Preparation for the Summer School (Azores, Portugal)

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In my typical fashion I had completely filled up my schedule for my entire summer. I had and expedition in Japan on the 10th of June, traveling through Scotland from 2nd of September to the 15th, and in-between holidays in Portugal and Geneva.  As a result of my concurrent activities, I was relatively underprepared for this summer school. However, it seems inappropriate to go into detail now so please refer to the Daily Diary section and Lessons Taken Away. I would have liked to present the iChip data from either Iceland or Japan, but unfortunately this was not possible. In the confusion caused by continuous travel, I was convinced that a poster was mandatory. Therefore I decided that I only had one remaining option: use slides from my UROPS presentation to create a poster.

Daily Diary

The trip started with a moment of anxiety, I received an email from my Honors project supervisor that there were major issues with proposal the morning I left. However, I decided that is was simply too late the implement the changes that he suggested. At the airport in Terceira I received a warm greeting from one of the co-organizers and got the chance to meet the majority of the summer school participants, who had arrived on the same flight from Lisbon.

On the first full day of the summer school, we were instructed to put up our posters and I was made aware that posters NOT compulsory, so considering how off-topic my poster was I was hesitant about putting up poster. In the evening I stumbled upon a conference in Edinburgh June 2017, which is perfectly relevant for my poster.

After a day of lectures, we had the opportunity of going on an excursion.   On the excursion, we absorbed the overall atmosphere of Azores and how what we are learning is relevant to the islands, volcanism, and life origins.  We visited two different lava caves to get impression of artificial lighting caves that we will soon be able to contrast with non-touristy caves. Additionally, we made a stopover at a cheese factory and traditional Azorian restaurant for a meal.

The next day was a series of talks by Karl Stetter. He is a worldwide expert in culturing difficult-to-culture microbes. I learned lots from his lectures and subsequent conversations, feel that his advice will prove invaluable in honors project. The next speaker was Diana Northup from the University of New Mexico. Her talks were very engaging and made me consider doing my PhD with her as my supervisor.

In preparation for the sampling day, I needed to go shopping for a torch because forgot to bring one to the summer school. Sampling day was very exciting. Because our group was very efficient we had the opportunity to visit both the caves that were part of the summer school program. I also realized as part of this summer school that Caves may not be an ideal sampling site for a PhD or postdoctoral as I’m not the correct dimensions or very comfortable in tight space.

After the sampling day, it was back to a very interesting series of lectures on the connection between volcanism, plate tectonics, and life. These lectures were followed by an equally interesting open discussion on how important plate tectonics are for the existence of life.  The next excursion gave us a view of a broad range of volcanic features which was very cool because I remember seeing similar features when traveling through Scotland. The next set of lectures were redundant, but it was nice to have some free time as the program is becoming more flexible. For me the practical portion wasn’t relevant for me and therefore I felt disappointed by this portion of the course.

The next two days were spent preparing for our proposal of how we should take the project forward. We spent a considerable portion of the day working through the slides, but unfortunately the team I was in didn’t gel very well. The summer school ended on a high as I talked to Jessica and Lurdes and set up the MAFIC project for next year.

Lessons Learned

  1. Make better use of Outlook calendar, get more efficient and tightly pack things into the (summer) schedule
  2. Buy more equipment for future field studies and summer school, such as kneepads, good durable gloves, more field pants, and helmet with headlight
  3. Make checklist for all the things that you might need for a field excursion or summer school weeks in advance, add things and take things off as you think of them