AGU 2015: Big Meeting Energy, Small Meeting Feel

 Jan 11, 2016    by Adrienne Wootten

Most folks know that I’m not usually a huge fan of big meetings.  They have great energy, but there’s so much going on that you can’t see or do everything you want to.  So I have to admit that as a first time attendee to the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world, I had some mixed feelings about going.  With more than 1,700 sessions, more than 23,000 oral and poster presentations, more than 50 networking receptions, and nearly 24,000 attendees… would I really get anything out of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting?

Much to my delight, I was pleasantly surprised. The City by the Bay plays host to AGU every year, and like the city itself, the beauty behind AGU is in both the big picture and the details.  In the big picture, AGU is about Earth itself, as it brings together the scientific community from all earth/space science disciplines in one place.  That is a wonderful thing, but what pleased me more as a first time attendee was in the details.  Glancing at the program, I found many sessions that were of interest to me. Two sessions dedicated to scientist-stakeholder interactions first thing on the first day?  Works for me!

From Pier 7 on San Francisco Bay, looking back toward the city, 12/13/2015 by Adrienne Wootten.

I realized that the trick with AGU is to use the online program to find the sessions that fit your interests best. I found myself with multiple oral and poster sessions to attend because this year there was such a great collection of interdisciplinary sessions and sessions connected to decision making--for instance sessions on climate, hydrology, and ecosystem responses and climate research and decision support.  There was far too much in the different sessions for me to recap everything that I got to see and hear.  But there are a couple simple things I can say.

For those just getting off the ground in their careers, AGU is a great place to network and present their work to an incredibly diverse audience.  It was an honor for me to present my work, and trust me people will see your work.  I was in the last poster session on the last day, and I was still mobbed with people, and received lots of great feedback.  Even if you’re not presenting and you haven’t been, go!  AGU is a big meeting (and I freely admit that I actually got physically lost the first day, the meeting space is so large), but once you find the right sessions and focus groups it can give you much of the easy interaction and feel of much smaller meetings.  Big meeting energy, with a small meeting feel, that’s the reaction from this first timer at AGU, and that works for me!

Incidentally, I’ve been traveling a lot recently, and the next post you’ll see from me will give you my thoughts on another big meeting, the American Meteorological Society Meeting, which is where I am this week.

A full list of presentations by national CSC scientists can be found here:


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From the top of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, looking toward Treasure Island and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Taken 12/13/2015 by Adrienne Wootten.