Written by UCF Sociology and GIS PhD student and NSF REU Senior Research Mentor, Lain Graham.
Members of our Citizen Science GIS team traveled across the country to attend the 2017 Esri Oceans Forum in beautiful Redlands, California. It is always rewarding to attend a conference with researchers in your field, to present your ideas and to learn about new research, innovative projects and to discover new avenues for your own work. As a graduate student, I have presented at a few conferences in my day, and as rewarding as those were this experience stood out, I attended the Esri Oceans Forum as a presenter, but more importantly, as a mentor. I led our 2017 National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduate students, Kate Brandt, Rachel Layko and Michelle Chang in their first national conference experience. Kate, a senior at Rutgers presented on behalf of the flood and disaster management research track. Rachel, a junior at William and Mary and I presented on behalf of the marine debris research track and Michelle, a senior at Berkeley attended the first day before leaving to present our work at a biomedical conference in Arizona.
It was incredibly rewarding to watch these undergraduates professionally navigate the conference, talk about their work, and to confidently present on their research. They successfully fielded questions from the audience and independently delved into post-presentation discussions. Esri’s Leslie Wilson from the University Programs Team took us on an informative tour of their headquarters, we met with Esri’s Industry Manager Drew Stevens, Esri’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Dawn Wright and the keynote speaker, geologist and former NASA astronaut, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. We made the most of our short time in Redlands, attending workshops, presentations and networking with industry leaders. I learned so much viewing this conference experience through a different lens. it was nice to reunite with these talented students, to see them shine and to watch them grow, after all that is what our REU is all about, to nurture confident, open minded and well-rounded student scholars. I am so proud of our team and I was honored to lead these bright young women in a step towards their professional careers.