A User's Guide to the 2009 LTER All Scientists Meeting

Network News Spring 2009, Vol. 22 No. 1
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The LTER All Scientists Meeting (ASM) will take place this September at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado, the same venue as the very successful 2006 meeting. The ASM Program Committee, working with the LTER Network Office (LNO), has developed a stimulating program that includes seven plenary speakers, seven working group sessions for as many as 100 working groups, space for 400 posters, four evening mixers, and pre-ASM meetings for information managers, graduate students, education representatives, international attendees, the LTER Executive Board and others.

Looking back

Some of the old-timers will remember the first ASM meeting held at Estes Park in 1990 before LNO contracted with professional help for the meeting as they do now with the Schneider Group. People waited in a long line as a busload of people arrived from the airport and Network Office staff scurried to find correct room reservations. Folks chipped in to help Caroline Bledsoe sort all the room keys from one large pile on the counter. Adrienne Whitener quickly pointed to a box of earplugs for people worried about snoring roommates.

Back then, Rudolf Nottrott set up the one portable workstation with a "high speed" modem link back to Seattle to provide email access for everyone to use during the meeting. Since the "Web" didn't exist, meeting information and program materials were only available in hard-copy. Wireless internet and portable cell phones didn't exist either. The social mixers were held in, of all places, the chapel -- the largest room available back then.

The first morning of the meeting, the late Tom Callahan, who always encouraged these meetings, could be seen smiling with a cup of coffee at breakfast, even though his flight had been diverted to Colorado Springs due to bad weather and he had to travel the rest of the way late at night by bus. Jerry Franklin welcomed everybody at the first plenary, struggling to read his notes as the lights were turned down; "PowerPoint" was almost unknown and LCD projectors did not exist yet.

The plenaries lasted all morning, and in the afternoons there were six workshops held in the back of the auditorium. Posters were taped to every available space on the walls and foyers of the auditorium. Jokers even put some in the restrooms. Even with the short socials before dinner, all the kegs in the town of Estes Park were consumed by the end of the meeting. Committee meetings and plenaries to report the workshop results took place after the dinners. Almost 250 people attended the meeting, very few of them graduate students; there was no Graduate Student Committee and the International LTER program did not exist yet.

This year's ASM will start for most people on Sunday, September 13, with the anticipated jolt of the wheels hitting the runway at Denver International Airport. You want to arrive early and plan three to four hours to get to Estes Park. (It will take the same three to four hours to get back to the airport, so you want to book your return flights later in the day after the meeting ends.) From your plane, take the short train ride to the main terminal and retrieve your baggage from the carousel on level-5. Staying on the same level, go to the Estes Park Shuttle booth and confirm your reservation for your trip to Estes Park, and then continue outside to the van.

On the way to Estes Park you will probably see vans sporting university logos and government license plates distinct from the green and white plates on the other vehicles. These will probably be packed full of overly enthusiastic-looking students, with luggage and gear of all types piled on top, including bicycles and maybe even skis. Upon arriving at the YMCA, proceed to the main Administration building to receive your registration packet and information for your lodging.

Although most people arrive on Sunday, some international participants in the Ecosystems Services workshop will already have been at the YMCA two days, arriving the previous Friday. The Information Managers, Education representatives, and participants in the LTER Graduate Student workshop arrive on Saturday, and have their dinner and mixers that evening. The Graduate Students, Education Representatives, and Information Managers have full-day meetings on Sunday, and the Executive Board meets the same afternoon. The first plenary will be in the auditorium Sunday evening, with Dave Coleman talking about the early days of LTER as probably only he can do, followed by a social mixer.

The formal meeting begins in the auditorium on Monday morning, and Bob has promised to refrain from playing anything from the "Village People" during his opening remarks. The first plenary talks will get everybody thinking about why we are all at the meeting. The plenary will be followed by a group picture before everybody heads to lunch, which will be followed by two working group sessions, dinner, and the evening poster session and mixer. The schedules for Tuesday and Wednesday are similar. After dinner on Wednesday, there will be a social and entertainment to mark the end of the meeting.

You want to remember that you will be at 8,000 feet, so you should drink plenty of water to help get used to the altitude. Alcohol contributes to altitude sickness, so moderation is the watchword. Consider yourself warned anyway... All meals for your stay are at posted times in the cafeteria, and lines may be long. You will likely share the line with a host of other visitors, including retirees on vacation, attendees at family reunions, and grade-school students.

The agenda for the meeting is planned to occupy all your time, but you may want to fit in walks, maybe a hike or two with friends, and perhaps a meal in town if you need a break from cafeteria food. A road trip or shuttle bus ride up to Rocky Mountain National Park can be pretty spectacular, too. The weather will be "variable"; it could be warm or it could be snowing. You can take advantage of the facilities at the YMCA, including the gym, swimming pool, climbing wall, and games like horseshoes, or putt-putt and frisbee golf. For the more sedentary, there are always plenty of elk to watch. There will be an on-line photo contest, a trivia contest, and other events during the meetings.

The YMCA has all the necessary amenities for a successful stay, including a shop to buy sundries, an ATM machine, wireless internet, and plenty of places for LTER scientists to put their heads together and come up with the next great idea.

There have been many changes at Estes Park since our first meeting there in 1990. Most recently, the new Long's Peak and Emerald Lodges are under construction and a new conference center will be ready for our meeting. But much has stayed the same, too, particularly the magnificent views and the many opportunities to enjoy surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park. Please plan on attending the 2009 ASM and enjoying the premiere activity of the LTER Network.