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The University of Montana

A Meeting Planner Dishes on Meeting in the Middle of Nowhere

For the International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation Society, south central Montana is the ideal location.

London-based Dr. Christine Gaylarde is a former professor in microbiology and biophysics and past president of the International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation Society. As the current secretary of IBBS, she organizes conferences and events for the society, including the society's 18th triennial symposium which takes place in Bozeman, Montana from 7-10 of September 2020.  She talked us through the choice of location for her group of about 250 delegates.

MeetingsNet: Is Montana a middle point for your attendees around the world? 
Dr. Gaylarde: Montana is definitely not in the middle of anything! Our delegates come from every continent except Antarctica. At our last triennial symposium in Manchester, U.K., speakers came from Hong Kong, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Greece, Poland, South Africa, the United States, Brazil, and several other countries.

MN: What are the criteria involved in choosing a location?
Dr. Gaylarde: First, the presence of an IBBS member to help oversee arrangements on site. Second is price. We are a charity registered in the U.K. so costs are obviously important; we don't want to charge our delegates too much, but we do need to make a profit to help fulfill our charitable responsibilities. Ease of access is also important, but with such a far-flung audience we cannot hope to make it easy for everyone. Many attendees at these events suffer long and inconvenient travel to meet with like-minded scientists and present their research. Scientists are usually willing to suffer a bit for their science!

MN: Is there something in Montana that is of particular interest to researchers in the biodeterioration and biodegradation field?
Dr. Gaylarde: Yes, it is the presence of the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University. This is a prestigious body that has been doing research into biofilms (natural collections of living organisms on surfaces) since 1990. Biofilms are pretty essential for most of the activities that IBBS studies.

MN: Are you taking over the Hilton Garden Inn in Bozeman to host all of your attendees?
Dr. Gaylarde: We will house our invited speakers there, while others will receive information on all available options.

MN: Does the society have rules on meeting locations?
Dr. Gaylarde: We don't have any rules, although we would never have successive symposia in the same city. The decision is made by Council, the governing body of the Society. Members are free to make suggestions about venues and if we get a good offer from a new country, we would certainly consider it a strong contender. Variety is king!

MN: Have any immigration policies in the U.S. had an impact on your members traveling here?
Dr. Gaylarde:  Not really, although a Mexican member has said he hopes to get a visa and our single Iranian member says she is used to not being able to attend conferences [due to diplomatic hurdles] and so will probably not be at this one. Most U.K. delegates will apply for an ESTA to visit the U.S. I guess I should let our website designer know that the potential need for visas should be pointed out to attendees.

MN: Do you have a code of conduct for your event participants?
Dr. Gaylarde: No. We trust them!

MN: Do you livestream any sessions or charge to distribute content from the symposium afterward?
Dr. Gaylarde: We don’t livestream yet, but it could well be included in future events. We produce a report and photo gallery from the event that’s distributed to attendees at no charge, and select presentations are published in the Society's journal, International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation, after peer review.

MN: Montana is beautiful. Will your delegates be able to take time to explore?
Dr. Gaylarde: It’s very beautiful indeed and we think it will attract many delegates. In the past, we have had short outings, perhaps on a half-day in the middle of the symposium, which have been reasonably popular. This time there is a trip to Yellowstone, and as far as I can recall, it’s the first excursion planned for after the event has finished. There is a maximum of 50 spaces and I expect them to be filled.

MN: On the last day of September this year, Montana got more than two feet of snow. Have you had any discussions with the facility about preparation in case of a similar weather incident next year?
Dr. Gaylarde: We are hoping that the symposium is early enough in September to avoid snow, but this discussion might be in the cards!


Dr. Christine Gaylarde


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