Monday, November 18, 2013

The Good, the (not so) Bad, and the Money

Lets begin this blog by saying what a failure this blog has already been. I'm not a fan of typing and i don't have a sharp silver tongue that sweeps all the ladies off their feet and gets me everything I want. I'm not a lyricist that's good with words at all, so i figured i would try to make and post a video blog. A video blog would show my true emotions and feelings about our trip to GSA and help me keep my thoughts more organized and less chaotic. The issue with the video blog idea is that despite numerous attempts at uploading my video blogs, they continuously failed to load and could not be opened or viewed. So here I am once again, forced to attempt to portray my feelings and emotions with black and white ink behind the keys of my dusty keyboard. None the less, i shall prevail and talk about my wonderful experiences at the Geological Society of America. I loved this conference for 3 major reasons and had only one dislike. So lets dive into it elementary school style with a simple 1, 2, 3 list. 

1) The opportunities to learn at GSA were massive and i seized many of these opportunities. the first session of the conference i learned about how other students learn. There are a number of colleges around the nation that teach all of their classes on a block schedule and it seems like an awesome way to learn. (This feels so bland, i put so much emotion into the video describing this that if the director of the notebook saw my video blog he would cry) I spent about an hour after the day ended talking to the lecturer  Dr. Robert C. Thomas, a Professor of Geology at the University of Montana Western about the block program and its pro's and con's. I also spent the day learning about the history of the Rocky Mountains  water in space, and metal alloys. All of the previous mentioned topics i had never learned anything about, so my mind is now greatly expanded. GSA gave me a chance to learn on my own as well. A lot of the sessions i attended i knew little to no background knowledge of the topic at hand. Instead of sitting like a bump on a log, i decided i would take key words they used, like alloy or volatile and do research of my own to find out what they were and how they are used. By doing this (with the help of my smartphone) I was able to learn about science stuff that a lot of people probably never will learn in their lives. I was able to do a lot of this self learning when we attended the Denver Museum of Nature and Science,  a museum i had visited 3 or 4 times before (since i hail from Colorado Springs) but had never really learned anything from. GSA inspired a thirst for knowledge in me that i took to the museum and tried to absorb as much knowledge as i could while there. Not to mention, i consistently ran into a class from my high school that was there as well so i got to see a lot of old friends and teachers that i had not seen in a while. One of those friends is my sister, who i had no idea was at the museum that day until i ran into her. The learning environment at GSA was incredible. 

2) GSA gave me a sense of hope, confidence, and direction. Going into the conference i had no idea what i wanted to do with a Geo-science degree. Thanks to one session on petroleum and natural gas i believe i now want to work toward going into the Fracking business. America is built on oil, America is addicted to oil, and with that being said I want to be part of a group that either helps america economically by finding more efficient  safe ways to get the oil we need, or be part of a group that helps us get off our addiction by finding alternative energy methods. The session on Fracking was the best session of the conference by far. I took over 6 full pages of notes during the lectures. The Fracking session really sparked my interest, an interest i would not have unless i had attended GSA. 

3) The social benefits of attending GSA were outstanding. I got to meet people from all over the United States and from all over the world for that matter. I also got to experience the city life of Denver. Even though i grew up just an hour south of Denver my whole life, i had never really spent much time in the big city. It was awesome to get to experience the culture and liveliness of the big city, something that us country folk here at Chadron don't get to see every day. The homeless people we interacted with every time we walked somewhere were also awesome to talk to. A lot of them are in dark places and just liked to have someone to talk to. I was scary at first, talking to a man who wears raggity cloths and is drunk at 3 in the afternoon but my fear faded fast and soon i enjoyed their company and stories. The friends i made at GSA are awesome too. The group i traveled to Denver with, i had hardly ever spoken to any of them in my life. By the end of the conference, i felt like i had made a solid group of friends who i now have great memories with and can talk nerdy talk with. It was an awesome experience!

Life also has its negativity, so here are the negatives from GSA

1) I spent to much money on food

GSA was an awesome, inspiring time. I hope i can raise the funds to attend GSA in Vancouver next year, because if that conference is half as good as this one, i'm in for a great treat.

-Nathan Lee Still

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Trip Around the Earth, Planets, Stars, and Back Again.

Recently I had the great opportunity to attend the Geoscience Society of America (GSA) held in downtown Denver, Colorado. Before we decided to make the near six hour trip to make it to the convention center we were told to write our experiences we would have, what we would learn, and what we would take away from the conference. This is my attempt to reflect my experiences while in Denver. Hope you enjoy.

          We all piled in the cars, half awake, leaving trails of our breath in the morning air. After a little organization of everyone Dr. Leite gave our van life and we pulled out of the Math and Science parking lot. The van rumbled out of Chadron, Nebraska and we were off for our four day lecture series. But, the talks would not start once we reached our destination.

          Almost as though the conversation was written upon an itinerary, all of the passengers of the car began talking about different fields of science. An orchestra of thoughts, ideas, experiences, and evidences of different discussions that ranged from dinosaurs to the very tips of our universe. I soon realized that while I was going to be listening to experts from across the world speak on their specialties, I would also be having a sort of warm up in this van that was seating max occupants. Listening to what fueled the imaginations, the child-like love of science, that everyone in that van shared. 

          Our discussions lead us into topics that I had heard of, researched, and some of the impromptu lectures went so far over my head that all I could do was listen and try to catch what I know. More than likely, pass out on the seat in front of me to be unavoidably awoken by a heated discussion or a pot hole that Dr. Leite could not avoid. This process was recycled over and over with different discussions of many fields of science until we could see dancing about the horizon Denver’s skyscrapers, fingers that reached into the sky and played amongst the clouds.

          After some traffic, a parking garage that made us feel like a turn table with the many loops, and a quick walk we were on the bottom floor. We crossed a few streets and train tracks and we were out front. We were greeted by a large blue bear that was peeking into the windows of the second floor of the conference center. This, of course, would be our meeting spot for the duration of the event.

          We all gathered together and proceeded inside. We headed down a few stairs, walked to a booth that had our letter of our last name, and were given a name tag, a bag, and an itinerary that was larger than some of my textbooks for my courses. I thumbed my own book and flipped through pages upon pages of lectures, events, and highlighted speakers. A few moments I had found the lecture series and room that I would be calling my classroom for the next few days.

          After all of us had condensed from the other vehicles and retrieved our items we made plans to meet up at the big blue bear (of course) in a matter of hours. We split apart like bowling pins, flying to all corners of the convention center. Each of us hunting the lectures that interested us, and with the plethora of talks we had a lot to choose from.

To some that was the Earth History and how the world had gotten to where it is today. A few attending the talks of paleontology that show how the lives that had come before us were born, lived, died, and preserved so that we may get to see glimpses of the shadows of the stories they told. I had made my way to room 201 where the Interplanetary Sciences were discussing future applications that will be used when mankind will one day reference Earth as our first home. One or two went to lectures that were designed to inform the proper retrieval of the resources and the black blood our world runs on: oil. Some still went to lectures that were designed with the daunting, and apparently somewhat controversial, task of opening the eyes of students to see all of these avenues of life, and not just to know about them, but to understand them.

I then proceeded down the corridors of the massive building to find the room that I was looking for.  I followed a barrage of arrows with numbers above them, striding through halls with people on every side, discussing the science of the world around us. I swam in the sound of periodic clapping resonating all around me from the galleries of lecture rooms that gave the ambience of a hard summer rain on a metal roof. I had finally found my way into the projector lit room. A podium at the front of the sea of chairs of which around forty to fifty people who sat, stood, and leaned to listen to what the man at the front was saying.

The first discussion that I got the honor to listen to was a study that was being conducted to find exactly how much water was on the lunar surface. This is paramount for supporting Human life and having a source of fuel to give life to our means of transportation from one place to the other. The lectures that were presented were only about twelve minutes long, while others in the large ballrooms could take anywhere from half an hour to hours. However I don’t want to diminish the scope of the other lecture rooms as they were also very great. After the talks a few questions would be asked. These would range in the honest question that were used to gain more information on the subject, to test the speaker on his knowledge of his topic, or an out-right attack designed, not to test the speaker, but to relieve him of all credibility and publicly humiliate him or her.

Throughout the days at the conference I attended lectures about the lunar saturation of water, location, and harvesting. In other lecture series was the mapping of interplanetary bodies and the formations such as volcanoes, meteor impacts, and sedimentology. Some even went into the details of colonization projects and bringing asteroids into Earth’s atmosphere for mining operations. Shortly after were the effects of meteorite impacts on planets besides Earth and how to characterize these sometimes super massive interplanetary explosions. Moons of our galaxy and the effects of tidal forces, water sources, shielding from meteorites, mineral gather, and so much more. I would continue, but I believe that suffices in your understanding of how much of a science geek I am.

I took a lot of knowledge from this college excursion to Denver to be a part of a community that I could never have imagined. While the lectures were very informative, for the most part, the people there were even more so. I have learned a few things that I believe are important from the observation of the people that attended this conference. As I walked from one lecture hall to another during the breaks or sometimes just the monotony of a lecture in my room I observed all of the men and women that were in attendance. This is what I have gathered, broken down for your convenience.

1.)  Geologists are the trending part of the physical science department. I mean this not in the way that the department is growing and is a large trend. No. I mean this in the sense that wherever I looked 90% percent of the computers in use were Macs, plaid shirts comprised of earth tones, and if you were a man you best have a beard, large brimmed hat, long wavy hair, or dressed as though you just came down from camping on a mountain. These men and women are the hipsters of the Physical Science Departments.

2.)  Members attending were wearing the same type of clothing. As I was walking by men and women were swarming all around me I thought I may be attending a showcase for North Face clothing line. The runway being the conference in its entirety. Backpacks, coats, hats, lanyards, and other garments all embroidered with the North Face logo to show that this man or woman does not mess around when it comes to warmth and comfort amidst rock collecting.

3.)  Geologists love beer. This could not be more evident than the fact that this was the 125th anniversary of the GSA conference. How do you celebrate this? A nice wine? Maybe Champagne all around? How about some whiskey to really get the night going?! Nope. The Field Assistant was an ale that was created special for this event, and upon registering you are given a certain number of beer tokens in order to receive this beer daily. This was promptly thrown out the preverbal window as after the second day you were allowed as many free beers, often times the server handing you one for each hand. This led to some rather interesting conversations to be had amongst the scientists there.

4.)  But most importantly, the atmosphere was thick with the rapid discussions, idea creation, sharing, and loving of the scientific world. I have never been to such a place that I felt as though I was more at home than in a conference center filled with nearly 15,000 strangers.

But I was also honored to be able to share this experience with my professors and friends old and some new. While in Denver we dined at some very interesting places, had some heart to heart discussions, laughed at stories, and joined together on new experiences. We even got to celebrate the 21st birthday of one of our own to which that night will not be forgotten, I am sure.  From riding a bus to see where it would end, to being mesmerized by the collection of exhibits at the Museum of Nature and Science, to the discussions that went on until three in the morning they were all cherished times that will not be shortly forgotten.

I have to give thanks to Chadron State College for allowing me and my fellow students to go on this professional journey. This involvement in a community such as this has really shaped what I hope to do in the future and shown me other directions that I can go once I graduate. Thank you to Dr. Leite and Jen Balmat for chaperoning all of us crazy people and giving help when needed. But a special thanks to everyone who went for shaping such fantastic memories.

Best Regards and Blessings of Fair Winds,

Nathan Pindell

Thursday, November 7, 2013

People and Science

      The GSA conference was a good time. I think we all thought so. Honestly when we set off, I didn't know what I had gotten myself into. I was a little miffed that the attendance ticket alone was $150, because I'm just a broke college student. After we got to the convention center, however, I got quite a bit less miffed. I was handed what looked like a text-book from the man behind the counter and I asked Jen what it was. "The itinerary," she said. I was shocked, to say the least.
       Things definitely started looking up after this, because I finally felt like my money was well spent, and I even felt stupid for ever having thought otherwise. We spent the first and second days going to lectures and the beer garden which followed, and we learned so much our heads nearly burst.
      Something that surprised me both about GSA and our own group was the camaraderie that pervaded everything. It was clear from jokes people made from the podium and from conversations I accidentally dropped eaves on that GSA is a tight-knit community, everyone knows someone, and everyone respects each other. Our own group definitely saw some friendships blossoming, and altogether we had a fantastic time together.
         Aside from all the soft and gooey human interaction stuff, there was also science. There was science in abundance, and I don't think I've ever felt the strange combination of belonging and perplexity anywhere or anytime else in my life. The atmosphere of intellectualism was astounding, and the topics were often completely over my head. The second day I stayed most of the day in a room on arthropod paleontology, and I was fascinated by the cutting edge research and the specificity of the topics. One other thing I liked about GSA is that I learned I have interests in subjects I had no clue even existed. 

     It was truly worth $150, at least.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

GSA and SVP What I learned

In addition to the 125th GSA conference i also attended the 73rd meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
I went to many talks at GSA one session I went to was themed on Precambrian rocks and I thought that the use of zircon crystals to date rocks was very interesting. there was also a session devoted to the future of geology and the role museums play in teaching the general public about geology. One poster that really interested me was called On the Origin of Perissodactyls. Perissodactyla is the order of ungulates that contains horses, rhinoceroses and tapirs. The poster described how the diversity of the species in this order changed over time. It also explained the changes in the animals over the course of their evolution such as tooth morphology and changes in the skeleton.
I found many more interesting posters and talks at SVP since paleontology is my main interest. Two posters really caught my interest one that showed evidence that the American Alligator evolved from ancestors that were specialists even though the alligator is a generalist. this was interesting because usually the specialists die out because they cannot exploit as many food resources as the generalists can also usually after an extinction event generalists evolve into specialists to take advantage of recently opened niches, but here was an example of the opposite the specialist did not go extinct and evolved into a generalist. The other showed the injuries most commonly sustained by Smilodon fatalis and Canis dirus compared to the hunting style of both species. S. fatalis had injuries focused more on the post cervical part of the skeleton and in particular the lumbar region of the spine in C. dirus most of the injuries are to the cranial, cervical, sacral, and appendage parts of the body which matches the hunting style of each S. fatalis ambushing and wrestling their prey and C. dirus chasing prey. 
There were many experiences on this trip that did not come from the conference such as money management if you do not manage money or time well you will end up spending more than you have on food and souvenirs or items you think you should get to help in school even so I would recommend to anyone interested in geology that did not go on this trip to go on one in the future you learn a lot and it helps in organizing and solidifying information you already had.

A Trip to be Remembered; Questioned

The 125th GSA trip at the convention center in Denver proved to be helpful in many ways. First off, I was able to take away many learning outcomes from the trip. Some were geology related, others not.

Talks went on during the morning and afternoon sessions. They were about various fields of geology (mostly in-depth and specific) but applied towards teaching and other professions as well. A few of the talks that made a big impact on me, which is directly related to how much I understood, was a talk on "Peak Oil". Being something that I am interested in, I was shocked when I listened to some of the statistics and predictions about natural gas and its future. There are several different dynamics between the oil industry, marketing, and the consumers. However, these are unstable relationships and the market can become unpredictable.

Other conferences over glaciers, petrology, structural geology and various others proved to be useful to my learning as well.

I purpose a basic question of detail of analysis. I personally found talks that were more "inviting" towards undergraduates to be learning specific. Other talks on detailed studies, graphs, charts, etc... seemed to slip over my head.

Were most of the talks/poster presentations understood by colleagues? In what detail?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Welcome to CSC Geoscience at GSA/SVP

We're off to a great start with 12 CSC scholars on their way to two national conferences. GSA in Denver (Oct 27-30) and SVP in Los Angeles (Oct 30-Nov 2). Hoping we learn lots about our profession!

Since the college is spending lots of money to give us this opportunity, we owe it to the rest of the scholarly community to share what we learn. That's what this blog is for. All conference participants can and should post--ten times a day if you wish, but at least once--and tell us about your personal experience. We do have official learning outcomes:

After completing this experience, students will:
a.      Reflect positively on the value of conference attendance and membership in promoting leadership and professional growth
b.      Report one or more topics or areas of research that they would like to learn more about

c.       Employ, with the help of faculty mentors, methods to motivate the learning and professional development of students who did not attend the conference
So, there's your template. But feel free to respond to the experience in any way. A the end we will share this blog with the college administration and hopefully this message will be clear: "This really is high-impact learning. Let's do this again!"

Here's who is attending the conference(s). (Google adds tags if it knows you)

Ben Brechtel
David Draper
Margaret Darnell
David Keim
Michael Leite
Colton Snyder
Nathan Still
Jessie Thalheim
Steve Welch

By the way, if you have your own blog, you can use the space here to link to it.