Monday, May 25, 2009

2009 AGU Joint Assembly in Toronto: Day 2

Today started out with the early (7AM) student breakfast, in which we got to meet some of the AGU big shots. Our table seemed particularly attractive, since I was chatting with the president, president-elect, the manager of AGU's education and career services, and one of the Union's lobbyists. I immediately discovered a few connections to my previous job, and was steered toward the only volcanologist present, who turned out to be Steve Sparks, who was my advisor's advisor.

All in all, it was a very successful morning, and I even got a chance to mention (in response to the general call for concerns from students) that AGU's policy on student travel grants is somewhat unfair. (You can only apply for a grant if you're a presenting author, and only if it's your first meeting, which means I wasn't eligible for this meeting and won't be for any others.) I will be very happy if this is changed, and from the conversation, I think there's a good chance it will be. This is especially important, given how expensive it is to attend an AGU meeting (even as a student), and how few perks there are (no free coffee or snacks for anyone, for example, which I think is a little cheap for how much the meeting costs).

Today's lecture lineup wasn't quite as engaging for me as yesterday's. I stopped in on a talk about multi-melt origins for anorthosite, one about the Fawakhir Ophiolite in Egypt, and the Daly Lecture, which was given by Mark Harrison about Hadean zircons. This was probably the most interesting of the bunch; Dr. Harrison suggested that zircons found in conglomerates in the Jack Hills, Western Australia challenge the prevailing belief that the Hadean was a hot, dry, water-less period in Earth's history. He gave as lines of evidence high delta O-18 values, which he said suggests clay protoliths, and inclusions of quartz, feldspar and muscovite in the zircons, which suggest crystallization from hydrous melts. The ultimate model was of a sediment cycling system that involved liquid water, and possibly some sort of subduction and tectonic activity (although crustal recycling has probably erased much of the early crustal record). One of the UB students working in paleoclimatology also gave a very good talk about the records of advance and retreat on Greenland glaciers in the morning; it was nice to hear about non-volcanology research in my department, since the research groups are often pretty insular.

The afternoon I spent sightseeing in the city. I'm becoming rather fond of it; Toronto is like a shorter, greener version of New York City, and everyone seems to have been careful to preserve a little open space here and there. I saw the headquarters of the original Hudson River Company (which boasts a pedigree even older than my alma mater), the old City Hall, a number of cathedrals, the biggest shopping mall I've ever been in (and most of it underground!), and some really inspired architecture along the way. I also wore my feet out with all the walking, and I'm very glad that the hotel has a hot tub.

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