Last week I attended a conference of the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry project (IGAC) in Breckenridge, a mountain here in Colorado. Conferences are great times to reflect on the larger questions in my research field, meet other scientists, get feedback on my work and generally feel inspired.
Conferences come in all shapes and size, from the almost overwhelmingly huge American Geophysical union fall meeting with about 24,000 attendees and celebrities such as Al Gore and Elon Musk speaking, to conferences like the International Conference on Nucleation and Atmospheric Aerosols, with just a few hundred attendees and a very specific focus. IGAC is somewhere in the middle, specific enough that even though it’ single session (meaning only one talk happening at once and everyone tends to go to everything) nothing felt irrelevant, yet it was broad enough that I got exposed to research I’d never thought about before. There was also ample opportunity to catch up (scientifically and socially) with people I hadn’t seen in a while and to meet new people, which I find to be a really invigorating part of the conference experience.
There were some really interesting presentations, from air pollution, to studies of emissions in the amazon rainforest and antarctic sea-ice, to the Vice minister of the Environment of Chile talking about how they forecast and control air pollution, to David Fahey, head of the Chemical Sciences Division at NOAA ESRL where I work, speaking on the role of scientists in society. I presented some of the first result from ATom in a poster session, which I really enjoyed. Presenting such new results (we’ve only been back a month from the mission) is a great opportunity to get input from others on what took look for in the data and what modeling studies are out there to compare with.
Being located in Breckenridge, one of my favorite mountain towns here for the week was also great. Timing was perfect, as the fall colours were just at peak. I drove up early on Sunday with a colleague before the conference started and did a couple of short hikes in the area to marvel and the aspen. We were right at the base of the ski slopes, so we could run on the mountain in the mornings before sessions started and the town of Breck is really charming.