Monday, November 12, 2012

SCAD (Scientific Conference Affective Disorder)

I was at a conference this weekend. I sat through a million and a half talks this weekend.  I sat through a million and a half talks about marine biology this weekend(1).  I sat through a million and a half talks about marine biology in MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA this weekend.

And not a single one mentioned this...

Thanks, Ryan, for keeping me abreast of the latest. 

Of course, conferences are great ways to get excited about all the cool work that's going on in your discipline - but they are freaking long, even when they're short, and there are all these other people there - saying stuff!   But I really feel like I should at least find a few of the fun things I heard about to share with those of you who weren't able to make it.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Mangroves are actually invasive in Hawai'i (2).  It's really somehow disarming when you find out a species that is normally of conservation concern in one (or many) place is targeted for eradication in another. Ecology is all about context, people.
  2. Concrete reef balls OR BUST! Last Christmas, a family friend gave me the awesomest gift of a donation to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, supporting oyster restoration via concrete reef balls. Robert Dunn(3) gave a talk suggesting that the use of non-calcium carbonate based substrates for making oyster reefs (like concrete) might help reduce the colonization by a boring (4) sponge. The sponge is attracted to calcium carbonate, because it eats its way through oyster shells (which are made of calcium carbonate), which is obviously bad news for oysters. 
  3. Arts and crafts are alive and well in marine ecology.  I get the greatest pleasure at seeing the creativity and ingenuity applied to ecological experiments, maybe because that's one of my favorite things about doing it. Wandering around the Home Depot, or JoAnn Fabric, looking for inspriation and trying to explain to the well-intentioned, but out-of-their-depths, customer service folks what you are trying to accomplish with the goods available for purchase at their store (5).  This weekend I saw a robot attack shark, an eelgrass bed made of yarn and polypropylene tape, a toy octopus attacking a real hermit crab. 


  1. We might have been outdanced by The Filipino Nurses Association, which was sharing the conference facility. At least their party started earlier, and they were better dressed.
  2. The irony of going to Monterey for a marine ecology conference and spending literally 96 times as much time in a conference room with my butt in a chair than I spent in the amazing local marine environment. I realize I am largely to blame for this.  It is a choice.
  3. Absolutely nobody really agrees with anyone else on ecological modelling.

Also did you know that, in places outside of Seattle, it's sometimes sunny and warm?! EVEN in November?!  I know, CRAZY! But look (figure 1), I have proof!

Figure 1.  On arrival in the bay area, I realized I had been deceived by
Seattle's plummeting descent into the dark abyss of winter (6).  It turns out
 the sun DOES still actually rise - at least in California.

References and Miscellany:
(1) Ok, fine, this might be an exaggeration. I did go for a walk on the beach one day. Also I saw a talk on efforts to conserve the California Condor, which can't, strictly speaking, be included in that number if it' s not marine. I was particularly excited to see this talk because it's one of the rare ones at this conference that isn't about benthic marine ecology. 
(2) Megsie Siple, now at SAFS
(3) For whom I can't find any direct links, sorry.
(4) Zzzzz....Right, not that kind of boring.  "Boring" meaning making holes, people! Sponges are not uninteresting, did you not just see the video I posted?!
(5) "You want to do what with orange sparkly tulle?"  But seriously, thank you to all the folks who have patiently attempted to help me.
(6) It's surprising to me that Natalie Dee isn't from Seattle. She nails it.

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