Venom Day is somewhat of a unique conference held towards the end of each year at Bangor University. As far as I’m aware it is the only student organised conference in the UK that is dedicated to research surrounding venom (and other toxins such as poison). This year the conference was held on the 8th December and I can guarantee that around that time, a large number of herpetologists must have clogged up the roads and public transport in order to get to north-west Wales for the single day conference. Bangor isn’t the easiest place to get to from south-east England but are the scenes along the way worth it! Around 130 delegates were in attendance this year and unfortunately I missed the pub quiz held on the Friday night before Venom Day. This was the first year in the four years that I’ve been attending the event that there wasn’t an Oxford-style debate used to warm up the crowd prior to the main event. I can’t comment on the quiz myself but from what I heard from other attendees it was quite fun.
For those that have never been to Venom Day, the event is held in the Brambell Building, a giant concrete cube that has all the hallmarks of being constructed in the 1960s. Venom Day occupies on the large lecture theatres which has a capacity of somewhere close to 200 people. As always, I quickly found an appropriate seat so that I could tweet what was going on as well as be in a good position to hear the speaker so that I could take notes during each of the talks. This year there were a wide range of interesting talks covering every topic under the sun from the evolution of centipede venom to anti-microbial peptides from midwife toad skin may one day be used to help treat diabetes (a topic that really interested me!). Venom Day never ceases to amaze me; all of the talks were truly informative and well delivered. As a humble amphibian biologist whom has recently moved to working on reptiles, I’m happy to admit that some aspects went over my head a little. The beauty of science is that you can go away and read up on the topics, therefore making sense of what one seemed like gibberish.
One of the things I loved about Venom Day this year is that all delegates got a free Venom Day branded mug – which is now living in my office. Why you may be asking? The organisers wanted to reduce the amount of plastic used by everyone and so mugs were of course the best fit, as most of us can only operate after a copious amount of tea/coffee. Every year after the conference there is always a meal at a local Chinese restaurant that is always very well attended. This is a great time to chat to other attendees or the speakers and discuss the talks or ask questions. Catching up with familiar faces or networking with new people is always one of the best things to get out of a conference. I thoroughly enjoyed Venom Day and I would like to thank all of the speakers, attendees and organisers for making it such a worthwhile pilgrimage.