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A COSEE Participant Looks at Ocean Sciences 2010

I love attending the Ocean Sciences conference. From the outside, the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Oregon looks simple, sleek and unassuming. Inside, the world of ocean sciences has gathered in an explosion of ideas, technology, and a heady mix of PowerPoint presentations and Starbucks coffee. Walking the halls I hear conversations in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. Like channel surfing on the radio, I get snippets of one group’s issues with their CTD data, a graduate student getting last minute advice on her presentation, while a third group discusses satellite data on phytoplankton blooms. It is über-nerd nirvana for all things marine, and I have come home.

The COSEE Network had a very large and visible presence at this year’s meeting. There were too many sessions and talks for me to attend every one of them, but from what I have heard from others and experienced for myself, the COSEE sessions were very well received. One only needed to be in the Wednesday evening poster session for a visual indicator. The row I was in was almost all COSEE, and traffic was brisk. As COSEE staff stood by their posters, the enthusiasm and need for what we do was a little surprising at times. I was presenting a poster on COSEE-West’s online workshops and was a little startled when a scientist popped out from the crowd in front of me said, “I need to talk to you about this!” It turns out she was trying to get more of her institution’s courses online and was looking for ideas on format and platforms.

This need was further demonstrated at a Wednesday luncheon organized by Janice McDonell (COSEE-Networked Ocean World), Linda Duguay (COSEE-West) and Bob Chen (COSEE-New England), for scientists looking for help with broader impacts activities. Various COSEE staff were on hand to talk to people looking for help with a number of different efforts, from after-school program involvement to podcasts and multi-media, to online workshops and blogging. The goal was to encourage scientists to reach out to a broader audience and to help them in that endeavor.

One of the main take-home messages from all of the COSEE presentations and posters was to let scientists know that there are many different ways of getting engaged with a broader audience, and that the COSEE Network is available to help them. The emphasis was on how scientist engagement with broader audiences benefits everyone involved, a key message that sometimes gets lost in the minutia of actually doing something.

I was pleasantly surprised at how seamlessly the COSEE sessions blended with so many scientific presentations, and there seemed to be a real increase in the emphasis on broader audience engagement. It was also a great opportunity for me to re-connect with the larger world of ocean science research. Attending meetings like Ocean Sciences helps me to reset in terms of knowing what’s current in the field, and renews the wonder and enthusiasm for research that I can then transfer to the people I educate. I am grateful I was able to attend, and I know I will be digesting all that I learned for many months to come.

Contributed by Jane Lee