February 12, 2007

AAAS Meeting Itinerary

I'll be leaving Thursday morning for the AAAS meeting in San Francisco and was browsing through the program today. Sounds like they have some interesting symposia planned:

"Dynamics of Extinction"

The evolving character of the world permits new phenomena to emerge but places other phenomena at risk. Across a range of scientific fields, attention in recent decades has increasingly focused on phenomena that are endangered or that have already become extinct. This symposium will examine different kinds of extinction: the loss of biological species, including the reduction in the number of hominid species; the disappearance of distinctive cultures; and the vanishing of specific human languages. Scientists will examine the processes that have led to the extinction of phenomena on which their fields focus, synthesizing the results from a range of studies to identify broader ranging contexts, trends, and issues. Through this set of presentations, the speakers and participants can explore more fundamental issues that range across different phenomena, such as the factors that result in endangerment and extinction, the timing of the processes through which endangerment and extinction occur, the proximity in space and time of processes endangering different phenomena, and the factors and interventions that may delay and even end threats to specific phenomena. Special emphasis will be placed on integrating insights into the processes of endangerment and extinction from different disciplines, time periods, and geographic locations.

"Supporting Evolution at the Grass-Roots: Building Better Bridges"

Using a variety of strategies, the antievolution movement continues to push for acceptance of its ideas, including the teaching of the “controversy in evolution” within the classroom. Many scientists and most scientific organizations have publicly and unequivocally stated their support for the teaching of evolution. Organizations such as the National Center for Science Education and the Clergy Letter Project have also played key roles in debates as well as the resulting court cases. The efforts by proevolution supporters produced a broad array of activities, many of which were successful in increasing the support for the teaching of evolution in public school classrooms. These efforts also produced a vast amount of practical experience and educational materials designed to educate the public on differences between science and religion. This symposium's objective is to summarize, analyze, and draw lessons from these experiences so that they can be used to help promote the general population's understanding of evolution. Its aim is to build on these experiences to develop a common strategy to educate the public about the different but complementary roles of science and religion; to improve the teaching of science in our public schools; and to restore the excitement about science and discovery that once characterized the United States.

Strange. The last presenter in this symposium is the pastor of a Baptist church literally five minutes from where I grew up.

"Renewable Energy from Biomass: Technology, Policy, and Sustainability"

Renewable energy from biomass has the potential to significantly contribute to a more diverse and secure domestic energy portfolio for the United States. There are policy, economic, and technical barriers to achieving the potential of energy from forests and agricultural lands. However, with focused research and development and market incentives that reflect the multiple ecological and social benefits of energy from biomass, the goals of providing 25 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2025 or replacing 30 percent of imported oil by 2030 are attainable. Scientists from forestry, agriculture, and energy sectors will describe the state of the science, economics and policy and provide a challenge for broader cross-disciplinary engagement on this issue.

"Canary in the Coal Mine: Mountains and Climate Change"

Unstable glacier conditions are threatening freshwater supplies in areas across the globe, raising the risk of catastrophic mountain lake failures and resulting floods, and creating risky conditions for climbing, trekking, and scientific expeditions. This session compares the current and past state of mid-latitude mountains at various time-scales and offers glimpses of the future. Topics will include glaciers and ice core record data, tree-ring chronologies, and global instrument records, and a world-famous mountain climber will summarize the session. Panelists will discuss ongoing and future monitoring of the accelerating loss of high-mountain glaciers, in conjunction with an examination of the state-of-the-art in terms of predicting individual glacier retreat and unstable glacier conditions. Mountain flora and fauna are also under pressure as climate zones slowly shift upward in response to warming trends and species are driven into smaller habitat or those near mountain summits are driven into extinction. The symposium will address the potential of tree-ring studies to quantify such impact. Finally, the discussion will address the fact that instrument records in mountain regions are notoriously unreliable due to microclimate effects and the dearth of stations directly located at high elevation.

"New Vistas in the Mathematics of Ecology and Evolution"

Sustainability has many dimensions, from basic biology to coupled biological and socioeconomic systems. This symposium will explore a range of issues, from fisheries to ecosystem services, but with special emphasis on infectious diseases and the dynamics of collectives. It will view ecological, epidemiological, and socioeconomic systems as complex adaptive systems, where macroscopic phenomena emerge from collective actions of individual agents.

I will be blogging from the conference on Friday and Saturday evening if everything goes as planned.

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