[Coral-List] Fwd: No geology,Plenary Speakers Program

Michael Risk riskmj at mcmaster.ca
Fri Jan 14 12:13:01 EST 2011

Good day.

In response to the posts by Gene Shinn and Bob Ginsburg,  you ask "how important are any geological questions compared to those listed below?"- which is a fair question, but not the right one.

 If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. As far as I am aware, this is the first time any complaints have been registered about choices of plenary speakers at these conferences, although it needs also to be said that this is probably the first time there has been no representative from the earth sciences.  [Although here I need to point out that I have never seen any clear dividing line between biology and geology, which is why I had no difficulty accepting Jamaluddin Jompa-a biologist-into graduate school, where he earned an excellent master's degree in, wait for it, geology.]

If there really is an issue here, then the Organizing Committee should provide a list of the criteria they used in their selection process. But I return to my original point, which is that importance depends on one's point of view. David's question would ask us to rank the importance of questions, which is an activity which is fraught... Bob points out the importance of mesophytic reef systems, an area in which he has been a prime mover.

Let me pose to you a hypothetical set of circumstances. Let's say I am an organizing committee of one, charged with selecting plenary speakers for the next Congress. My choices strike at the heart of two of the major stressors: sediments and sewage. I propose the following speakers:

Mike Field, USGS. His group is currently doing the finest work on sediments in coral reefs that has ever been done. Their research points the way to methods of detecting and avoiding this threat.

Owen Sherwood, Imperial Oil. His research has demonstrated how long climate records can be obtained from deepwater corals, the new archive of climate change, without which none of the models can properly be calibrated. In addition, his recent research has showed us how coral records in shallow water can be used as objective tracers of sewage stress. 

I then announce that, in the opinion of the Organizing Committee of Mike, we will only have two plenary speakers, because the questions they answer are far more important than the questions on which many biologists work. I can only imagine the howls, as a different ox is gored...

Dr. Michael J Risk
Professor of Biology and Geology

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