In the last few months I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of international conferences. Perth is a long way from anywhere, so being able to get out of town and meet some scientists is pretty bloody fantastic!
In December I went to the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (along with half of UWA, or so it seemed). Anybody in earth sciences knows that the AGU is the big kahuna of conferences. This year 23 000 people attended, and there were talks on everything from the weather on Mars to river hydraulics. It’s awesome. It’s also very, very overwhelming. Just getting there involved 3 flights (PER-SYD-LAX-SFO) and took something like 30 hours. Needless to say I was in peak form when I stumbled into my accommodation on the Sunday afternoon. The second thing that nobody tells you is that you can’t see everything. There is no physical way you can attend every talk you’re interested in, see every poster, shake every hand. It’s just too big. Letting go of this attendees guilt is also tricky. Choosing between a palaeo-climate talk and a groundwater hydrology talk is impossible, and sometimes you just have to sneak away and go and learn something about Mars because if someone brings up the Navier-Stokes Equation one more time you might just kill yourself. Or them.
Gleefully science-ing with the world’s biggest poster
While I felt that my poster session went well (people actually stopped and talked to me, and seemed somewhat interested), I felt disappointed with the conference as a whole. It’s not that it’s not great (it is so, so great), but at this stage in my career (i.e. as a nobody), it’s hard to escape the feeling that the people that you want to meet, aren’t there to meet you.
For a lot of academics, the AGU is the best opportunity to catch up with international colleagues and scheme. This is understandable, but without an avenue to get into this scheming it is easy to feel like the hard work in getting there and presenting isn’t worth it.
Nonetheless, the AGU is brilliant. I highly recommend going if you have established connections who are also going! As a lowly PhD candidate who knows no-one, I’m not convinced it was worth it.
Bonus picture of Half Dome in Yosemite, because if you think I was going to go to California without going to Yosemite you’re nuts.
Last week (early February) I went to New Zealand to attend the 17th Biennial Australian and New Zealand Geomorphology Group meeting. This experience couldn’t have been more different. Just 80 attendess, ‘trapped’ in a tiny town (Greytown, north of Wellington in the Wairarapa) for a week. It was awesome. Also, I am moving to NZ. It’s like Australia but better.
Over the week I think I spoke to every single attendee. I saw every talk, because there were no concurrent sessions. By the end of the week I felt like I had not only made some good contacts, but I had met people who I could see myself becoming friends with. It was such a stark contrast to the (admittedly fun) chaos of the AGU.
So I guess my half-baked advice to PhD Candidates out there, who have limited funds to get to conferences is not to discount the smaller conferences. Talking to 80 people at a smaller conference has got to be more beneficial than talking to 20 people at a giant conference. Saying that, if you have money to burn, go to the big conferences. Variety is the spice of life, and something like the AGU is spicy as hell!
Conference field trip to the entrance to the dimworld. No sign of Aragorn, sadly. The Pinnacles! Giant conglomerate hoodoos, very cool (and where some LOTR filming was done!) Saw some MIS5 shorelines that were like 30? Metres above sea level. NZ is cray. #rocks #lotr #NZismiddleearth #anzgg #dayoff #phdlife
Field trip to
the entrance to the Dimworld the Putangirua Pinnacles.