11 December 2011

AGU 2011: Day 3

Posted by Jessica Ball

Well, as usual, the hectic pace of AGU caught up with me (and my laptop started having fits), so I’m behind on my meeting posts. So, we’ll go back to Wednesday’s activities:

On Wednesday morning, I joined fellow AGU blogger Dave Petley (Dave’s Landslide Blog) and NASA Science writer and outreach coordinator Maria José Viñas in the “Communicating Climate Science” panel discussion. Another AGU blogger, Dan Satterfield (Dan’s Wild Wild Science Journal) shared the panel with John Cook of Skeptical Science and Tony Strawa of NASA’s aerosol science group. The discussion covered everything from how to debunk climate science myths with social media to religious and moral positions on the effects of climate change. Dan Satterfield showed a great video that he produced for his TV station, showing how the “lots of scientists don’t support climate change” myth came to be and why it persists. The Q&A session was quite lively and may have generated a push for AGU scientists to be more vocal about their research into climate change, although I had to leave early to head to some talks and didn’t see the whole session. (It turns out that Dan recently retired from his job at WHNT19 – but check out their website to see a great farewell message from his colleages!)

I took a brief stop in a Planetary Science session to hear about hydrothermal alteration on Mars (where heat can be produced and water released by meteor impacts), then moved on to listen to a few talks about magmatic plumbing systems. This session was of particular interest, because one of the talks, by Jeannie Scott of Oxford University, was about the magmatic system at the Santiaguito lava dome complex. This study used petrology and geochemistry to figure out where magma begins to crystallize phenocrysts and microlites (in this case, at two different depths below Santiaguito); crystallization advances enough to cause the magma to stiffen and cross the ductile-brittle transition at about the level where previous studies has postulated a “plug” of rock exists in the conduit. Jeannie suggests that vesicle trains in the rock at this point allow the plug to be semi-permeable, releasing gas and ash in eruptions at the same time as the uppermost part of the plug is extruded in a lava flow.

At lunchtime, I attended the Executive Committee meeting of the Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology Section. This was a great chance to meet some of the leading scientists in the section, and to exchange ideas on how to improve resources and programs for students. The minutes from the meeting are pretty extensive, but there are some exciting new things in the works, including planning for a student mentoring program, a new student resources page on the VGP website, and possibly a special student newsletter. In conjunction with the many student representatives that are being added to AGU sections, the Union’s leadership is also moving to add student representatives and more early-career researchers to the AGU Council, which is responsible for the scientific affairs of the Union. Both are part of a new push to include more participation in the Union by early-career scientists and students, in addition to the senior scientists that are already in place. I’m pretty excited to be a part of it, and I hope that I can help get things off to a good start in the VGP Section.

Wednesday was a really busy day, because immediately after the meeting I had to run across the street and give the first talk in the Public Affairs Session entitled “Science Communication in a Changing Media Landscape” (I blogged about this session a few weeks back.) This was my first invited talk, and my first talk at AGU in general, and I was in really interesting company. In addition to my talk about the challenges and rewards of blogging, I was joined by speakers using social media to promote the educational work of different organizations (the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the Oceanographic Society of Japan, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and the Department of Energy’s national labs), speakers who talked about how to engage “hostile” audiences in discussions on climate change, and one speaker who helped form and run the Climate Science Rapid Response Team, which conducts “matchmaking” between scientists and media/lawmakers who need consultation on topics in climate science. It was really fascinating to hear how new technology is being used to provide up-to-the-minute information on scientific topics to a variety of audiences, and I was really honored to have been invited to join the session with so many other motivated speakers.

I almost forgot to mention that Wednesday was the Social Media Soiree! Bloggers and Twitter-ers (Geotweeps?) were well-fed and had plenty of time to mingle with each other at the Intercontinental Hotel. I finally had the chance to meet a few people who I’ve only ever talked to online, and had a great conversation toward the end about incorporating social media and outreach into a geoscience degree. I also spent a little time at the first ever Student Mixer, but somehow mistimed things and arrived just as all the beer ran out and students were dispersing. I was a little disappointed not to have had a chance to talk to more of my fellow students, but it was obvious that the event had attracted a big chunk of the student population at the meeting, and a number of people were engaged in pretty serious conversations even after the drinks ran out. This is another move AGU is making to help involve its students more in meetings, and from what I saw it seemed pretty successful.

Wednesday night was my first chance to spend some time with the other graduate students from UB who were attending the meeting, and I had a great evening out – San Francisco really is a fun place. I even managed to get a little sleep in time for Thursday’s linup…