December is a crazy month in the life of a student and academic – the semester is ending, finals are upon us, and everyone is scrambling to wrap up projects and papers before the holidays. As if the month couldn’t get any busier, add in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, which takes place every December in San Francisco, CA. The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest Earth and space science conference in the world, attracting nearly 24,000 attendees every year from all around the world! In other words, a swarm of geoscientists descends up on San Francisco every year, and it is always an exciting and stimulating week of science.
This conference is unique because it attracts such a wide range of scientists. The diversity of research being presented is mind-boggling – at any given time there are hundreds of talks being presented, and thousands of posters, on topics ranging from groundwater hydrology to astrophysics. It is easy to get lost, but this diversity also allows you to interact with people you might not typically encounter at more discipline-specific conferences. This creates an opportunity to explore interdisciplinary collaboration and connections across traditional research boundaries.
The fall meeting is also a great time to expand your professional network and reconnect with colleagues. After attending AGU for a few years now, it’s exciting to watch the network of people that I’ve met through the conference grow. Each year I look forward to the opportunity to hear what my friends and colleagues have been up to and where their research is going. The afternoon poster session is always a great time to catch up with people, share a delightful Anchor Steam beer, and talk about science. It’s exciting to think that the connections made over the years at conferences like AGU may someday be research collaborations!
Lastly, the fall meeting is an amazing place to be inspired and excited by new research, and get valuable feedback and ideas to move your own work forward. Every year I leave the conference with great ideas for my current projects, and a notebook of frantically scribbled notes on the million cool ideas that I had while listening to talks or talking to people at posters (half of which I can never read again, but some of which end up panning out!). For anyone needing to inject a little excitement back into their research, I highly recommend attending the AGU fall meeting. It’s a great place to be reminded of the important and innovative work being done by the Earth science community – the progress being made, and the exciting challenges to be confronted by future generations of scientists!