Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hawaii Ecosystem Conference, Day 1

Today we listened to 43 talks in 6 hours. That’s a lot of talks, and a lot of sitting listening to talks. But they were AMAZING!! The research being done around the Hawaiian islands is absolutely fascinating and covers pretty much every ecological niche imaginable. It’s crazy seeing so many of the concepts from Earth Systems and Human Biology being applied in the field – things like the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) were very theoretical when I learned about them in class, but researchers are using that to measure photosynthetic properties of regenerating native ecosystems. It’s been a really good experience to see all the options available for research, and a lot of the phD students who presented had really creative and inventive experimental designs. This is giving me fodder for any potential honors thesis or masters work! Yay!

I met several other Stanford students who are working on the island – Eric is working under Peter Vitousek in Volcano village, which is about 30 miles south of Hilo in Volcano’s National Park. He and I took a geology and earth systems class together so it’s really nice to see him here! I had no idea he was on the island. And he’s also going to Australia!! I also met Eugene and Linley, who are working with a Stanford phD on the Kona side of the island. Linley was in HumBio with me so we commiserated on that experience and then celebrated the end of the core.

Jake and I plan on staying with Eric in Volcano village one weekend since there’s a hostel right by the volcano crater and you can see the lava flowing at night which would be AMAZING. It’s also possible to hike to the coast and see the lava flowing into the ocean! So hopefully we’ll be able to see at least one of these phenomena, if not both. And we also want to go to Kona as soon as I get scuba certified to do a night dive with the manta rays. Apparently they’re huge and it’s an indescribably incredible experience, so I plan on making that happen if it all possible.

I also saw Don Swanson give a talk! He was one of the lead volcanologists at Mount St. Helens – and for those of you who don’t know, I just finished taking a class focusing on Mount St. Helen’s 1980 eruption. So listening to him speak was really amazing and unexpected, and I tried to find him after but he split as soon as he finished his presentation. I don’t think he cared much about all the ecological mumbo-jumbo. But maybe I’ll run into him when I go to Volcano Ntl. Park! He also had an awesome beard. I think it’s a requirement for all major volcanologists to have facial hair – Rick Hobblit, another volcanologist from Mount St. Helens, had a fabulous mustache when we visited him on our class field trip. So go figure, the trend continues to prove itself true.

After the conference, we went to the beach and had a fantastical Hawaiian dinner with the rest of the conference attendees. The food was really good, there was tasty beer, and live Hawaiian music. All in all, it was a really nice mingling event and a great way to get to know the other interns and researchers we’ll be working with. And since the community of Hawaiian researchers is pretty small, everyone knew everyone else and it was a very friendly dinner! We also got to see the sky change colors as the sun set and the clouds rolled in. It was great, and I topped it off with a handful of peanut and peanut butter M&Ms when I got back. I’m really looking forward to our research, and Tad mentioned that we’ll also be trading around interns so that we can see other people’s projects and other interns can see ours. This means that Eric, Linley, and Eugene will probably be around for a couple days in the field, and Jake and I will get to see what they’re up to at their respective locations. I love this job! It’s SO GREAT!

1 comment:

  1. The sad part is you hung out with more Stanford people today than I did...and I'm at Stanford