Yesterday (it is now morning on day 2) was the first proper day of the Fall Meeting. My fellow meeting attendees certainly need their coffee; between my hotel and the Moscone I passed about five Starbucks stores, each of which sported a long queue of poster tube-bearing or lanyard-wearing individuals desperate for a cup of joe.
The day started off rather well for me as I got some good news about a research project proposal I am involved with within a minute of sitting down in Session B11F (Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles in Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystems I). Not quite 100% certain it will be funded as the funding body wants options for small budget cuts but looking very promising!
This (B11F) was a somewhat general session with several interesting (to me) talks. Two in particular piqued some interest and centred on methylmercury (MeHg) production and indicators of MeHg in a delta system. Of most interest was talk B11F-03 by Mitchell et al who had investigated the control of MeHg production by sulphur in a peatland setting by experimentally manipulating the system through the artificial addition and subsequent removal of sulphate deposition to look at the impacts of acid deposition on MeHg production and the lag times of recovery following reductions in deposition.
Brian McGlynn gave an interesting talk (B11F-08) on a methodological development for investigating nutrient uptake kinetics in stream ecosystems which allows the synergistic relationship between nutrients uptake kinetics to be modelled. The talk focussed on N and P stoichiometry in upland streams and their methodology allowed the authors to look at the effect N and P individually plus their combined uptake response. Their results showed that the three study streams were strongly co-limited by both nutrients. A talk later in the day by Tim Covino (B12D-04) went into greater detail on the methodology and an application.
The next session I attended was B12D Nitrogen Export from Headwater Catchments (I'll just give the short session title — who comes up with these overly long titles anyway?) was particularly interesting to me given my nitrogen interests. Little of major consequence to my particular work (palaeo isotope geochemistry over the past few hundred years) but several talks covered topics relevant to the work Chris Curtis, Tim Heaton (British Geological Society, NIGL), Jan Kaiser (UEA) and I have been doing under the UK Defra Freshwater Umbrella programme on nitrate pathways and the fate of deposited N.
The session ended with a talk by Stephen Sebestyn which nicely covered much of the ground we've also been working on in the UK. Sebestyn covered a wider temporal range though, looking at when high atmospheric nitrate contributions to in-stream nitrate concentrations were observed (i.e. nitrate that had not been microbially processed); snow melt and rain on snow events in the main, plus some events in early spring before vegetation has kicked in, and a number of events in later summer and autumn. The take home message was that nitrate directly from atmospheric deposition could represent a large component of the in-stream nitrate (50+ %) but that there was large spatial heterogeneity in the proportion of atmospheric nitrate within small geographical regions.
At this point I headed out to the food court in the Westfield Mall for lunch, not by intention but I just happened to wander that way, along with thousands of fellow attendees. After grabbing a nice burger, fries and a Coke, I ended up sitting down at a table with a local gentleman. He explained he ate there every day, had done so for years, but had never seen so many people trying to get food down there.
After lunch I attended the session in which my talk had been put; H13G Digital Soil Mapping and Hydroecological Modelling. As the title suggests, the session was a mixed bag of talks resulting from the merging of several session proposals. I had been invited to talk in a session related to R and its use in modelling. My talk and one other from that session proposal made it into the final session and as it was now a much more general session I decided not to talk too much about R itself but to focus more on the modelling side of my work on river water temperatures. I can't say too much about this work just yet; the funding body wants to do a press release when we get the work published in a journal and the paper has been in review at Hydrological Processes for four months and is currently sat on an editor's desk awaiting a decision (four months is pretty poor turn around!) I have a paper in prep on the modelling methodology I used, all done in R of course(!), which I'll write a blog post on when it is accepted (have to submit first). As a result of the merging etc, I wasn't particularly academically interested in the talks in the session but I stayed throughout and saw some nice soil mapping and hydrological modelling presentations, and the session was reasonably well attended.
My talk went well, prompting a couple of questions and I managed to stick to time, which is good for me; I often talk slower when presenting and prefer more free-form slides than a tightly scripted set of bullets, but that does mean timings can be somewhat erratic!
The last session of the day that I attended was B14D on carbon isotopes and biomarkers. The biomarker scene is one I want to start getting into but on the nitrogen front looking at 15N in algal pigments and amino acids. Some interesting talks in here employing a level of chemistry that was way above my admittedly low level. Phil Meyers gave a nice talk on isoptopically light carbon in bulk organic matter in Phanerozoic black shales, discussing potential mechanisms that could give rise to the observed values (the deposits are marine in origin, but differ markedly from modern marine carbon isotope values for bulk OM). The entire session was part of the DIPPI-C initiative, which seems to be one to keep an eye on. The main thing I got from this session was the depths scientists are going to to understand what the isotopic measurements they make on organic compounds mean for the environment and depositional system that gave rise to the organic matter they study.
By now my day was pretty much done. I dealt with a bit of email and read through a paper I'm a co-author on, then met up for dinner with a couple of colleagues (John Anderson and Jasmine Saros) at an Italian/fusion restaurant.
Thankfully, I'd tired myself out so much that I only woke once during the night and was soundly asleep when the alarm kicked in at 0630 this morning. Seems like I'm getting this jet-lag licked!
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By Gavin Simpson
06 December 2011