Ocean Sciences Convention – Rachel McMahon

By Hayley Cox

2014 Galveston Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sea Aggie Scholar, Rachel McMahon, was given the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for an Ocean Sciences Convention from February 23-28, 2014.

Rachel McMahon
Rachel McMahon

She was pleased to tell about her experiences in the report below:

“Thanks to funding from Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR), with generous support from the Association of Former Students and Sea Grant, I was given the chance to attend one of the largest Ocean Sciences meetings to date, with approximately 6000 attendees, 4000 posters and 500 presentations. The meeting trumped any of its type that has ever been held by Ocean sciences. Thousands of new discoveries, on going research and massive cultivation of minds came together at an overflowing convention center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“The convention center was a site in itself, with its impressive, eco-friendly design. The building was almost completely open-air, allowing the Hawaii breeze to flow through the convention. Huge fans circulated the air with little to no effort and the three-story building handled the crowds rather well.

View from Rachel's hotel in Hawaii.
View from Rachel’s hotel in Hawaii.

“I was able to share a top floor hotel room less than one block from the convention center at the Ala Moana Hotel, where I had quite the view from my balcony. I shared my hotel with three international Ocean Sciences students; one came all the way from Australia, and another had traveled from Germany. Through my relationships with these three, I was able to make  many interesting connections, including a possible source for future research in Denmark and Scandinavia.

“The most impressive part about my visit to Hawaii was the knowledge I was able to take away. I listened to a lecture on nitrogen levels in Oxygen minimum zones in the ocean, as well as information on GEOTRACES (geological trace elements) research. I was able to meet NASA scientists who are stationed out of Houston. One of my favorite moments occurred while I was sitting in front of a 60-inch television screen, watching a modeled map of the Southern oscillation waves in a modeled projection.

“These scientists had taken satellite imagery and physical oceanography and combined it into an almost picture-perfect projection of the oceans surface currents circulation. The resolution was spot on; every surface spiral, and even the gulf stream could be seen with incredible detail that will allow future scientists to understand the movement of animals’ nutrients, and perhaps even mapping the movement of oil spills that occur offshore.

“On the last day of my visit came the most important reason for my attendance at the Ocean Sciences Meeting — presenting. I came to the Ocean Sciences convention to share the results and future routes of the research Dr. Karl Kaiser and I had accomplished during my undergraduate studies. I presented my undergraduate masterpiece in a convention hall full of 500-plus posters. Although our research results were far from complete, my findings were enough to draw the interest of many others, including Dr. Rodger Harvey from Old Dominion and a professor from university of Massachusetts and MIT, as attendees from Japan and Germany.

“I received my fair shares of both criticism and praise, but most importantly I was given outsiders’ perspectives that I had never considered. Questions from the audience gave me the ability to look further into my research, and for that alone I am grateful. I would like to thank Honors and Undergraduate Research, the Association of Former Students, and Sea Grant for the opportunity to travel to Hawaii for the Ocean Sciences convention and I am so glad to have walked away with new connections in my field and a new curiosity towards the work of my fellow Oceanographers.

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