17 December 2015
It’s the third day of the meeting and I’m already exhausted. But this is par for the course when you try to do everything at AGU! It’s possible to spend all of your time in talks and posters and immerse yourself entirely in new research, but most people here end up mixing in other things: workshops, town hall discussions, service groups, and of course meeting with colleagues and collaborators.
The social aspect of a conference like this is, I think, one of the most amazing things about it. This is one of the best chances a geoscientist has to catch up with old friends, learn about who’s doing the most cutting-edge research in their field, strengthen old relationships and collaborations, and come up with new ones. Very little geoscience happens in a vacuum – except maybe some of the fancier experimental stuff, har har – and the face time you get at a meeting like this is crucial to driving progress. On any given day, I’ll have multiple conversations about a whole variety of topics, and in the process I’ll be learning new and exciting things that I can take back with me to my work. I might even end up collaborating with someone I never would have met without the opportunity a conference presents (this has happened to me, and I ended up getting a publication out of it!)
The “making connections” theme also applies to the process of science itself. Going to a conference where everyone in your field is presenting their latest work is how you keep from digging yourself too deeply into a research hole and focusing only on your own problems and data. Geoscience must build on past and concurrent research to support what we learn in the future, and to do that effectively we have to be aware of how that research is evolving. And one of my favorite things is to be sitting in a talk or listening to a poster and have an ‘aha’ moment, or say to myself, ‘I never thought of it that way’. Those moments are the tiny breakthroughs that keep scientists going, and all of us need that encouragement at one point or another. It’s what enables me to go home after an absolutely exhausting week and still be excited about my work and what I could do with it next.