Tag Archives: AGU

AGU Poster Presentation

The last day of the American Geophysical Union fall meeting ended up being the day on which I presented my research poster. Here’s a link to my poster if you are interested: AGU poster. Audrey and I headed down to the Moscone Center near Union Square early Friday morning to put up our posters in the poster hall. Throughout the morning we listened to numerous lectures (two of which were given by our supervisors from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and stood by our posters talking to people who were interested in our research. One thing I learned about conducting research is that once you start a project you are never really finished….It spawns other topics and new directions in the future. After a hectic morning, Audrey, Michelle and I, along with our university teachers and WHOI supervisors, enjoyed lunch at Lefty O’Doul’s sports bar and caught up on our experiences from the past week. All in all it was a busy day and week, but it was a very rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Later that afternoon we headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Bellingham but not before Audrey and I did some luggage shuffling since the weight restrictions on baggage changed from 50 to 40lbs. I have a strong feeling that staying in a hotel only two blocks away from the Ghiradelli chocolate shop helped put my suitcase over the limit, haha. After being away from home for fourteen out of the past seventeen weeks, I must say that it feels good to be back home among family and friends. I am, however, nonetheless thankful for the fantastic experiences I have been blessed with over the past few months.

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Alcatraz and the AGU

One of the main tourist attractions in San Francisco is Alcatraz Island. Best known for being home to Alcatraz, the infamous federal penitentiary, the island was originally the site of the first US-built fort and lighthouse on the West Coast. The 22-acre island is located 2.4km off the coast in San Francisco Bay. Often referred to as “The Rock”, we nicknamed the prison Azkaban. The federal prison was in operation from 1934 to 1963 and was home to numerous notorious American criminals, the most infamous being Al Capone. In total there were fourteen escape attempts made by 29 men. It is said that no successful escapes were made; although, five men were presumed drowned but remain unaccounted for.

The solemn history of Alcatraz seems to permeate every part of the island, and having the opportunity to view it first-hand is quite overwhelming. We took a fifteen minute ferry ride to the island and spent a couple hours walking around. As we walked through the cell house, dining hall, library, recreation yard and parade grounds, it was difficult not to feel impacted by the events that occurred there and the people that lived there. Each person was given an audio headset which guided them through the buildings on the island. The intensity of the experience was heightened as the narrators were the actual officers and prisoners who lived on the island. We were taken past the cells where escape attempts occurred. Holes dug by metal spoons in the back cell walls still remained. Bullet holes scarred doors and grenade impact marks marred the floors….Evidence of lives lost over the years.

After spending a while touring the buildings, we ended the excursion by walking through the island gardens. Originally planted by those living on the island while it was a US fort, the gardens were maintained by prison guard families. Once the island closed, the gardens became overgrown and acted as nesting areas for different birds. These bird habitats are being maintained and the gardens are presently being restored. This part of the island stands in stark contrast to the imposing cement structures that make up the prison. Throughout the year, hummingbirds, cormorants and herons mingle amongst succulents, geraniums, roses, and sweet peas. It was a great way to end our tour on the island, tempering the harsh reality that is Alcatraz.

In the afternoon we spent time at the AGU browsing through rows upon rows of posters covering topics from hydrology to education to seismology. It was astounding to see how many people are doing research on topics that vary as much as the people themselves! After browsing through the poster hall, Audrey and I spent a couple hours listening to lectures. We ended the day with one of our favourite things to do: a cable car ride through town.

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Chocolate, a Park and some Lectures

Here in San Francisco, we cannot seem to escape being around chocolate. Our hotel is located dangerously close to Ghiradelli Square, and we recently stumbled across a place called New American Chocolate on Pier 17. Their brand is TCHO which is pronounced like the first phonetic syllable of the word chocolate. They call themselves “new American” as they are changing the way American-produced chocolate is viewed…no longer is it just candy bars. TCHO is a new kind of artisanal chocolate that focuses on the natural flavour of the cacao bean. New American Chocolate actually manufactures their chocolate at Pier 17, and it is the only factory that they have anywhere in the world. This particular building is also their only brick and mortar shop in the world. So they are a relatively new company, but it is quite cool to know that they are manufacturing their product on site. We signed up for an hour-long free tour which is held twice daily. It started with an overview on the process of growing and harvesting the cacao bean, moved into the factory where the chocolate is manufactured and put into bar form, and ended with a taste test….They definitely saved the best for last! The TCHO chocolate line is divided into flavours that focus on the background flavours of the natural cacao bean. Their four dark flavours are nutty, chocolatey, fruity, and bright. They have three milk chocolates called creamy, cacao and classic. It is quite crazy how the chocolates actually have different underlying flavours depending on the growing conditions and locations of the cacao bean. No other ingredients are added to the chocolate to give it these flavours!

It was definitely a day of new food experiences. We stopped at Boudin Bakery for lunch and had clam chowder in a bread bowl. Shockingly it was my first taste of soup in a bread bowl, and it was delicious! Boudin Bakery began in 1849 and has been going strong since. They make their bread on site and even have large windows along the sidewalk to allow passersby a view of the bakers hand rolling the loaves. Their sour dough loaves are still made using a portion of the original mother dough. The bakery also makes bread in fun shapes including crabs, lobsters, teddy bears and alligators four feet long!

Before heading to the AGU conference centre, we took a short detour to see Alamo Square. This park is lined on one side by the Painted Ladies which are a set of Victorian Houses built between 1892 and 1896. Apparently they were used during the opening theme song of the nineties sitcom Full House. In true reminiscent style, we spent several evenings in the hotel watching Full House reruns, haha. From the park we headed out to the Moscone Center where we sat in on numerous talks focusing on water quality, land use and policy.


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