19 December 2009

Geobloggers at AGU FM09!

Posted by Michael McFadden

So I’m stuck in SF while DC is getting 2+ feet of snow. Considering that I’m only 5’3″, I’m kinda not so beat up about having an few extra days in the City by the Bay. Besides, this gives me a chance to see what the blog rolls have been mentioning about the AGU conference this past week!

Let’s backtrack a little: The first geobloggers lunch ever at the Fall Meeting was a success! Held on Wednesday, the event attracted 21 researchers and journalists who blog on Earth and space sciences (including yours truly) and who signed up their blogs in our Fall Meeting blog roll. We mingled and chatted about what drives us to blog, and what we get from it. I only started blogging…er…a week ago, so I was happy to get advice from these veterans! Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Claus Haslauer“In the end, I’m trying to explain to my parents what the heck I do,” said Claus Haslauer, hydrologist. His blog, PlanetWater, has some particularly good sum-ups of the Langbein lecture (presented Tuesday morning by retired NOAA researcher John C. Schaake), the Union Lecture (presented Tuesday night by USGS director Marcia McNutt), and the Bjerknes lecture (presented Wednesday afternoon by Penn State’s Richard Alley). I tried to get in to hear Alley’s talk, but I was a tad late and (tall) people were smashed like match sticks in the doorway, so I was glad to read highlights in Haslauer’s blog!

Dana Mackenzie“With the blog, there are no deadlines. When I write articles, I spend a lot of time reporting: when I blog, it’s mostly practice on writing. And I can be more irreverent, too,” said science writer Dana Mackenzie. Mackenzie’s blog, Who Hung The Moon?, not only has a nice summary of the geoblogger’s lunch, but it also has a quirky story about a thought experiment that spontaneously arose during a planetary science session about whether astronauts on the Moon should forgo their space suits for birthday suits. Crazy, right? But background radiation from the Moon could kick off protons and electrons from heavy elements in space suits, and these free particles could harm human tissue. But brrrrrr…..

Andrew Alden“Blogging is a good way to start conversations,” added Andrew Alden, a geologist and science writer. Alden blogs on geology for About.com. His post for Tuesday was insightful: “But I’ll also drop in on a session on earthquake statistics, for the Nonlinear Geophysics group. Those people intimidate me, being the farthest thing from geologists and the nearest to mathematicians. But the brain could use a little stretch, right?” Yeah, those crazy smart NG guys and gals intimidate me too, and like you I want to learn more!

David PetleyDavid Petley, a landslide researcher and professor at Durham University, had some great advice for professors who have a blog presence: “I use the blog as a mechanism to attract graduate students.” When, I thought about it, this makes perfect sense. Dave’s Landside Blog includes his presentation along with some great coverage on sessions that involved how to communicate the science of critical environmental issues.

Julian LozosJulion Lozos, a musician grad student turned seismology grad student at UC Riverside, took the prize for having the cleverest blog name–Harmonic Tremors. This just perfectly unites his interests, don’t you think? His posts deal mostly with earthquake modeling. “I love talking about the things I love – and the Internet is a great place to do it,” he noted. “People who are not interested don’t have to read what I write!”

Steve Easterbrook“I started the blog as a place to build community, where people can find each other,” said Steve Easterbrook, a professor of computer science at University of Toronto and creator of a blog called Serendipity. But as his blog grew, he realized that he was also using it as a way to coalesce his research thoughts. His FM09 coverage includes a great post on how climage science is not getting heard and processed by the government and the public. Perhaps this is why Easterbrook brought his kids to the conference–you might have seen them in the halls videotaping scientists about their climate research, forcing them to speak in basic language.

Ryan Anderson On how to draw readers into science: “Start with something they can understand, and then they can get into the more difficult stuff more easily,” advised Ryan Anderson, astronomy graduate student at Cornell University. Anderson’s blog, The The Martian Chronicles includes some great coverage of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, complete with animations!

Finally, we were lucky to have Julie Stuart, who specializes in putting ideas into visual “maps”, attending the lunch. Below is a snippet of the poster she created on the geoblogging lunch, which was been displayed in the 2nd level of Moscone West since Thursday.

geoblogging lunch

A big thanks to Maria-José Viñas, AGU’s Public Information Coordinator, for supplying text, pictures and quotes!

–Mohi Kumar, AGU Science Writer