Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Saturday morning brought another round of thought-provoking paper presentations, though Saturday sessions tend to be more sparsely attended due to late nights spent socializing in the hospitality suite. Energized by caffeine and genuine interest, I was present and taking copious notes on all the speakers' topics.

In the late afternoon we were released to sit-in on round table discussions or have a little free time before the end-of-the-conference banquet celebration. I opted to go for a stroll in the nature reserve nestled only minutes from our hotel.

It didn't take long to notice the drastic difference. between Minnesota's winter vegetation and Washington's. Everything was brown and bare and the sun blazed. We saw an eagle's nest and a small river, as well as quite a few airplanes, due to our proximity to the St.Paul airport.

Eagles' nest in the tree; airplane in the sky

There was still time after our visit to the nature reserve for me to take a quick trip to the Mall of America for a couple of souvenirs. I went alone on the hotel's free shuttle, then darted in and out of the mall, dodging hordes of shoppers and amusement park visitors. Because the shuttle ride had only been about five minutes, I assumed I could walk back to the hotel, but pretty much immediately second-guessed my route choice. I asked an older couple waiting with me at a cross-walk if they knew where the Crowne Plaza Hotel was, and they employed the services of their grandsons' smartphones to get me directions. The stereotypes about Minnesotans seemed to all be true. The locals I met spoke with an accent that was almost Canadian and they were unfailingly kind. The couple offered to drive me to the hotel in their Escalade, but I declined.

I walked back to the hotel as the sun set, enjoying the view now that I was certain I was pointed in the right direction and wouldn't get lost after dark (and without my phone!) in an unfamiliar place.

Back at the hotel banquet room, I took my last chance to chat with some of the other conference attendees and had the fortune of sitting at the same table as Steve Martin (the bird trainer, not the comedian), though he was off mingling a lot, his attention being much in demand.

The board presented awards for the best poster and paper of the conference, as well as for behaviors trained by IAATE members throughout the year. And as a grand raffle prize, a painting from the performance artists at Splash!, who create giant, visually stunning works of art, created through choreography and whose aim is to connect audiences to endangered species.


The next morning I took the airport shuttle with a bird trainer from England and we passed the time waiting for our flights by discussing everything from red-legged seriemas to BBC.

 I can hardly wait for next year's conference in Tampa, Florida!

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