I’m here at the SCEC conference for my second year. This is a unique conference for a few reasons. Unlike most conferences, there is only one session (talks or posters) at a time, so there’s no need to fret about which sessions to check out- you get to see it all. Also, while there are definitely a wide range of research topics, everyone here is pretty much on the same page scientifically because we’re all, one way or another, studying earthquakes. The community shrinks quickly as you get to know people, and faces become familiar. It’s really a cozy community of scientists, and with that comes some joking around and informality that make it a pretty fun event with a lot of lively discussion. A few glasses of Napa wine, and the next thing you know you’ve found yourself a team of collaborators ready to tackle the possibility of throughgoing rupture in the San Gorgonio Pass.
One interesting dynamic at SCEC is the personality/cultural/scientific differences between the various disciplines that come together to study earthquakes and hazard, and the occasional clashes that can ensue. A quote from a talk yesterday gives a glimpse of what I’m talking about: “When a geologist and a geophysicist are in disagreement, throw the geophysicist out the window.” Engineers, geologists, geophysicists, modelers, geodesists; some of us wear more than one hat, but there are definitively different cultures among each discipline. Is that a tie I see? You must be an engineer. Hawaiian shirt and messy hair, yep you found yourself a geologist. Wardrobe choices aside, there may be a tendency among geologists to scoff at the blunders of our colleagues who don’t hit the dirt, and perhaps end up saying silly things like “the fault isn’t where you mapped it.” But in the end, I think we all appreciate the complementary nature of the work we do. If you throw the geophysicist out the window, you best jump out after her, cause you’re gonna want her data later.