Kelsey Jenkins’s Geological Society of America 2021 Meeting Experience

Kels here – 

Group photo of Yale students at GSA conference.

I had been up since 2 am Saturday morning in order to travel from Connecticut to New York in order to make a 7:35 am flight. I was sleep-deprived, but so extremely excited to attend my first in-person conference since 2019. GSA doesn’t typically attract the largest cohort of vertebrate paleontologists, but this year promised larger attendance. Everyone is eager to see each other in person again since the pandemic stole so much time away from us.

At 7:34 am, a flight attendant announced, “This morning’s flight has been canceled due to no pilot.”

I’m not kidding. This happened. Was this some sort of ironic joke? My lab mates and I had been planning this trip for months! We had meetings to schedule flights together, book the Airbnb, practice our presentations…

All our flights were scattered to new times that day, but between the rebookings and confusion between airlines, our rag-tag crew of grad students made it to Portland more-or-less in one piece.

VooDoo Doughnut

Again, we were up by 7 am the next morning to go straight to the conference. Portland’s convention center where the conference was held is massive, and I found myself running back-and-forth to catch all the brilliant talks and posters. GSA even held poster and talk sessions on the topic of virtual paleontology, where my own poster on digital fossil reconstruction was featured. Listening to so many clever scientists discuss how they tackle issues related digital methods revealed to me just how quickly paleontology is propelling into state-of-the-art techniques. It felt good to be surrounded by all the science. It felt even better to hug my friends for the first time in years.

There were so many other highlights of the meeting. First, I met people I had only previously met in video calls and Twitter. Turns out they’re pretty amazing people, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to discuss our interests over lunches and dinners. Second, I received amazing feedback on my own poster, and I’m thrilled by the collaborations that the presentation sparked. Third, I have to admit I stepped away from the convention center to visit the Oregon Zoo, Powell’s Books (the largest independent bookstore in the world), and VooDoo Doughnut. What’s the point in holding conferences in fun places if you don’t explore just a little, right?

Lamprey from the Oregon Zoo

To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure I’d care much for GSA beforehand. I thought it might not be the best fit for my research interests. GSA and the many wonderful people who attended proved me wrong. I anticipate attending this conference many more times in the future, and I’m so honored that the Tilly Edinger Travel Grant offered me the opportunity to do so.

Me holding a 3D printed reptile skull to use at my poster presentation

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