From Saturday, Nov. 4, to Wednesday, Nov. 7, students and faculty of the Department of Geosciences attended the Annual Geological Society of America Meeting and Exposition in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Six faculty members and eight students presented their research at the meeting.  Students and faculty created presentation posters which contained the abstract of their research, methods, results and figures explaining their work.  Dr. Bradley Deline, a professor of the Department of Geosciences specializing in paleontology, said that the conference is a way to “get exposed to people really excited about science.  Half of it is getting the science out there and the other half is socializing within that community.”

On a normal conference day, the attendees and presenters can listen to talks by geological professionals, meet other students and professionals, hear small presentations, attend special interest group meetings, buy gifts from vendors and browse booths for graduate schools and different organizations.  The poster presentations are usually followed by free beer. Deline said, “To get more people to the posters, they have free beer tickets, which is hilarious, but it works.”

Deline presented his research on crinoids, marine animals that have been around since 450 million years ago and are related to starfish.  Deline has attended the GSA conference every year for about five years and several regional conferences as well.  Deline said that the conference is a useful tool for both students and professionals.  “For student presenters, it is an important step in understanding the vast array of things being done in geology, meeting people and networking.  Once you become a little more established, it’s very useful in having business meetings for different societies, planning out future research endeavors, showcasing your students’ research and meeting up with friends from graduate school.”

Llew Kinison, a student who attended at the GSA conference, also presented research on crinoids and has worked closely with Deline on this project for over a year.  Kinison said that this was his first experience presenting at a conference and that he enjoyed it.  “People were really friendly. They wanted to know what it was that I had done and when I told them, they seemed to like my work even if it wasn’t their specialty. I just felt really welcomed,” said Kinison.  The conference also didn’t just include geological research. Kinison said there were also talks on sub-specialties like forensics, geoarchaeology and climatology. “One thing that really struck me was that it was so interdisciplinary,” he said, “I thought it was just going to be about the geosciences, but it really turned out to be a much more well-rounded conference.”

Beth Perison-Parrish, one of the students that attended at the GSA conference, presented her undergraduate research on coastal vulnerability of small islands of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Perison-Parrish and her research partner, Ryann Runyan (who also attended the GSA conference) have been working on this project for Dr. David Bush of the Department of Geosciences since April 2010.  She has attended and presented at four geological conferences, at both the regional and national levels.

Perison-Parrish said that her experience with undergraduate research in geology was unique.  “The professors in this department treat us like graduate students,” she said, “You are expected to conduct a review of the literature, independently come up with relative research, work with an advisor to develop a research question and then decide what types of data are necessary to describe that question.”  She said that she would recommend doing undergraduate research and presenting at conferences to other students. “It makes you look so much more organized, self-motivated and team-oriented than people who don’t have that experience.  If you are interested in something, it’s a great way to become professionally acquainted with that subject.”