Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun with Paleontologists

Considering a situation that a friend of mine found themselves in, it reminds me of a story from GSA. The players in this are - Myself (an awestruck paleontologist, excited to meet someone famous), an initially awe inspiring Famous Vertebrate Paleontologist (FVP), and My Advisor, a famous Ichnologist:

My Advisor was talking to said FVP and introduced me. Now since my advisor is a famous Ichnologist, so mentioned FVP would obviously assume I knew nothing about verts, so that is understandable.

My Advisor: "FVP I would like you to meet my new student"

FVP: talking to me "You wouldn't know anything about me"

Myself: "Oh actually I do, I sent you an email because I really wanted to work on my PhD with you" seeing blank stare I continued "about 2 years ago. My masters is in vertebrate paleontology, but I eventually ended up in Utah"

FVP: "Oh well, I hope your having fun there"

And off he went to talk to a fellow grad student. I felt like no more than dandruff on his sleeve and he couldn't wait to leave that conversation. I found out later from my advisor that he is frequently referred to as Arrogant with a capital "A", so I don't feel as bad, but really. This is actually the impression I get from a good chunk of vertebrate paleontologists (~65%), the I'm better than you and I know everything attitude, and that was one of the reasons I decided to leave the field (at least temporarily) in the first place.

Accretionary Wedge Deadline TOMORROW!!!!

Anyone interested in joining the Accretionary Wedge this month, the extended deadline is tomorrow. You can find the original post Here at Magma Cum Laude.

What kind of Earth Science outreach have you participated in? Have you hosted a geology day at your department, given a field trip, gone to your child's/niece's/nephew's/cousin's school to do a demonstration, or sponsored an event for Earth Science Week? (This year's Earth Science Week is about Understanding Climate, so if you're a climate scientist, please chime in!) What was your favorite experience (or what funny stories came out of one that didn't go as planned)?

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Do's and Don'ts of a Professional Meeting

So when I go wandering around a professional meeting, like GSA, I see a LOT of things that I would never have done, and I also see things that I would like to never do. Unfortunately I can be a bit hyper-critical, but it is just the way my mind thinks. So here is a list of Do's and Don'ts (mostly don'ts) at a professional meeting. Now since taking pictures of talks or posters and making fun of them online is frowned upon, so there are no pictures associated with these, but trust me they happen (and most happened this meeting).

1. Never ever ever EVER put up the title in separate sheets of paper taped together. I mean really, are we in kindergarten?

2. And while we are on that topic, this is the modern day, don't put up separate sheets of paper with colored construction paper behind each part. Print out a full poster like everyone else. It's not difficult technology, learn it.

3. Too much text. I saw some posters that had to shrink down the font to fit in all their text. Nobody is going to read that, nobody. Cut it down and make it larger.

4. Title size. The way I walked through the poster session is I looked at the titles and any that seemed interesting I stopped at. You should make the font size of the title LARGE and the length of the title SHORT. That way people can get the gist of it as they walk by.

5. Vivid colors. Make your poster stand out. Use large pictures. Make people want to look at it. Your in a session with 100's of other posters. Make yours different.

6. This one is just my feelings. Try to use more technology. I saw one with a projector, this is new and different. Try something that is interesting to get people's interest. Add some showmanship.

1. Make yourself presentable. Make it look like you want to be in the front of the room. Exude confidence. I understand this isn't easy for everyone but practice will always help.

2. Use PowerPoint to work with you. If you want to highlight something, use PowerPoint to emphasize it. Shakily pointing the laser pointer at the screen does nothing to help your talk. Especially if you are nervous and you can't hold the pointer steady.

3. Busy slides - there are 3 versions this:
A. Too many graphs. I saw one slide with >20 graphs on one slide. What are you kidding me? Be realistic on what people will be able to understand
B. Too many pictures. 6 pictures on one slide is just as bad as too many graphs. Break them into different slides so people can actually see what you are looking at.
C. Too much text. People are NOT going to read a busy slide. They just aren't. Don't kid yourself that this info is important, it doesn't matter. Give the main points and extrapolate in your talk.

4. Learn to title a talk. If your going to give the title of your talk as a question, MAKE SURE YOU ANSWER THE FREAKING QUESTION in the talk. Also try to make it interesting, if no one understands what you are presenting on, your likely not going to get many people listening.

5. Sound interested. You obviously think you information is interesting enough to talk about, so sound like it. Monotonous talks are just boring.

6. Don't overuse PowerPoint. Yes PowerPoint has a lot of neat features. Don't use ALL of them in your talk. The best animation you can use is just "Appear". Unless you have a reason for using a different animation don't use it. Less is more.

7. Use decent picture. I saw many talks where the person said "now you can't see such and such but it is right here" or "this sign says such and such". Take another freaking picture. You will know almost instantly if your picture is good or not, blurry or not, what you want it to be of or not. I mean really. This should be common sense.

8. Don't apologize. If you accidentally flip forward just go back. Apologizing just takes the listener out of the talk.

9. Reference Slide. I didn't actually see this one at GSA but I'm sure it was there. No one is going to sit there and go through your references. Especially if you one stay on the slide for 5 seconds. Get rid of it. Don't use it. I mean really, this should also be common sense. If you have to reference something, reference it on the actual slide where the info takes place, put it on the bottom, in a smaller font, and out of the way.

10. Don't read off your talk (updated 10-27). Two points here, don't reitterate the title of your talk, more than likely this was already announced by the person introducing you. Also don't read off the slide. The people in the audience can read (probably) so you should just highlight some points on the slide and go into depth in your talk. We are not in 2nd grade and don't need a read-a-long lesson.

That is all I can think of right now. If anyone has any other ideas, let me know and I can add them in.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Drill Rig visit

So I am currently enrolled in this class called PICP 1 (Petroleum Industry Career Path, and yes I had to look that up), offered here at the University of Utah. The class is pretty straight forward. In class 1 we learn about well logging and how to read all the scribbly lines that come back from placing large complicated devices down a little tiny hole. Well the best part of the class by far (and one of the better field trips I have been on) we went down to central Utah to look at an actual drill rig in action. Unfortunately I forgot my camera (damn it) but I did have my phone. And to my surprise the picture came out really well. So here they are:

Driving up we saw a lot of oil wells currently in production. One finishing up their drill and this one in full fledged drilling mode.

They use drilling mud which is a mixture of water and a whole lot of crap. What they do is they pump it down the drill pipeline and it shoots out through holes in the drill bit. This helps keep the bit cool and provides a way to remove all the rocks and flour produced by the rotating bit. Well if you look at the pond above you can see the surface is covered with oil and muck. What is really cool is they had not even gotten to the oil producing layers yet! This is all just stuff in the other rocks layer not worth producing.

This is an actual drill bit that they would use. I'm not sure what the black spots are though. I think they are a variety of compressed carbon but I could be wrong.

Now starting with this picture and going through the next several you will see them actually adding in a new piece of drilling pipe. One of the pictures I think I messed up the order but you get the general gist of it. They disconnect the old connection. The water rushes out that is in the pipe. They move the top piece over to a new piece of pipe. Attach it. Lift the whole thing up and add it back in to the old piece. It was awesome that we got to see this in person.

And our last stop after this we got to see the material they were drilling through and I thought this picture showed two very nice faults (and actually they may have been drilling on this very fault). The faults intersect towards the top of the picture.

Friday, October 23, 2009

GSA Days 1.5-4

Alright I posted on most of day one previously so I might as well finish that up as well as complete my analysis of the rest of GSA.

End of Day 1 - Sunday
I mentioned previously the talks on Sunday so I will jump ahead to the poster session.

There were approximately 300-400 posters on any given day of the talk. I don't know about any one else, but this is a LOT of posters to walk through. Unlike some people I don't typically pull out poster titles or abstracts prior to the meeting and go and check them out. I prefer to wander around the posters and stop and look at the ones that interest/intrigue me. There were 4 people from my department presenting posters Sunday so I stopped and talked with most of them. I was also greatly intrigued by one poster where the person put a nail into a board, but in such a way that it was impossible to take out, or figure out how it went in. So he wanted his students to come up with hypotheses on how the nail got into the board. This was to show that not everything that is impossible was created by God (or something like that). It actually had me thinking about it the next day, so I say that was a good poster. Unfortunately I didn't really see any "next-gen" posters liked I hoped to (i.e. a little more tech, a little less tape and glue).

After the poster session I went to the welcoming reception. It was rather enjoyable. I didn't look at any of the exhibitors, I just focused on finding old friends or colleagues. I actually ran into a couple of old professors from Texas Tech (my Master's school) and talked with them for a while as well as the people they were chatting with. Overall good. I got a few free beers so I think it went well. Afterwards I ended up going downtown to the Rock Bottom Brewery where I had 2 more beers. Count that 5 beers total for the night. This is important to my productivity the next day.

Day 2 - Monday
So I woke up and I felt like I had died, and after only 5 beers. I felt worse than I had in a very long time (I assume now it was something to do with the Rock Bottom beers because my stomach was off for a few days afterwards). Well I promised to be at the University of Utah booth and help set up so I got my butt up and went down to the convention hall at around 8. Well after about 1/2 an hour I realized this wasn't happening so I went back to bed. I slept until about noon when I felt much better than before and wanted to head to the lunch lecture on carbon sequestration. Hopefully this one would be much better than the last.

Can CO2 Sequestration Help Solve the Global Warming Problem?
The one really big problem I had with this talk was that the answer to the question in the title was not what the talk was about at all. Not one iota. The answer was a forgone assumption that yes it can help, and here is how we do it. Other than that pissing me off it was a rather informative talk, but one I would have preferred if they titled it the correct way, instead of misleading us.

The rest of Monday was spent wandering around the exhibit hall. I also spent some time at the U of U's school booth. And got to meet some people through my advisor that I really wanted to meet. I was given some papers of Roy Plotnick's to read as an intro to my PhD research and I thought his ideas were fantastic and unconventional and I really wanted to meet him. So it was great that I actually got to. We talked for a good 1/2 an hour, and now hopefully I have a future contact I can use.

Well this interaction also left me late to something I also really wanted to go to. The movie A Flock of Dodos was being shown from 4-6 with questions being answered by the creator of the movie as well. This movie was fantastic. I recommend it to every geologist out there as a must see. I will have future comments coming on this as soon as I can buy it and watch the entire thing. There are some very good points that I would like to pull out from there.

After this I went back to my hotel, grabbed some dinner then went out to socialize with the geobloggers. That has been recounted many times over the geobloggosphere but you can check out a photo of everyone at Callan's NOVA Geoblog.

Day 3 - Tuesday
I felt better, so I was determined to actually go to some talks since my Monday was essentially a waste. In the morning I went to a bunch of paleontology talks, but nothing that really stood out in my mind unfortunately. A lot of talks seemed to be heavily math based and although I can understand math quite well, it doesn't lead to an interesting talk to sit through.

Well around 11 I found my advisor and we talked for a bit, then I had to rush off to the ad hoc eGSA committee meeting (Of which it took me forever to find and resulted in me being 20 minutes late). Tuff Cookie from Magma Cum Laude was also involved with this. That went rather well and I will probably be talking about that later as well.

Went back to GSA and sat through more talks, as well as one by my friend in an Andes uplift section. Now I don't know much about structural geology but I thought her talk went rather well and if I understood it then it was presented clearly and concisely, as well.

Afterwards I found myself with a bunch of sedimentologists from Scotland and we ended up going to dinner at a restaurant called Farm (I think) that actually had really good food. I was quite impressed. I also had a glass of wine (my only foray into the "From Volcanoes to Vineyards" topic of GSA this year). Then went out to some random bar next door with dead body mannequins hanging from the ceiling but they were playing like polka music or some other random variety of music that really had nothing to do with the theme of the bar. Weird.

Day 4 - Wednesday
Last day so I had to pack up all my stuff. This resulted in me being late and missing a lot of the talks I wanted to attend to first thing in the morning. But I must say that the luggage service that GSA offered was fantastic. I came in, dropped off my bag, then when I had to leave, came over and picked it up. No problems whatsoever, and easy as cake. Nice job.

Went to some more paleo talks in the morning and then in the afternoon, after wandering around and getting the complete feel of any remaining exhibitors that I may have missed, I went to a session on Promoting literacy about the earth sciences. And did I feel out of place. Well they didn't have an opening talk, just 15 minutes of opening remarks. Which, I got there early for because by this point I was exhausted from a long week. Then someone in the room had us all introduce ourselves. Well I don't know about anyone else, but I really have no desire to have everyone in these talks know who I am, and man was I tired. I was not too happy about this one. That and I had to leave right after the first talk anyway.

So after this I headed back home to walk through my door roughly at about midnight Wednesday night. Overall a great meeting, saw old friends and made a lot of new ones. I will probably have one more post that is generally about the meeting but more specifically on do's and don'ts in a professional meeting.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dino Pic of the Week

After a lengthy fall break where I went home to NY and then off to GSA in Portland. This is what I come back to in my office. Yea and I thought undergrads were immature.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Portland Geoblogger Fest - 2009

So the geoblogger get together was awesome. It was great to put faces with the blogs and also to be introduced into a whole new set of blogs. So here is a compilation list of all the blogs that were represented. I will add to them if I missed any (and let me know if I did I didn't get to fully talk with everyone). The names are omitted so the people can remain safely anonymous.

Active Margin
All My Faults are Stress Related
Clastic Detritus
Dino Jim's Musings (me)
Geologic Frothings
Geology at
Highly Allochthonous
Looking for Detachment
Lounge of the Lab Lemming
Magma Cum Laude
NOVA Geoblog
Oblate Spheroid
Pooh's Thoughts (updated 10/22)
Research at a Snail's Pace
Riparian Rap (updated 10/22)
Ron Schott's Geology Home Companion Blog
Stories in Stone

So I got 18 (as of 10/22) that i can remember. Please let me know of anyone I missed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

GSA Portland - Day 1

So a summation of my first day at GSA. Hear are some of the highlights of my day:

From the Geoscience Education Talks:

She is a professor at a college who is trying to use alternative forms of teaching geology. Mainly she used a textbook, Language of the Earth, that tried to teach geology through telling stories. This is very similar to my thing of Geology through Literature. I had a pleasant conversation with her afterwards as well.

This talk was directly before mine and had me really (and I mean REALLY) nervous before I went because the titles are very similar. But as I read her abstract I got the feeling she was going in a different direction than mine. And as I watched the talk it reemphasised the point that our talks were very complimentary of each other. I don't know if she stayed to watch mine but if she did hopefully she got the same impression as well.
Next came my talk. Yea! Then after that:

This was a very interesting concept. It is a place where people around the world can submit test questions and they get reviewed and reviewed and edited until they spit out the best multiple choice test questions they can get. The neat thing about this is that they emphasise questions that are not easy to figure out if you don't know the information.

After that I left because I needed to wind down from my talk, but eventually I went to the lunch lecture.
Toward a Shared Energy Future: Carbon Sequestration and the Global Corporation

This talk I did not enjoy. I assumed it would be about carbon sequestration. And it was. A little. The feeling I got leaving was I knew nothing new at all and I felt like I just sat through a half-hour advertisement for their company ADM.

After that it was off to some paleo and some Geoscience digital innovation talks.

Rather amusing but I think he downplayed the financial aspect of some of the technological needs in his talk.
UPDATE: OK, I talked with Kyle and he was correct in stating that the finances are not as bad as I envisioned them. You just have to spend more money for the cooler stuff but the cheaper stuff will still work with just a little extra effort.

I rather enjoyed this talk. I joined Twitter then never really used it because I could not foresee an actual use for it. But he put across some pretty compelling uses in our day and age for geoscience advancements.

And the last talk of note:

This is the new Vert Paleo professor at my school and I enjoyed it. Randy always come across as a pretty laid back, easy going guy. And his talk showed that, which I think made it rather enjoyable.

So that is it from day 1. I then proceeded to the posters but I will go over that in a separate post.

Geoblogger's Social Gathering

Well the nerdery will fly tonight. Geobloggers unite!!!. See the invitation post here at the NOVA Geoblog.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

GSA Portland - Part 1

Ok, so after a stressful morning I can finally sit down and relax. I gave my presentation to a relatively packed room (keep in mind "packed" never means full at conventions because no one ever wants to sit next to someone they don't know). And I thought it went pretty well. You can check out the abstract here. Anyone who was there please let me know what you thought (good bad or indifferent). This was my first presentation at a professional meeting and I personally thought it went well, but you never know. The only real problem that I encountered was that the video clips didn't have any sound. And since I did not prepare a talk during this time I felt that that might have been awkward silence. But whatever. I'm done and can enjoy some fabulous talks by other people.

Currently I am separating my time between paleontology, geoscience education, and new frontiers on the geoscience blogosphere (AKA Web 2.0). So far so good, but I haven't spent much time in the Paleo realm, which I am headed off to now.

I do not plan on reporting a play by play of the day's events but hopefully I could give some insight on some of the talks as I go. More on that later.