This blog post is a few weeks late but something that I really wanted to do—this seems to be the way of my life these past months. Late winter and early spring is always a busy season filled with conferencing and preparing for the field. Most years I try to attend two conferences, a major international or national one and a regional one. This year I attended the Alaskan Anthropological Association annual meeting in Nome, Alaska and will be attending the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a few weeks.
I have a love/hate relationship with conferences. They take me to places I haven’t been before to see friends I only see at conferences. It also forces me to analyze and interpret data from the past year and hopefully turn it into a published article. However, they are filled with people I don’t know, socializing is expected throughout the day, including dinner and drinks in the evening. This is a terrifying proposition for my inner introvert. Not to mention the travel and giving my own presentation! It takes me a few days to recuperate every time.
In any case, they are for the most part, enjoyable. Especially now as my network expands and I have learned how to make better use of my time. My first conference I attended every paper I found interesting and holed up in my hotel for the rest of the time. This is NOT the way to do conferences. In reality, the papers may or may not be great, but that isn’t the point. For me, it is about re-connecting with people I know and forging new connections in my network for future collaborations. It is also to give a good enough paper that the small percentage of people who are interested in what I am doing at the time know my name and keep me at the top of their list of scholars working in that area. I am sure there are other reasons, but that is where I am at now. I still use the resources at the The Professor Is In (a book and website with super useful information) to help me “do conferences”.
My latest conference was in Nome, Alaska. Getting there was a challenge itself, as a storm rolled in and prevented flights from getting in until the following day. This storm, as well as previous storms, had left quite a lot of snow in Nome. However, climate change (or chaos as many people in the Arctic call it) meant that the temperatures were quite warm. Although there was some sea ice, it was severely limited, with the edge of the ice visible from shore. This year, sea ice in the Bering Strait has been at its lowest extent in the 40-year satellite record. This comes on the heels of two years of exceptionally low sea ice cover. And it is noticeable to everyone living there.
Although the sea ice was low, we were able to get out on it to do some jigging for tomcod and dog sled ridding. These are probably the best excursions I have been on at a conference! To warm up, there was a mug up in the hall, with soup, music, and hot apple cider. The final banquet featured local reindeer sausage chili, salad with wild Alaskan blueberry dressing, homemade bread, local caramel ice cream, and raspberry macarons. Delicious!
Beyond the excursions and food, I had a highly productive conference. I talked with people about a new project, connected with collaborators on existing projects, and developed an outline for a new paper. Oh! And the book room. What a wonderful place. This year I acquired 7 (!) new books for my shelf.
One of the highlights was reconnecting with two wonderful women, Mari and Pam, who I had met in the field in the Central Canadian Arctic in 2007 and 2010, respectively. We enjoyed drinks and tea together in the evenings.
I have come a long way from my first conference, and thoroughly enjoyed the AkAAs in Nome. Now on to prepare my presentation for the SAAs in Albuquerque!