am sure women in research has come a long way since the 1970s, there is still qualms and obstacles for women researchers, especially those in herpetology. I myself had a man come up to me after a presentation during a parasitology meeting, and tell me, ” I was interested in who this Tellez was, and then I realized it was a woman… shouldn’t you be studying something less dangerous???? Also, you should give me all your data because you probably don’t know how to interpret it.” Wow- this was only 3 years ago. As speechless as I was, I realized at that moment how difficult it was to fight chauvinism in research, and as a woman, how hard it may be to implement my hypotheses and theories of crocodilian parasitism, simply because I was a woman.
All I know is this was a successful meeting, not only for me and my career, but for Mark Merchant and all his crew at McNeese State University. They did an amazing job and this definitely was an unforgettable meeting. I can’t wait for next year in Cambodia!