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Andrew Alden

The GSA Experience

By October 20, 2009

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Science meetings like the GSA Annual Meeting in Portland serve many people in different ways. The public sees nothing from them except maybe a few science headlines on TV or the papers. The science writers who write those are working hard without much time for fun or even curiosity. The scientists do a prodigious amount of schmoozing; you'll get only the barest hint of that in the blogs and Twitter traffic (follow the hashtag #geoport for part of it). I go to these meetings mostly to learn, activity that pays off throughout the year in what I write.

Students come and spend days in a happy daze, meeting the oldtimers whose papers they've been studying and getting a wild surmise of the possibilities for their own lives. Many undergraduates present their senior theses here, an experience that can't be gained any other way. Their wide-eyed presence makes everyone else happier. In fact, even local high-schoolers are here too, reminding me of the thrill of attending the GSA meeting as a teen in 1968. That was a special time in the history of geology, but you know, these days geology is still in a golden age.

I shouldn't leave out the commercial companies and agencies that exhibit here, making valuable contacts with their clients and customers. They show up at the talks, too. And they hand out some cool schwag, too. There's a whole ecosystem that assembles for a major scientific meeting, and the people who are "in the life" treasure the good ones.

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