Fall Meeting 2018 in Review


After months of anticipation and hard work, Fall Meeting 2018 is now a memory. But what a meeting it was!

Held in Washington, DC, from December 10 – 14, the 51st AGU Fall Meeting was the largest ever, with over 28,500 people converging on the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to share their science with colleagues and peers, forge and strengthen professional connections, and enjoy the company of friends both old and new. There were 101 countries were represented, over 8000 oral presentations, 17,000 poster presentations, 1,900 sessions, 22 town halls, and 800 e-lightening presentations. A whopping 465 members of the press also attended.

Fall Meeting 2018 also a marked the kickoff of AGU’s Centennial, a celebration of AGU’s accomplishments over the last 100 years and our vision for the next 100 years. We also opened our newly renovated, net-zero energy headquarters – the physical embodiment of AGU’s commitment to advance our values and goals of open collaboration, employing science to address climate change, and serving as a home-away-from-home for our members and a resource for the community.

Here are few other highlights:

With its mix of scientists, journalists, and advocates, the panel discussion about “Fostering International Science in a Time of Nationalism Plenary” addressed the importance of standing up for fellow scientists whose freedom and ability to conduct their science, maintain their livelihoods, and contribute to collaborative international research is under threat by global trends towards nationalism.

The Centennial Plenary, “A Celebration of the Past and Discussion of the Future of Earth and Space Science,” marked the commencement of AGU’s Centennial celebration. During this session, twelve eminent leaders in their respective geoscience fields presented short presentations covering topics ranging from the Earth’s core, to climate change and natural hazard preparedness, to the solar system, and addressed new transdisciplinary topics, societal issues, and more.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, joined AGU CEO/Executive Director Chris McEntee to discuss today’s top science policy topics, including earthquake hazards, climate change, and scientific integrity.

This year’s Diversity and Inclusion Plenary focused on the recommendations from a consensus study report of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine about the consequences of sexual harassment in the sciences. Among those joining the discussion were Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California’s 14th Congressional District and Rhonda Davis, Head of the National Science Foundation’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

AGU attendees and their families enjoyed exclusive, after-hours open houses at four of the Smithsonian’s world-renowned museums – National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of Natural History, and National Museum of American History – led by docents and science experts.

A series of scientific lectures open to meeting attendees and the public were hugely popular with many event spaces filled to capacity. The lectures included 2018 MacArthur Fellow Sarah Stewart speaking at the Carnegie Institution for Science about the hunt for exoplanets and Dr. Pamela Matson at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine discussing how “science to action” has evolved in the context of current global environmental changes and social issues.

In this year’s Presidential Forum Lecture, former EPA Administrator and current Apple Vice President Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson spoke with AGU President Eric Davidson about Apple’s efforts to minimize its impact on the environment by addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials, and inventing new ways to conserve precious resources. She also spoke of her personal journey as a woman of color through STEM education, engineering, and public and private sector leadership roles.

In addition to the prestigious awards, medals, and prizes at the 2018 Honors Ceremony, there was a special video tribute to Fred Spilhaus, AGU’s Executive Director who served in this role from 1970 to 2009, made all the more moving by the presence of Fred’s family in the audience.

Emmy award-winning filmmaker/photographer James Balog (Chasing Ice and in the PBS/NOVA special, Extreme Ice), whose work explores the relationship between humans and nature, delivered this year’s speaker at the Frontiers of Geoscience Lecture. A screening of his latest film, The Human Element, which looks at how humanity interacts with earth, air, fire and water, was screened later in the week at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Jim Reilly, Director of the United States Geological Survey, was this year’s Agency lecturer. Dr. Reilly spoke about his unique career path ― from geoscientist to astronaut to USGS Director ― and the challenges and opportunities ahead for the agency.

AGU members also took part in an opportunity to engage in science policy by visiting with their federal legislators at a special Fall Meeting 2018 Congressional Visits Day on Capitol Hill. In advance, participants received resources and training from AGU experts to help them effectively talk with their elected representatives about the policy issues that matter that matter most to them.

Nearly 105 Middle and High school students in the U.S. and Hong Kong who participate in after-school and summer research experiences in the Earth and space sciences submitted abstracts to the Fall Meeting through AGU’s Bright Students Training as Research Scientists (Bright STaRS) program. These students presented their own research results to the AGU scientific community and learned about exciting research, education, and career opportunities in the geosciences.

Members also sharpened their science communications communication and outreach skills by attending sessions led by AGU’s Sharing Science team. Attendees learned how to tell good stories, become better science advocates, and explain their science to any audience. Sessions included a blogging and social media forum, a chance for attendees to “sketch their science,” and crash courses in filmmaking and podcasting.

To use an apt metaphor, this was just the tip of the iceberg at Fall Meeting 2018. There were field trips, networking events, films, and oh so much more. If you missed any of the plenary and Centennial content, including all of the sessions listed above, you can watch it here. We’re looking forward to building on this year’s success when we return to San Francisco’s newly renovated Moscone Center for Fall Meeting 2019. We can’t wait to have you join us on this continuing journey!

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