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GSA in Portland: Wrap-up

October 22, 2009

I meant to blog about the 2009 GSA meeting in Portland each day but … well, I didn’t. This is mainly due to the fact that I spent each evening with friends I haven’t seen in a long time (or with friends I’ve never met in person) combined with a lack of internet access in my hotel room. And, even though, there was free and abundant internet access at the convention center I found it very difficult to find the time to sit down and collect my thoughts. The fact that conferences are so whirlwind and busy is why I like them — but, is not the best for blogging.

Anyway, with all those excuses aside, here is a summary of how I spent my time at the meeting:

Sunday, October 18th: Arrival

focaultI arrived in Portland late afternoon on Sunday. A friend and colleague of mine with whom I traveled checked into our hotel and then made our way over to the convention center to pick up our badges and program guides. I haven’t been to a GSA meeting since 2004 and was unaware that Sunday was like any other conference day — full of technical sessions. I need to remember this for next time.

My friend and I then made our way downtown via the light rail system (which other Portland-sized cities should study for how to create a nice public transportation system). We were meeting our former adviser and a whole bunch of other current and former students of his for a big reunion dinner. There were  about 15-20 people and we had a blast eating, drinking, sharing geologic stories, and generally being merry. Catching up with people I rarely see is one of the best parts of conferences.

Monday, October 19th: Ramping up during the day and meeting other bloggers at night

tableMonday was the only day I actually did manage to get an afternoon blog post up (which is here). I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t pace myself regarding technical sessions at conferences I burn out fast. My talk was Tuesday afternoon so I spent Monday slowly ramping myself up such that my ‘peak’ of science focus would generally coincide with the delivery of my talk. In the past I’ve gone science crazy at first and by the time my talk/poster came around I was spent. But this is just me … many other people have seemingly limitless energy and focus at meetings.

In the morning I spent a good hour or more with two colleagues about our recent and ongoing research in Patagonia. This was the topic of my talk and the topic of a related poster presented by a colleague. Sending messages back and forth via e-mail is great but nothing beats the ability to sit down at the same table and look over data together. We pulled out some hard-copy maps and figures and other information on my laptop and had a great time discussing the projects.

Later that afternoon I attended a few talks, browsed some posters, checked out the exhibit hall, and then took an hour to put the finishing touches on my own talk for the next day. The system for uploading your talk file was great (at least for me) — it was very easy to understand and worked without complication. In fact, GSA may have the smoothest and easiest system I’ve seen yet. I got my talk on there by 4pm and felt relieved to stop tinkering and just have it finalized. I’m one of these people that tweaks minor things forever such that as the talk nears I’m constantly about 5-10 minutes of work away from being done yet I still work on it. I know, it’s a problem I have — at least I’m not in denial — that’s the first step right?

Monday evening was eventful. I first attended an alumni reception for my PhD alma mater. Almost all my grad student peers are now done and have moved on to something else. Many are in academia, some in government entities like the USGS, and still others in industry. The dean for the school was not able to attend so, in her place, an emeritus faculty member who was once department chair dean long ago gave a hilarious speech chock full of inside jokes that had the crowd in stitches.

tugboatBefore that reception ended I snuck out and jumped on the light rail to make my way downtown for the geosocial networking meet-up at the Tugboat. Luckily, I ran into Kim and Silver Fox on the train and the three of us were able to combine our map-reading skills to successfully locate the bar. The photo to the left is difficult to see but paints a nice picture of what the bar was like. We had great discussions over candlelight and microbrews ranging from where we were from, where we went (or are going) to school, what kind of research or work each other is in to, and so on. A memorable highlight for me was Kyle showing off and explaining the Livescribe smartpen system — he got me sufficiently intrigued to look into it.

It is really cool to be able to associate faces and personalities with all these people whom I’ve grown to “know” over the internet now. I was telling some of my friends the next day that one of the coolest aspects of it is that the blogging/tweeting community is incredibily diverse. The other groups of people I spend time with at geoscience conferences are mostly based on research specialties and/or people I’ve gone to school with or worked with. The blogger group, however, cuts across that — it includes a wide age range, people of wildly different expertise, different jobs (students, profs, industry, etc.), and so on. Very cool.

Callan of NOVA Geoblog did a great job of organizing the event and even herding the big group for a nice photo, which he posted on his blog earlier today (he also has the full list of those who attended).

Tuesday, October 20th: My presentation

Tuesday turned out to be the best day of talks for me. I went to some of the talks in the general clastic sediments session in the morning. While there were a few gems in there (e.g., an interesting talk on the sediment budget of Nile River dispersal system) I tend not to like the general sessions that lack a theme. I understand that not all talks may fit a theme but these potpourri sessions never seem to be that well-attended. I’m not sure what the solution is.

I went to lunch with a colleague and a peer (who happened to review a recent paper of mine and is also doing tectonics research in Patagonia). We went far enough away from the conference and found a great little Thai restuarant and talked geology for over an hour.

My talk was in an afternoon session about sedimentary basins related to convergent tectonic margins. Originally there were two sessions, one dealing with forearc basins and another about general tectonic signatures as reflected in sedimentary successions — these ended up getting merged into this one session. I thought it was  a great session. This is probably because I have great interest in the topic and know many of the speakers’ research pretty well, but I also thought the talks were generally well done.

I gave my talk right after the mid-afternoon break and it went okay. I always find it difficult to gauge my own “performance”. I received good feedback afterwards from people saying they got the main points and it all made sense to them so that’s good! The paper on which this talk was based is in press now — I’ll blog about it once it’s out (early 2010 probably).

Wednesday, October 21st: Posters in the morning and heading home

posterI spent most of Wednesday morning at a poster session that was the companion session for the one my talk was in. Although the active poster time each day was later in the afternoon there were a lot of folks around in the morning. The poster my colleague presented, which went into a lot more detail about the structural history of the foreland basin I talked about on Tuesday, had a nice little crowd around it for about an hour. Many of the same people who attended and presented in the oral session were around checking out the posters. I really like the combination of an oral session followed by a poster session — provides a chance for follow-up conversations.

wineUnfortunately we had to head out around midday to get some lunch and then make our way to the airport. It’s always a bit sad leaving a conference.We got to the airport early enough to enjoy one more glass of some great Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

It was a great conference. I had a fantastic time scientifically and socially. I am especially thrilled that the blogger/tweeter meet-up was so well attended. I’m looking forward to these events for years to come.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 7:20 pm

    Quick correction – Gary was the Dean, not the chair, when he first came to our illustrious grad alma mater. (Imagine that last bit said in Gary’s voice for best effect.)

  2. October 23, 2009 8:13 am

    Kim, thanks — fixed. Great to meet you at the meeting.

  3. October 24, 2009 6:07 am

    It was great to meet you.

  4. October 24, 2009 8:54 am

    You too!

  5. Julien permalink
    October 25, 2009 8:07 am

    Hi Brian, I will be grateful if you could give more details about the talk dealing with the sediment budget of Nile River dispersal system (a topic we are lookin at in Bordeaux). Cheers.

  6. October 25, 2009 9:10 am

    Julien, the abstract is here … and if you search those authors you’ll find some of their previous papers. I haven’t really looked into it in detail.

  7. October 26, 2009 7:36 pm

    I also appreciate the geological diversity of the blogosphere, which really becomes apparent at meetups. I think it really adds a lot to individual perspectives, plus it’s just plain fun – which is what geology is about (I think).

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