Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The poster as an indispensable tool of science

when I was in 8th grade I put posters up in my room. I think I had one or two of various fighter planes (I did, after all, have aspirations of becoming a fighter pilot. After Top Gun, what 13 year old boy didn't?). I also had a few of scantily clad ladies (I did, after all, have aspirations of one day knowing a scantily clad lady). Somewhere around 17 or 18, however, the poster fell out of favor in my life. Sure, I still have a few covering various subjects. I think one shows pictures of all of the sharks found in North American waters. Another one, I think, has a pretty picture of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary on it. The key point here is that they are all in storage, and none of them ever spent significant time actually hanging on a wall.

All of this has now changed. As it turns out the poster is a critical communications tool for scientists, and vast rooms are devoted to posters at conferences highlighting the most cutting edge science. I must admit that I find it vaguely ironic. Here are people who do work that most of us can not understand, using a communications tool only ever so slightly evolved from the tri-fold science fair cardboard display. But since I am doing my best to fit in as a scientist right now I've jumped right on the poster bandwagon. Just a few weeks ago I presented my first poster at the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Ecosystem Conference in Seattle, WA. I walked into the big poster room, and tacked my creation up right next to about 150 other posters. Then a bunch of people come in the room and walk around, sometimes with coffee or a beer, look at your poster, and nod and "hmmmm" sometimes. As it turns out, some really nice and inspirational discussions can emerge out of starting at a poster with another person, which made me understand, perhaps just a little, why science has opted to keep them around.

And for those of you who weren't there, here is my poster. The real thing is, at this very second, actually hanging up on a wall right next to me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Ultimate Pet Rock: Continued

I've just returned from about 2.5 weeks up in Washington. In doing so I managed to avoid the wet weather that has been going on down here in Cali and get some nice PNW sun. The trip was productive and, in addition to getting the wave gauge in place I also spent a week on the beach tracking rocks and attended the Puget Sound/Georgia Basin conference (more on that in a future post).

A few lessons: First, working along during winter night-time low tides is no fun. A huge thank you to Adrian Shulock, Suzanne Gray and Lindsey Schroemen-Wawren for coming out with me on Saturday and Sunday. My PIT tag reader has a little beeper on it that chimes when I find a rock. During the first four days when I was working alone the repeated ringing when I found tags was starting to drive me a bit batty. Having another soul out there is the antidote.

Next lesson: In the winter, rocks move further and get buried deeper than in the summer. We had a big winter swell, and it makes a big difference. Following rocks around gets a lot harder during a swell.

Despite the hardships I think i collected a nice data set - this week will be spent combing through it in the hopes that this is true.


Monday, February 2, 2009

No Wave Shall Go Unmeasured

Just another axiom of mine. No, just joking. But it is ever so abundantly clear that if one is going to follow rocks around on the beach one should measure the waves. Seems like they might have to do with things. We've been talking with UW faculty Dr. Andrea Ogsten for some time, and she was kind enough to offer us space on one of her upcoming cruises to Elwha. Last week, we got the call so myself and (thank goodness she could help me) Joanne suddenly went into hyper mode to put together an instrument, mooring and get it all up to Washington. In the end I had to drive up, but we put the wave gauge into the water a few days ago. With luck it is happily collecting data down there.