I really truly always mean to liveblog the conferences that I go to. Each time, I tell myself that I’m going to be on top of it, and that I’ll sum up the thoughts of the rampant livetweeting into a post each night. But then the discussions go on past the end of the sessions, and then there is dinner and the inevitable conference beer, and then more discussion, and before I know it, I realize I’d better get to bed if I want to stand a chance of making it to that really interesting-sounding 8:30 AM talk. And then I end up not blogging.
This is definitely what happened with the most recent conference I went to, the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America, which was this past 17-19 April in San Diego. I was so occupied with discussions and brainstorming and really interesting science that I didn’t even get much of a chance to explore San Diego, let alone to sit at my computer and write. But given the content of the meeting, I view this as a good thing.
I can honestly say this was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to, and for several reasons. One is just the size of the meeting (and SSA’s meetings in general): enough people for there to be a wide range of talks on varied topics, but still small enough to find everyone you might want to talk to, and with enough time for discussion. Another was that I was very excited to give my first invited talk at a major conference. Not only was my presence specifically requested, but I got to share some really exciting new results. I felt like my talk went very well, and for the rest of the meeting, people kept coming up to me to say they enjoyed the talk, to ask if I could use this modeling method to look at some other sort of problem, or to suggest things to read and look at. That was good!
The really outstanding thing about this meeting, though, was the programming and the conversation that followed. A lot of the sessions at this year’s SSA had direct relevance to the types of problems I’m working on in my own research. There was a session on determining inputs for models, and on what observational people and modeling people might want to see from each other. Since I am a modeler, and since much of my work is very sensitive to how detailed the inputs can be, this was an excellent way to start off the meeting. The following day, there was a debate on fault segmentation, how it’s defined, and how strict/permanent those boundaries between fault segments are, if they even exist. That was followed by a debate on probabilistic hazard calculation, in which defining fault segments is a major element. I look at fault geometry issues, and geometry is a possible definer of segmentation, and I hope that my work can feed into probabilistic hazard work, so it was really good to hear these debates and consider how they might inform my work. Lastly, the final day of the conference was almost completely full of all sorts of talks about the San Jacinto Fault, from observational to structural to paleoseismic. I’m currently working on the San Jacinto, so this session couldn’t have come at a better time. The discussions after this session gave me an idea for another paper, and opened the door for several possible collaborations. Extra win!
There were also two conference field trips, and I had a hard time deciding which to sign up for: one was to look at paleoseismic rupture evidence on the southern Elsinore Fault, and the other was to visit the giant shake table at UC San Diego. I ended up going on the Elsinore trip, which was excellent (though hot), and which deserves a post of its own.
I have gone to the SSA meeting three times now, and while it has always been very good, this year’s content and discussion put it up there among the best meetings I’ve ever gone to. And given all that conversation, all those talks, plus that field trip, I realize I should not feel so guilty about not liveblogging this time…
(But I do feel guilty about leaving this unfinished except for the last paragraph, then forgetting about it, and then not posting it until the middle of June. D’oh!)