Geological Society of America (GSA) Conference (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Tue, 31 May 2005

Geological Society of America (GSA) Conference

The GSA conference happened back when I was too caught in the whirl of events to write about them. It's been a over month now, but I did want to save a couple of impressions.

The field trips all started way too early. Sure, this is the whining of a non-morning person: but really, when your field trip starts with 45 minutes of everybody standing around because the rental agency that rents the vans isn't open yet, maybe that's a sign that starting a little later might be a good idea. Even aside from the wisdom of scheduling all your travel time for the height of rush hour.

The field trips were worthwhile, though. The most interesting parts were often topics that hadn't sounded interesting at all ahead of time.

The talks at the conference were terrific, total information overload, with maybe six sessions going at once. There are lots of people doing interesting research in geology, often fairly junior people (grad students or postdocs), and many of them are even able to talk enthusiastically about their research using words that make sense to a mere student of the subject. Dry jargon-laden talks did exist, but they were the exception, not the rule.

Everybody was friendly, too, and very willing to talk to students and explain their research or chat about other topics in geology. I went to one of the "Roy J. Shlemon student mentoring lunches" featuring a round-robin of geologists moving from one student table to another to share insight and stories: very helpful and interesting!

The conference organizers obviously worship at the altar of Bill Gates. There was apparently a conference-wide dictum that Thou Shalt Use Powerpoint and Thou Shalt Display On Our Windows Boxen, Not Your Own Machine.

The unsurprising result was that roughly 80% of the talks had at least some problems displaying slides, resulting in cursing, then apologies, with the speaker assuring the audience that it would make much more sense if only we could see the slide the way it had been written. Perhaps half of these followed up with a mutter about having to use Windows rather than a Mac. Macs are clearly big with geologists (though alas there was no sign of Linux use).

That said, the conference ran aggressively on time, each session having an appointed watchdog to sit in front and remind the speaker when time was running out. I've never seen a conference stick to a schedule so well, especially when filled with short (20-minute) talks. I had been prepared for the worst after problems getting schedule information before the conference, but the organization on site (except field trips) was flawless.

All in all, quite a good time. I'm only sorry next year's conference isn't back in San Jose. (It's in Alaska; I'd love to go, but finances will probably prevent it.)

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[ 23:04 May 31, 2005    More science/geology | permalink to this entry ]