April 19, 2013 by Dr. G
My students know I am a big fan of having them write reflective statements during the semester after attending a seminar by a guest speaker, or after having completed a service learning project, etc. Although I won’t follow the strict format I provide my students, I think it is useful for me to also think back to what I learned this week, and what it means for me and my #1 target population, my students.
First, I have to start with such appreciation for John Anderson and the conference conveners for accepting my application to attend the conference. To be able to join this group of highly respected and accomplished coastal geologists was really a unique and special opportunity. I was so pleased to be able to present a poster, make new acquaintances and reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and expand upon my own base knowledge of coastal processes and environments. And I finally was able to see and stand on top of the Galveston Seawall!
And although I was disappointed to see so much missing from these discussions about the coastal environment, I have to remember that we really did only have 3.5 days for presentations. Hurricanes were mentioned several times, but tsunami were not mentioned even once, in addition to a discussion about the “science” of coastal storms. Coasts from glacial regions were not discussed, and there was a lack of geographic distribution across the talks – Antarctica, Africa, and Australia were not part of any talks, whereas there was a heavy representation of case studies in the Gulf of Mexico. The meeting also could have broadened the discussion of coasts to include lake shores impacted by sea-level rise, and although clastic and carbonate environments were discussed, mixed carbonate-siliciclastic systems (the topic of my dissertation research!) were not mentioned.
I also was disappointed to see a lack of an online presence during this conference, especially with social media. I had asked if there was a hashtag for the conference ahead of time, and was tweeted back it would be #PC13TX. Unfortunately, no one during the conference was told about the hashtag, and I was the only one using it in Twitter (I don’t think anyone else was tweeting at the conference). GSA (@geosociety) was retweeting some of my tweets, AGU (@theAGU) was not. I also don’t think anyone else blogged about the conference besides myself – which I found surprising, because two people at the conference told me they found this blog from searching online to see if anything was getting posted about the conference! I think if we really want to communicate coastal issues, we need more than a paper statement – that to reach all audiences (including my students!), we need to use multiple forms of communication, and these days, it has to include social media.
So, another challenge I give my students – what’s the take-home message here? If I pull together all that I have learned all week (and posted in my previous blog entries) and what I think is important to share with students, I have a few points that will stick with me:
- Everyone needs to answer the question, no matter what the location or issue: is science always the best answer?
- Just being aware and concerned is not enough – that scientists and citizens need to work together on implementation
- To attempt to prepare for the future, we need to study the past, make models of the present, to try to predict what is to come
- The environments and issues and stakeholders of today may not be the environments/issues/stakeholders of tomorrow