Thursday, 29 August 2013

Confessions of a conference attendee

Day 7: 29th August

This evening there is the sound of drums and chanting in the distance. It's all rather reminiscent of an old jungle based movie ("the heat, the flies, those damned drums!") in which the tribes are gathering for war. In reality what I can hear is the locals cheering on their beloved Fiorentina football club.
Today Emma Versteegh and I were running a session on biomineralization and biogeochemical cycling. All told it went well. Running a session is always exciting. The chief concern being whether speakers stick to time or not. At a conference with 20+ parallel sessions each comprising 15 minute talks sticking to time is paramount so that people can scuttle from session to session to try and catch different talks. All our speakers turned up and kept to time. Added to that there was an audience so all told a successful session!
We had talks on earthworm secreted calcium carbonate (obviously the highlight!), a talk on using isotopes to show that a so called "terror bird" from pre-history was probably a cute vegetarian with an over-sized beak and some interesting talks on silica in soils showing how soils are slowly being depleted of the sort of silica that is easily taken up by plants and how this might affect plant yields in the future.

Other than our own sessions highlights were a talk in which my work was cited (thank you Andy Bray) which is always good for the ego and a fun talk in which the C isotope signature of the paper that past editions of scientific journals were printed on was being analysed to investigate climate change. The journals, Nature and Proceedings of the Royal Society, have a very good age constraint and date back to the mid 1800s so are good for looking at fairly recent climate change, or will be in the method works.

There has also been time to discuss some corrections to a paper looking at the impact of CO2 levels and temperature on granule production rates by earthworms with Emma, look over a draft MSc thesis for a student and mark an MRes thesis. All very productive.


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