UCL Earth Sciences


My experience attending the GSA Connects 2022 meeting in Denver, Colorado

12 December 2022

As a naturally shy person, attending conferences and networking sounds quite daunting, but I’m extremely lucky to have amazing academic mentors who happily answer my never-ending questions.

Princess Aira-Buma-at Poster presentation GSA

Image: Princess Aira Buma-at @PrincessAiraB, author of this report, presenting her poster at the GSA Connects 2022 meeting in Denver, Colorado

Annually, the Geological Society of America (GSA) hosts a conference that is attended by thousands of geoscientists around the world, and this October (7th to 10th), I was incredibly fortunate to attend the GSA Connects 2022 Meeting in Denver, Colorado. This trip was funded through a grant awarded from The Paleontological Society to present my 3rd Year Geosciences Report (supervised by Dr Dominic Papineau) at the New Advances in Geobiology poster session. This international conference enabled me to also expand my scientific network and reinforced my research interests within Ediacaran palaeontology. 

Day 1: PBDB Student Volunteer 
Despite the 10-hour plane journey and 2AM hotel arrival, I commenced my GSA Connects experience at 7AM by volunteering as an assistant for the Introduction to the Paleobiology Database (PBDB) short-course. This workshop enabled me to gain insight on how to use and contribute to the PBDB, which was fascinating since it was a resource that greatly helped me during my Biodiversity & Macroevolutionary Patterns module.

Day 2: Sightseeing around Denver
On Saturday, travelling around Denver allowed me to recover from jetlag and mentally prepare myself for presenting. The geology around Denver was truly beautiful and I had so much fun visiting Dinosaur Ridge, Garden of the Gods and Red Rocks amphitheatre! I’m an avid palaeontologist so it was exciting to see dinosaur footprints and bones that were in-situ in the Jurassic-aged Morrison Formation. Later that evening, I attended the PaleoX Mixer at Bubba Gumps where I was able to meet fellow underrepresented palaeontologists.

Day 3: Poster Presentation and Paleontological Society Dinner
Sunday morning was when I conducted a poster presentation on my 3rd Year Geosciences Report titled “Proterozoic Diagenetic Spheroids and Connections to Chemically Oscillating Reactions”. Truthfully, I was initially very nervous, but this research is a passion of mine, so it was a valuable experience to communicate my research findings with other geoscientists. Attending this international conference was also fundamental for obtaining critical feedback for the preparation of my first-author manuscript that I have recently submitted to a journal for review. 

I then listened to various talks and visited stalls where I collected very cool geology and palaeontology related freebies! I also attended the Paleontological Society Dinner where there were so many wonderful palaeontologists. I was especially touched by seeing my mentor and fellow Filipino Gabriel Santos receiving a prestigious award for his excellent contributions to science via his palaeontological outreach initiatives: Cosplay for Science and Fossil Friday Chats. 

Day 4: Neoproterozoic-Paleozoic Seminars
On my final morning at GSA Connects, I attended the “Laying the Foundation for the Modern Earth System at the Neoproterozoic-Paleozoic Transition” technical session. I was first introduced to Ediacaran fossils during my NERC C-CLEAR research internship with Dr Emily Mitchell at Cambridge this summer, so attending these seminars further increased my enthusiasm for these enigmatic animals. I believe that the future trajectory of this field is incredibly exciting because major observations have only been known recently, so I would love to contribute my own ideas as a Precambrian researcher. 

As a naturally shy person, attending conferences and networking sounds quite daunting, but I’m extremely lucky to have amazing academic mentors who happily answer my never-ending questions. I would especially love to express my gratitude to UCL alumni Dr Rehemat Bhatia for introducing me to so many palaeontologists at GSA Connects! Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I’d highly recommend going out of your comfort zone by reaching out to researchers that you admire!