A group of Western Illinois University graduate students in biology have spent the last several months planning the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC) after putting in a bid for WIU to host the annual regional event. The event will be held Friday, Feb. 28 -Sunday, March 1 in Macomb.
Each year the conference is hosted by a different Midwestern institution and organized entirely by graduate students. The event gives graduate and undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research. There are 156 attendees from 36 institutions registered to present during the weekend conference, coming from 11 states and Puerto Rico. One-hundred forty-five of these participants are students presenting their research.
The group of six WIU students decided last year to pursue Macomb as a host site. The students include Terri Tobias, a doctoral student in environmental studies, from Augusta, IL; Rebecca Bocian, a biology graduate student from Lake in the Hills, IL; Katharine Franchi, a biology graduate student from Woodstock, IL; Maria Romero-Jimenez, a biology graduate student from Costa Rica; Emmanuel Sanches-Tovar, a statistics graduate student from Costa Rica; and Xiomy Pinchi-Davila, a biology graduate student from Peru.
The students developed the idea of hosting the conference after talking with WIU Department of Biological Sciences Chair Ranessa Cooper.
Romero-Jimenez said the students are responsible for every aspect of planning the conference, from finding a keynote speaker to booking hotel rooms.
"We had to apply to be a host site, write a proposal, form a committee and gather support letters from the dean and department chair," she said.
Students have also been promoting their event on social media and are proud of the number who have registered for the event. Of the 145 students coming to Macomb, 131 are first-time presenters at the MEEC.
In addition to the research presentations, there will be a variety of workshops for students to attend. The event's keynote speakers include Scott Mills, associate vice president of research for global change and sustainability at the University of Montana, and Gary Felton, department head and professor of entomology at Penn State.
For more information about the MEEC conference, visit wiu.edu/cas/biological_sciences/meec20/index.php.