One thing I have been beyond grateful for in GPES is the freedom to select my laboratory and professor-in-charge. Research is everything here in Todai; as a Masters/PhD student, your lab will probably be where you spend most of your time at. Since arriving here and becoming a part of Dr. Yusuke Yokoyama’s lab, I’ve been given so many opportunities I didn’t expect to have as a Masters student. This year, we were privileged to attend the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) Meeting 2014 at Pacifico Yokohama. It was my First Ever Conference (though I did go for the Symposium on Polar Science at the National Institute of Polar Research last year) so apologies if I sound like a complete nooblet.
The conference showcased all aspects of geoscience, including planetary sciences, geomorphology, biogeosciences among other topics. Apart from the talks that focused on oceanic biogeochemistry, I was particularly interested in the NASA and JAXA ones. These made use of a Very Very Cool state-of-the-art hyperwall (basically a massive screen – check it out here) to detail the Even Cooler technology that goes into creating and operating the consortiums of currently orbiting satellites and the multitudes of impacts they have on earth science and human society in general. One fact I was pretty struck by was that the number of precipitation measuring instruments we have on Earth is only enough to cover 2 basketball fields. We take the accuracy of weather reports for granted but this wasn’t the case till a few years back – one actually had to look out the window to decide whether to put on wellies or flip-flops! People think space exploration has no real impact on earthly life but it really does. It’s not all astronauts vaulting through space stations singing Bowie songs…though that definitely isn’t what space exploration is about either.
Back to the conference: it’s structured like a music festival. Multiple talks proceed concurrently throughout the days in different rooms, you have to pick and choose which ones to go to. As JpGU is at its very heart a Japanese conference, most of the talks were given in Japanese; they did however have quite a few sessions in English to cater to an international audience. There are also poster presentations so that you get a quick overview of a wider variety of research without having to attend the relevant talk. Relevant organisations such as the Kochi Core Centre, Springer and even Todai had booths where you could chat with the personnel and learn more about their research and what they do, buy geoscience-related texts or even cookies that look like geological formations (I have to admit I bought the tea-flavoured cross-bedding one! Yum!). I also had a peek at a core sampled from a site that showed the geological deformation due to the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. Scary but really interesting from a scientific point of view.
On the whole, I thought it was extremely well-done and subverted the image I had of conferences being pretty stuffy and boring. It gave me an opportunity for exposure to other forms of geoscience completely outside of my research area and also to be in the company of such esteemed members of the international Earth Sciences community, many of which had a hand in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report or even the Mars Curiosity Rover. Looking forward to JpGU 2015!