The Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference (AbGradCon) is a grass-roots effort that has been undertaken by 4 previous groups of early-career astrobiologists since 2004, with significant support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The primary objective of AbGradCon is to bring together in a unique setting the early-career astrobiologists (graduate students and post-doctoral fellows within 2 years of finishing their Ph.D.) who will lead astrobiology research in the years to come. The conference is unique in that it is a student-led meeting, from the organization to the presentations. The spirit of AbGradCon supports NAI's mission to carry out, support and catalyze collaborative, interdisciplinary research, train the next generation of astrobiology researchers, provide scientific and technical leadership on astrobiology investigations for current and future space missions, and explore new approaches using modern information technology to conduct interdisciplinary and collaborative research amongst widely-distributed investigators. As a testament to AbGradCon diversity, the 2008 conference attendees included astronomers, astrophysicists, astrochemists, microbiologists, evolutionary biologists, molecular biologists, atmospheric scientists, chemists, geologists, geobiologists, and planetary scientists from 22 different US institutions and 9 international institutions. The 2009 conference was held at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA - USA in July 2009. This paper describes the philosophy behind AbGradCon, how the conference has evolved since its conception with its associated successes and failures, and looks to the future. It will also describe the tools used by the 2009 organizers. It is the hope that this work will catalyze further student led conferences.