Collaborate, learn, and network with your colleagues both in person and online. Attend our annual meeting, the largest conference in North America for conservation professionals.

First-Time Attendee Tips

With more than 700 attendees and over 200 talks this can be an exciting and overwhelming event, so to help our first time attendees have the best possible experience, we are providing some tips and advice for navigating the conference.

If you are not very familiar with us, one of our core values is equity and inclusion. We respect and honor all individuals. It is our firm intention that all attendees to our annual conference should feel welcome, included, valued, and respected, regardless of race, color, religion, gender, gender expression, age, national origin, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, profession, or professional experience. We ask that all attendees abide by our code of conduct to ensure that this conference is enjoyed by all, including you -- a first time attendee!

Before the Conference

When and Where

  • When should I arrive?
    The main conference runs from May 17th - May 20th, but there are pre- and post-session events that you may want to attend. If you are only attending the main conference we recommend arriving before 1 pm on the 17th and departing on the 21st in order to ensure you can attend all sessions. Note that the first all-attendee event is the Keynote session at 4:30 pm on the 17th.
  • Where should I stay?
    The conference hotel is the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. The room rate is $147 per night and can be booked here. If you are driving, the hotel offers garage parking for $29 per night.
  • How do I get to the hotel from Jacksonville International Airport? 
    In addition to taxis (average fare ~ $40 & 20 min ride, depending on time and traffic) ride share services such as Lyft and Uber are also available.

    There is also a very good public transportation option! Bus No. 1 travels between the airport and downtown and takes about 1 hr. You can catch the bus at the airport’s lower level, next to baggage claim. Ride the bus 39 stops and get off at the Newnan St. & Forsyth St. stop. The conference hotel is only a 3-minute walk from the bus stop going south on Newman St. The bus runs daily from 05:30 to 23:30 and only costs $1.75 one way. You may pay your fare using exact change on the bus or you may purchase a ticket from a vending machine at the bus stop.

    For more information, see the airport's page about ground transportation options

What is Included

  • What does my registration include?
  • Your registration includes access to the Keynote and Awards Presentation, all General, Concurrent General, and Specialty Group and Networks sessions as well as access to the Exhibit Hall, Poster Sessions, coffee breaks and the Opening Reception.
  • You can add additional workshops, lunchtime programs, tours, and specialty group receptions to your registration for an additional cost. Because space is often limited, we suggest you purchase these early and before arriving on site. You can continually purchase tickets online or in-person at the registration desk through the conference as space permits.

How Can I Attend

  • Are there funding opportunities to offset travel and registration costs?
    We offer a variety of different funding opportunities. See our Funding page which lists our grants and scholarships that support professional development and watch the pre-recorded Scholarships & Grants Info Session that describes the application process and gives some tips for creating a strong application. Many have a December 15th application deadline so early planning is essential!

    Some relevant scholarships include:

  • What should I do to indicate that I need specific accommodations to facilitate my experience?

    If there is something that will facilitate your experience such as access to a wheelchair lift equipped bus for transportation, a seat at the front of the lecture hall, a seat near an electrical outlet for a talk-to-text translator or gluten-free foods at the meals, please indicate that in your registration as soon as possible.

    We are committed to making the conference as accessible as possible. We work with the conference hotel to ensure that there are gender neutral bathrooms, a lactation room, and a quiet room available. Please see the map in the program booklet or ask one of our staff members at the registration desk if you need help locating these spaces. 

Planning and Packing

  • Can I bring my partner or a friend to the social events? 
    Yes! You can add a guest registration for $59 that includes an additional ticket to the opening reception. Guests are also able to attend all workshops, tours, and Specialty Group receptions as long as they have a ticket for the event. 
  • How should I plan my time?
    With up to ten concurrent talks happening at once there are many choices to make. The meeting program is available online, and you will receive a printed abstract book as part of your registration packet.

    • Read the abstracts for each session and think about what sounds relevant, interesting, or just fun. Remember that this meeting is an opportunity for cross-pollination between different disciplines and specialties, so don’t just read the abstracts of your own particular group.
    • As you make your decisions remember that the programming will also be available as a virtual recording that you can watch after the meeting ends. This virtual component is freely accessible with your registration!
    • You do not have to attend every session! Sometimes continuing a conversation with a new friend is more important than getting to the next session. And if you’re overwhelmed or tired, please take a break.  
  • What should I wear/pack?
    • The general dress code is business casual.
    • Dressing in layers is often wise as temperatures in individual lecture rooms can vary widely. You may appreciate the ability to put on or take off a sweater or jacket.
    • Although not necessary, those who enjoy dressing up may find the opening reception a chance to do so.
    • Tours will take place rain or shine, so if you sign up for one, consider bringing comfortable shoes, a coat, and an umbrella.
    • Additional things to consider bringing: business cards to hand out to new acquaintances (networking is important!), some way to take notes, be it a notebook, tablet or computer, your own water bottle to help reduce waste, and even though we will provide snacks at coffee breaks, you might want to bring some of your favorites, too.

During the Conference

Registration Desk

The registration desk is your point of contact for help during the conference. If you need anything, do not hesitate to staff member at the desk for help.

It’s where you will:

  • Pick up your registration packet 
    This will include your name badge. Wearing it is necessary for admittance to the sessions. We will also print tickets for all the workshops and special events you have purchased on the back of your badge. Please make sure we have included everything you registered for before leaving the registration desk area.
  • Add Ribbons
    We provide ribbons that you can attach to your name tag to indicate pronouns or your involvement with a group. Please add what you wish.

Types of programming

The conference features a variety of programming including:

  • Keynote
    We "kick off" many conferences with an introductory talk by an invited speaker. 
  • Awards
    Every year we presents a set of awards that recognize our members and allied professionals for outstanding and distinguished contributions to the field of conservation. This is a chance to join in the celebration of these individuals.  
  • Opening General Session
    This is a set of eight 15-minute talks centered around the conference theme. It is a single track session.
  • Concurrent General Sessions
    These are a limited set of themed tracks that fit within the overarching meeting theme. They were proposed by individuals and the sessions are moderated by the proposers. 
  • Specialty Groups and Network Sessions.
    Each Specialty Group and Network has the opportunity to run their own tracks centered on their particular subject of interest.  These are often 25-minute talks but individual tracks may include shorter talks, panels, or tip sessions. Tips Sessions are made up of short talks, often ~ 5 minutes, and provide a way for an individual to share a method, material or technique that they’ve discovered useful in their own practice.  There is usually a separate call for tips presenters.
  • Poster Session 
    In addition to talks there are usually around 70 posters every year. The posters will be up for the majority of the conference for you to look at but there is always a set time when poster authors are asked to be available for questions from attendees.
  • Tours
    Every city has its own unique culture, cultural heritage sites, and attractions. To enhance your visit to the host city a variety of educational and entertaining tours are offered. There is an additional fee associated with these.

  • Workshops
    Workshops are usually held in the one to two days before and after the regular meeting program. The subject matter varies every year and may include hands-on components. There is an additional fee associated with these.
  • Lunch Sessions 
    Programs vary widely every year. There is usually one on the Socratic Dialogue, the purpose of which is not to find a solution to the subject, but instead to provide a safe, open environment for participants to investigate what the essence is behind their own points of view as well as those of others.
  • Mistakes Session
    Formally titled “A Failure Shared is Not a Failure, Learning From Our Mistakes” this session offers attendees a chance to share and learn from others’ experiences and can be truly cathartic. We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we are never alone!

Exhibit Hall

This is an opportunity to speak to representatives from a variety of different businesses about their products. Many of the exhibitors are long-time attendees of the conference and can become valued colleagues.

  • Vendors of conservation materials will have sample materials for you to handle and examine.
  • Instrument manufacturers may have demo instruments (i.e. microscopes, x-ray fluorescence spectrometers, IR cameras).  Speaking with representatives is a good way to establish a relationship that may lead to longer term loans of instruments or to ‘friendly’ pricing.
  • Publishers will have books for purchase. Often the display copy will be available for purchase at a substantial reduction.  These are first come first serve so if you are a bibliophile, visit these booths early!
  • Groups such as NCPTT, Sustainabilty & Emergency Committees, and our Health & Safety Network often have booths with useful information and resources.


The conference isn’t just about hearing new projects, ideas, research, etc. The social aspects are equally as important! This is a great time to meet new colleagues that can lead to friendships, productive collaborations, fellowship opportunities and the like.

  • Reach out before-hand
    If there’s a colleague you particularly want to meet, email them before the meeting to see if they’ll be attending and if so, try and set up a coffee date.
  • Notice Board
    There is always a notice board set up near the registration desk. This where many attendees will post fellowship and job opportunities, but you can also use it to post notes to other attendees.
  • Say hello!
    If you don’t know anyone at the meeting, you have to start somewhere. Many of us are shy, but opening a conversation can be as easy as asking someone if a seat is taken in a lecture hall, or commenting on the coffee break offerings. Then introduce yourself and don’t be afraid to mention it’s your first time attending.  
  • Talk to the speakers
    While you might feel too intimidated to ask a question in a session, do take the opportunity to introduce yourself afterwards to speakers to ask questions or to let them know that you liked their presentation. Q&A time after each talk is limited, so it’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions outside of the lecture. It’s always nice to have your efforts be of interest. They will welcome this interaction!
  • Take advantage of the posters
    The posters are a great way to not only meet the authors of the posters but also to engage with other attendees. Strike up a conversation about the poster with someone else who is reading it. 
  • Introduce yourself to AIC Board and Staff 
    They will wear special ribbons on their name tags. Please introduce yourself to them! They are friendly, want to make your acquaintance, can introduce you to other attendees, and are always happy to make sure that you are not left standing awkwardly alone!
  • Smaller events
    One thousand people in the exhibit hall can seem overwhelming! Take the opportunity of less populous events such as workshops, tours, lunch programs (particularly the Socratic Dialogue session) and Specialty Group receptions to make new acquaintances.  Sitting beside someone on a bus on the way to a venue is a great chance to make a new friend.
  • Emerging Professionals
    Are you an emerging professional? Please reach out to the Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN). They are an active community that is incredibly supportive. Their officers would love to meet you, describe what they do and tell you about ways to become involved if you are interested. There are often annual meeting events geared towards helping our younger colleagues that may include:
  • Portfolio Review
    The US conservation graduate programs require a conservation portfolio and a portfolio of one’s own art. This is a friendly venue to get advice on how to improve yours. They have also recorded a webinar “Showcasing your work: preparing and maintaining a conservation portfolio” and have added additional comments online.
  • Speed networking
    Just like speed dating this event provides a way for emerging professionals to meet those more established in their field.
  • Reunions
    Each of the conservation graduate programs in conservation host a reunion at the annual meeting. Even if you are not an alumnus, you are free to attend. If you are considering applying to the programs, this is an excellent way to meet people who have attended a given program and find out more about it.
  • Conference Tip Sheets
    ECPN has prepared a lot of valuable resources focused on emerging professionals, including a tip sheet on attending conferences, a pre-recorded webinar on presenting talks and posters (and a follow-up commentary on it), and a presentation checklist.  You can find a complete summary of these and other helpful resources on their AIC Wiki page.
  • Necesita ayuda? 
    Individuals fluent in Spanish will wear on their name badge ribbons that say ‘Hablo Español.'  Even if you don’t need help, feel free to stop and introduce yourself to them. They are a good way to network with the Spanish speaking community at the meeting.

Food and Drink

If you forgot to pack something or want to stock up on snacks there is a Harvey’s Supermarket and pharmacy 0.6 miles away from the conference hotel at 777 N Market St, Jacksonville, FL 32202

Having lunch or dinner with a new acquaintance is a great way to cement the connection. There are several dining options in the hotel, including the Market, SHOR seafood grill, and you can also grab a drink with a new friend at the Tavern. There are also a lot of local restaurants, cafes and coffee bars nearby. Please check out some options in our Local Guide to Jacksonville.

Code of Conduct

For all meetings, our code of conduct stipulates that attendees use a cordial tone and respectful attitude during any and all exchanges. See the code in our program and in our Registration and Refund Policies.

After the Conference

Business Meetings 

We will hold our All-Member Business Meeting virtually on June 1. Any attendee or member can attend. Many of our specialty groups have virtual business meetings, which are another opportunity to meet people, hear about the state of the group and its ongoing efforts, and perhaps even get more involved with their work. Check the Program and Schedule for specific dates and times.

Follow up  

Capitalize on those new personal connections you made at the meeting.  Send short emails to people to express your enjoyment at meeting them or follow up with their offer to share contacts, publications, potential collaborations, etc. 

Post-meeting Survey

We email this survey to all attendees at the end of the meeting. Your answers help us understand what you enjoyed and what improvements you think will make the next year’s meeting be even better.

Presenting Next Year

We will send out the call for oral and poster abstract submissions in July with a September deadline.  Look for the announcement by email, our member community, and on the Global Conservation Forum.

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Additional Resources

Many other organizations and individuals have created helpful guides. Some of them may resonate more with you or offer additional insights and tips that will help. Enjoy!