August 16, 2013 by Dr. G
After some of the multi-day conferences I attend, I will write a post that wraps-up my thoughts and reflections about the conference experience. But part of my purpose of this post (and the overall blog) is to also answer the questions that students typically ask me when I return – those pieces of information faculty usually don’t share but are on the minds of students that have never been to a conference – so here we go!
I stayed at the Grand Hyatt Washington DC hotel, only a block away from the meeting site, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) headquarters (the AAAS building is the first building in Washington DC to earn LEED-EB Gold Certification). The hotel is in a great location, and I’ve stayed here before for conferences (thank goodness for a summer hotel package deal to save me some of the cost of the trip!). This hotel is beautiful inside. My room had a television bigger than mine at home, a bed bigger than mine at home, and a bathroom bigger than mine at home (that’s OK, that means I’m having a smaller footprint on the planet!). The hotel is located right at an exit to the Metro Center Station of the Metro (DC’s subway system), which makes travel really convenient when heading to DC by Amtrak. The hotel had a Starbucks and three other restaurants – certainly no shortage of food! And the vending machines had Pepsi products, just like our campus.
The ScienceOnline Climate conference provided breakfast and lunch each day, and food for a reception the first evening. The food spread was amazing, and I appreciated the fresh fruit and salad options available at the meals. This is the first conference I have ever been to where the full menu of food options was available ahead of time and printed in the conference program! With the food allergies people have today (as my students know, I have an allergy to tomatoes), it is nice to know beforehand that there are options for me to eat. I apologize that I do not have any photos of the buffets for you this time – always a class favorite. There was also no formal seating during the meals, and it was interesting to see people sitting along window sills, standing up to eat, and sitting on the floor (there weren’t enough chairs to go around). As a geologist, I certainly don’t mind sitting on the floor, and I wonder of the conference organizers intended to create a casual atmosphere such as this to foster discussion.
As you read in my previous posts, art was a strong theme at this conference, and AAAS even had art on display in their lobby, such as this coral reef exhibit titled Our Changing Seas that extended from the first floor to the second floor balcony. And the act of live science scribing – wow, I am definitely going to learn more about this technique by Perrin Ireland at NRDC. Music and fashion also found a way in to this conference. I’m even starting to see art-science conference sessions at the AGU conference in San Francisco each December, so making interdisciplinary connections certainly extends beyond what I try to do in the classroom (this is why students should be “happy” there are general education requirements at Penn State, so they can take many courses across many disciplines). I hope students start to make those connections on campus and can see through my posts and other forms of media the interdisciplinary connections in “the real world.” All disciplines need to connect to be effective at innovation, discovery, communication, and education.
The ScienceOnline Climate experience has been a very good one for me, better than I had imagined. I am so used to going to geology discipline conferences (such as GSA and AGU), that going to something more interdisciplinary and not straight geology or geoscience education was new and certainly professionally rewarding. Interestingly, I had signed up for the ScienceOnline Oceans conference first, and then heard about ScienceOnline Climate. After having such a great time at the Climate conference, I can’t wait to see what happens at Oceans in October in south Florida (it certainly helps that the conference is almost right where I went to graduate school, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science). But seriously, I’m going to Miami in October for a conference, not to go to the beach! (OK, so I hope to join up with a shark tagging fieldtrip….). I’m really looking forward to continuing with my ScienceOnline experience! (yes, students, this means that my intro to oceanography course will be taught again once I get back from sabbatical – with some new twists, I hope!).
And I should always remember… it is OK to get out of my nerd loop once in awhile, keep my skin in the game so I can meet others where they are, and make sure I have a strong tribe so that we all can keep an eye/ear on what others hear, what others understand, and what others remember when it comes to climate communication – and overall science education!
I’ll end with this quote that I found on one of the AAAS postcards:
“So many scientists think that once they figure it out, that’s all they have to do, and writing it up is just a chore. I never saw it that way. Part of the art of any kind of total scholarship is to say it well.” — Stephen Jay Gould