Two-week Virtual Meeting Draws More Than 24,000 Attendees

Student Javon Bryan takes part in the World Climate simulation with other students Image by Ed Brennen
Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Science student Jovan Bryan, seen here participating in the World Climate simulation in 2019, was co-author on research about the game that was presented at the AGU Fall Meeting.

By Ed Brennen

Presenting research on a Friday at midnight might sound a little out of the ordinary, but for Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EEAS) graduate student Maggie Hensel, it’s what was required when participating in the recent AGU Fall Meeting — the premier gathering of Earth and space scientists from around the world.

Hensel was among four EEAS faculty members and graduate students from the Kennedy College of Sciences who presented at this year’s conference, held virtually for the first time because of the pandemic. The online conference attracted nearly 24,000 attendees from more than 100 countries between Dec. 1-17. 

Since it was an international event, some sessions fell at “less than ideal” times for participants like Hensel, who presented research on how the simulation-based game World Climate shapes the climate perspective of students who are traditionally underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Virtual conferences can make it a little more challenging to interact with one another, but the AGU conference was well organized and the facilitators in our session helped to keep the conversation flowing in a very natural and respectful way,” says Hensel, a native of Glenville, New York, who earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and environmental studies from Brandeis University.

Hensel’s co-authors include her advisor, Juliette Rooney-Varga, professor of environmental sciences and director of UML’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI), as well as EEAS student Jovan Bryan and CCI Program Associate Carolyn McCarthy.

Rooney-Varga also gave two presentations related to the World Climate simulation game: “Depolarizing Climate Change Through Combined Role-Play and Simulations” and “Getting to Impact at Scale: A Dynamic Model to Guide Scaling of Climate Change Education.”

EEAS Asst. Prof. Chris Skinner, meanwhile, presented research that he is conducting with graduate student Tyler Harrington that traces the origins of arctic vapor and clouds. Among their findings is that during the summer, land in the northern hemisphere supplies around 56% of vapor in the arctic.

Graduate research assistant Ting Wang, who is working with EEAS Department Chair and Prof. Daniel Obrist to discover why the salt marshes at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newbury, Massachusetts, are a hot spot for mercury pollution, presented their latest findings.

AGU, which was originally the American Geophysical Union, is a nonprofit organization of Earth, atmospheric, ocean, hydrologic, space and planetary scientists, consisting of over 62,000 members from 144 countries.