This summer Prosanta and I decided we needed to cross the Pacific yet again. The destination this time was Okinawa, Japan for the 9th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference (http://www.fish-isj.jp/9ipfc/). Both Prosanta and I gave talks at this meeting; Prosanta talking about the most recent results of our Ostariophysi phylogeny using ultra conserved elements (UCEs), and I gave a talk about the surgeonfish genus Prionurus which I'm working on. This trip could not have possibly gone better, both in terms of the meeting, and in terms of the host country. The level of talks at this meeting was stunning, and I look forward to seeing all of these studies published in the near future. The talks were both inspirational and extremely motivating for my own research, and it was good to see where the field is progressing and what new approaches people are taking. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits throughout the whole meeting and there were many nights of meeting up with colleagues over dinner and drinks, discussing future projects, collaborations, and exploring Okinawa. After how this meeting went, I cannot wait until the next IPFC, which has been decided to be held in Tahitit (who can resist a trip to Tahiti).
Amphiprion frenatus. Photo by Alejandro Perez-Matus
In addition to the meeting I managed to find some time to travel around Okinawa and the rest of Japan. The very first day after arriving I was luckily able to squeeze in a day of diving in Okinawa with my old lab mate Moisés Bernal, Amanda Ackiss from Old Dominion, Alejandro Perez-Matus from the Coastal Marine Research Station of the Catholic University of Chile, and Giacomo Bernardi and his PhD student Kim Tenggardjaja from UC Santa Cruz. It was a fun day of diving, where Giacomo later tallied up more than 100 fishes that we saw throughout the day. I also got to sample some notorious Okinawan foods throughout the trip such as awamori, Okinawa soba noodles, the local pork and the infamous taco rice.
Two men examining some bluefin before the auction
After the conference there seemed to be a migration of many scientists to Tokyo to explore the many cultural differences between mainland Japan and the Ryuku Islands. While in Tokyo Prosanta and I explored the different districts, ate a lot of ramen, and also went to the Tsukiji fish market to collect some fish for the LSU museum. We managed to wake up extremely early to see the bluefin tuna auction, followed by breakfast at the market before scouring through the fish they had. Overall we managed to collect some fishes that we did not have in our collection, as well as tissue many other fishes for future studies. Prosanta had to then leave and I decided to spend my last couple of days in Japan traveling to the island of Hachijo-jima, which is a 12 hour ferry ride off of Tokyo. While on this island I got to do more diving (in much colder water this time), where I got to see representatives from all the main groups that I've studied in the past. The visibility was extremely good, and the dives were absolutely fantastic. While on this island I also got to relax after diving with a traditional japanese onsen (natural hot springs that bathing houses are built around). This is highly recommended after a day of diving in cold water. After this I had another 12 hour ferry ride back to Tokyo, followed directly by a 13 hour flight back to the states (after one extra night of getting in some of my favorite foods in Tokyo). Overall I could not have asked for a better trip. Japan is an amazing country, and I will certainly be going back in the future to explore more, and hopefully dive more to see their wonderful fishes.