The Geological Society of America (GSA) annual meeting is one of the biggest geology conferences, which is attended by over 5000 geologists every year. GSA is full of opportunities for everyone – students, academics, early career researchers, K-12 teachers as well as industry professionals. Despite the international travel restrictions, researchers located outside of the USA including students could participate in the meeting this year due to the hybrid mode of the conference. International researchers recorded and uploaded their talks and were present over the zoom platform to answer questions from the audience during their presentation timeslot. With the valuable assistance from Time Scavengers, GSA, Jackson School of Geosciences, and my Ph.D. supervisor, I could attend and present a poster on my preliminary research results at GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon. The poster was about taxonomic assessment of macrofaunal communities from the Early Jurassic of Morocco. It was my first GSA poster presentation, and I received a lot of constructive feedback on my poster. It was also good to discuss science with fellow researchers who stopped by my poster; sometimes I learned about their research, and at other times I received intriguing interdisciplinary ideas. I realized posters are an extremely effective way to receive feedback when presenting preliminary results and there is ample scope to interact with other researchers, while showcasing my research.
Apart from my poster presentation, I attended several talks. In the evenings, I visited the exhibit halls and attended receptions, which were organized by the different GSA divisions and communities within the broader GSA. My day one at GSA 2021 started with the mass extinction technical session. My research focuses on triggers and kill mechanisms associated with mass extinctions, and hence, the mass extinction session was perfect to start the conference with. I attended several other paleontology and paleoecology sessions the same day. In the evening, I explored the different booths in the exhibit halls and then attended the Geology and Society division’s social event called, “New Terranes” (formerly known as Rocks and Hops). I was the student representative of the Geology and Society division from 2018-2020, where I worked with an excellent group of geoscientists dedicated in integrating the science to the society. I met the board members with whom I worked previously, while making new connections at the reception.
I started my day two with a geochemistry session, specifically about applications of isotopes in carbon cycle and their correlation with mass extinctions. After the geochemistry session, I went to another session on trace fossils. In the afternoon, I attended a technical session on geoscience education. It was an interactive session, where there was active audience participation, for example, for one of the talks we (the audience) were divided into small groups to answer how a mountain belt evolved tectonically. During another presentation, we interacted with people sitting next to us to understand the survival and extinction of reef ecosystems. By collaboratively working through each of the 15 minutes presentations, I could effectively learn about topics outside of my research area by applying the hands-on techniques as demonstrated by the speakers. After the technical sessions, I attended the “GSA International” reception. The GSA international division works to establish collaborative relationships with GSA and other scientific societies worldwide. Anyone could be a member of the division, including international researchers who work worldwide or in the US as well as US researchers who work internationally. There were delegates from Nepal, Egypt, Morocco, Chile, Colombia, and from different US universities at the reception. Apart from scientific knowledge, I also got an opportunity to learn about the work and social cultures of the different countries. There were delegates from the GSA foundation and Fulbright Scholarship Commission as well. It was great to know about the amazing geoscience work the division does such as holding conferences, workshops, and lecture sessions globally. In addition to the GSA Geology and Society and the GSA international reception, I attended the Jackson School of Geosciences friends and alumni event. It was my department’s reception, where I interacted with recent graduates and alumni of my department.
In addition to the paleontology and geoscience education sessions, I attended the Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) session, where representatives from different organizations participating in the URGE program presented about their institute pods and their plan forward. Overall, although the number of people were comparatively lower than other years, it was a successful meeting. There were plenty of technical sessions to stay updated on the state-of-the-art research, as well as ample opportunities to meet new scientists to enhance one’s professional network.