GRIIDC Promotes Open Data at Coastal Estuarine Federation Conference

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 Rosalie Rossi, Program Manager and Lalitha Asirvadam, Technical Coordinator at CERF Nov 2019
Rosalie Rossi, Program Manager and Lalitha Asirvadam, Technical Coordinator at CERF Nov 2019

GRIIDC attended our first biennial Coastal Estuarine Federation (CERF) Conference November 3-7 at the Mobile Convention Center in downtown Mobile, Alabama. GRIIDC was eager to attend this conference in order to connect with a larger audience to promote FAIR data principles and make researchers aware of how easy (and important) it is to share data. We also wanted to communicate that GRIIDC is here to help researchers share data and will continue to be here after the GoMRI program ends next year.

The 25th meeting was organized by conference co-chairs: David Yoskowitz, Associate Director for Research, Policy and Development and Endowed Chair for Socio-Economics of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) and Leila Hamdan, Associate Professor in the Division of Coastal Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi. The aim of the conference was to “connect science and society in the collective goals of preserving coastal and estuarine habitats, resources, and heritage.” As indicated in this year’s theme: “Responsive | Relevant |Ready,” the conference team hoped “to promote a conference that fully engages diverse science, management, and educational experiences.” It seems like this was accomplished with more than 1,700 scientists and researchers in attendance from all over the world, many of whom presented their research in the oral and/or poster sessions all week. Also, many exhibitors, including GRIIDC's Program Manager Rosalie Rossi and Technical Coordinator Lalitha Asirvadam, displayed and promoted their organizations throughout the conference in the exhibitor’s hall.

The CERF 2019 Opening Ceremony: Keynote Address and Scientific Awards was on Sunday evening, November 3. A range of awards were given to those striving for excellence towards understanding estuaries and coastal ecosystems such as: the Cronin Award for Early Achievement, the Margaret A. Davidson Award for Stewardship, the Donald W. Prichard Award- Physical Oceanography Paper, and the William A. Niering for Outstanding Educator Award.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Jack Davis, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea. Dr. Davis brought his book to life when he described the often overlooked beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. He described the history of the area and explained how it has one of the richest estuarine systems in the world. He told the story of how in 1885, the tarpon fishing industry briefly set the fishing world on fire. People came to the Gulf from different parts of the country in order to fish for tarpon, with the largest one caught in Florida weighing 210 lbs.! But this story ends similarly to others about once abundant fish stocks: the tarpon numbers started to decline and people learned the hard way that our seas do not harbor everlasting quantities of marine life. He also noted that researchers of the past sometimes blocked progress towards scientific discovery due to their own limited imaginations or desires to be right, such as discounting mangrove forests as wastelands and not the incredibly biodiverse and productive ecosystems that we now understand them to be. He closed by noting that we still have a lot to learn and must continue exploring this beautiful environment for ourselves and future generations.

After the opening ceremony attendees were entertained by a Mobile-style Mardi Gras parade called a Second Line Procession- a “traditional people’s parade” with a rich multicultural history. Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, which was the original capital of French Louisiana 15 years before New Orleans was founded. The parade, led by a local brass band called The Mobile Second Line Society, meandered all the way through the convention center and finished in the exhibitor hall during the opening social.

HRI was a “platinum” sponsor, along with the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Sea Grant, and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program. GRIIDC’s booth, located next to HRI’s booth in the exhibitor hall, displayed the GRIIDC website and its functions for the entirety of the conference, though we got the most traffic during the evening poster sessions. GRIIDC enjoyed making new connections with researchers interested in storing their data in our data repository as well as finally meeting many colleagues and users of GRIIDC face to face. Other exhibitors included: NOAA Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems (CCME), American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, Pro-Oceanus Systems, Bay Instruments, and SpringerNature.

The rest of the action-packed week consisted of numerous oral sessions during the day and various activities in the afternoon and evenings. Throughout the conference attendees were able to bid on coastal/estuarine goodies that were laid out in the exhibit hall for the Silent Auction and the winners were announced Thursday evening. Other activities included a mentorship program for students and early career professionals, a social at the highly interactive GulfQuest Maritime Museum, the CERF inclusion lunch which aimed to help address challenges faced by underrepresented people in sciences, a CERF Film Festival, 11 workshops, four field trips, and countless meetings and breakfasts/luncheons.

GRIIDC definitely saw the value in attending this conference and we look forward to sharing our program with CERFers at the next conference in Richmond, Virginia in 2021!