Just in the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to present at two exciting conferences in Canada. As a second-year masters student I am still in the middle of my thesis work, but I have been working on it since last fall and have preliminary results that show some of the trends I expect to find in my data. My project revolves around water sampling and sediment analyses in Squam and Ossipee, NH lakes. I’m working along with the Squam Lakes Associative and the Green Mountain Conservation Group to give these groups and their members a better perspective of how changing climate will affect the water quality of their lakes.
Presenting my thesis research has been a fantastic experience. I first attended, the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) which was held October 18th – 22nd in Vancouver. Vancouver is a very modern, developed city with a very diverse population and we had the opportunity to rent an apartment for our stay in the city near the Vancouver Convention Centre, which was where the meeting was held. The meeting was attended by nearly 7,000 people, most of whom were from the U.S. and Canada.
The GSA meeting was structured into poster sessions in the early morning and late afternoon with 15 minute talks throughout the day and an ongoing exhibition where different businesses and universities had set up their own information booths. I personally gave a talk in a session looking at how changes in the watershed are recorded in lakes. During the meeting I was able to listen to some really great presentations that ranged from the frequency of Sandy-like storm events in New York City to rising sea levels in the Pacific. The meeting was very student friendly and featured several workshops and forums on topics such as careers in government and industry, grant writing, and publishing. All in all, the GSA was a very informative experience that was filled with so many different opportunities that we weren’t able to see or hear everything.
The next meeting I attended was developed on a much smaller, more personal scale. The Global Lakes Ecological Observation Network was hosting its annual meeting on October 27th – 31st in Quebec. GLEON 16 was held at a summer camp known as Jouvence in Mont Orford National Park situated on a lovely lake. This meeting had just 160 attendees, but with a much wider spatial distribution. Over 20 countries were represented, some attendees coming from as far away as Japan and New Zealand. Contrary to the GSA conference, GLEON operates more as a community with more interactions between attendees. All attendees were staying at the camp, so everyone was encouraged to interact and network with each other, from breakfast to dinnertime and with evening activities each night.
Rather than having a long series of talks, GLEON only has a few short presentations (about 2-5 minutes) to introduce new sites or new projects. Besides these short presentations, the meeting revolved around two main activities: collaboration and poster presentations. The collaboration aspect of the meeting involved time spent in either organized working groups or ad hoc time. I joined the climate sentinels working group where we talked about using lake systems as indicators of changing climate with a particular focus in this meeting on temperature and dissolved oxygen profiles. The poster presentation sessions were very informative, since it was a smaller session so you had a chance to view all of the posters, and I got some very useful feedback from professionals on my own work. Everyone interested in sharing their work had the opportunity to do a poster so while many of the posters were done by students, there were also posters done by professionals.
Both of these meetings were wonderful experiences, but were very different from each other. The GSA meeting was a large conference with many attendees whereas GLEON was a community oriented meeting that focused on collaboration. At the GSA I gave an oral presentation that only allowed for a question or two. Whereas at GLEON I had a poster to present so I was able to talk more in depth with the people who stopped by and was able to get more feedback. Each experience gave me a better understanding of the current state of these fields and a new perspective on my research ideas.