The American Geophysical Union Fall 2010 Meeting last week in San Francisco was like a giant, all-you-can-eat science buffet. No matter what flavor of the geosciences interests you — near-surface to core, earth to Mars, hard rock to water — there were probably some awesome talks and posters to check out. But, like a giant buffet, it’s important to pace yourself and to give yourself time to digest after you overdo it.

Now that I’ve had some time to pause and reflect, a few key take-aways stand out:

1. Hydrogeophysics will change how remediation is done

Remote, real-time geophysical monitoring of remediation is coming, and soon. Researchers are exploring the use of hydrogeophysical methods to:

  • determine the location and extent of materials injected into the ground during bioremediation and
  • monitor the resulting changes in the subsurface over time.

Data processed automatically are then posted online where remediation project managers can use the information to adjust their plans. When these applications hit the mainstream, they have the potential to help make site cleanups more efficient and cost-effective.

2. Scientists and policy are a controversial mix

Scientists don’t agree on their role in communicating with policy makers or in advocating for particular policy related to their scientific areas of expertise. While this disagreement isn’t shocking to scientists themselves, it’s an important issue. Some scientists believe we should not venture into discussions about policy. Others argue that scientists must help policy makers understand the connections between policy and the science data. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s a heated issue and people tend to feel strongly. (Check out The 2010 Stephen Schneider Global Environmental Change Lecture video)

3.Climate change communication has lessons we can all use

A great deal of research and analysis is being done on how to most effectively communicate with the general public about climate change. The results of this research need to be shared beyond the fields of climate science. We can learn from and apply the information to improve our communication with the general public about other environmental issues and science in general.

4.Hollywood puts science into its sci-fi

Hollywood science fiction filmmakers think a lot more about the science in their films than I would have guessed. We had a chance to hear directly from folks involved with writing or making films such as Deep Impact and The Core. At times, filmmakers have consulted with the top experts in the geosciences field related to the film. But in the end, story wins out over scientific accuracy when it comes to geo hazard science fiction. And it matters, because more people will see big budget films like the Day After Tomorrow than will ever see documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth.

5.Scientists need opportunities to talk about communication

Scientists need more opportunities to share information, ideas, and experiences about communicating about science. The blogging workshop had a great turnout, but many of the questions could just as easily have applied to other forms of informal science communication. Hopefully we can keep up the conversation and discussions online.