Gordon Research Conference: Global Ocean Change Biology
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a Gordon Research Conference. If you haven’t heard of the Gordon conferences, you should take a minute and check them out (http://www.grc.org/about.aspx). They are based on a different format than the larger scientific conferences I have been too, like Ocean Sciences or the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS). The conference is intended to present more open discussion of research topics, and presenters are encouraged to discuss unpublished results, with each conferee agreeing not to discuss the details of topics discussed. Further, the conference was organized around one session, with all conferees (200 in this case) in one large room. The speakers presented for roughly 30-45 minutes, followed by 20-30 minutes of open discussion with everyone.
The conference was held at Waterville Valley Resort in New Hampshire. Being a New Englander I was excited to visit the Granite state in the height of summer. The conference was intense in the sense that we began with breakfast at 7:30 am, and finished with the final talks of the day at 9:30-10:00 pm. We started on a Sunday night, and continued until Friday morning when everyone departed after breakfast. Everyone, PI’s, government representatives, and grad students alike, ate all three meals together. We had a couple of hours in the afternoon ‘off’, where we were encouraged to continue our networking during these breaks into the great outdoors. A large group of us went hiking one afternoon, some of us tried our hand at mountain biking down the slopes of the peak at Waterville Valley ski resort. After catching our breath in the outdoors, we reconvened with poster sessions. I presented a poster on the first chapter of my dissertation entitled, “Not all algae are created equal: Differential effects of ocean acidification on coral reef algae.” I got a lot of interesting feedback on my research, and had the chance to, to talk about my research ideas with some of the top minds in the field.
With a relatively small group of 200 people, the conference provided a less intimidating environment to meet some of my science heroes in the field of ocean global change biology. The highlight of my conference was meeting Joan Kleypas, of NOAA. Reading her earlier papers on ocean acidification effects on coral reefs was what sparked my interest in the topic and started me down the road to my PhD research. It was also incredible to meet other scientists that share similar research interests to my own and form potential collaborations for future projects.
I came away from the GRC in Waterville Valley with renewed curiosity and enthusiasm for my dissertation research which is focused on understand how global change impacts coral reefs, through studying effects of ocean acidification on coral reef seaweeds. Although it was exhausting, it was well worth the trip to the east coast in the height of the beautiful summer!