Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 In Review

Above: a photo of a fossil of the feeding arm of the Cambrian creature anomalocaris taken by the author at the Mt. Stephen Fossil Beds, British Columbia, Canada during the summer of 2010. Below: Nobu Tamura's rendering of the whole of the creature, as shown on wikipedia (
Note: The whole set of images from the Walcott Quarry and Mt. Stephen Trilobite Beds can be seen here.

Since this was nominally started as a blog about career and academic job finding, today is a good day to look back upon 2010 and examine the progress made. I've got to conclude that it has been a very good year. When the year started, I was working at York University, back again doing planetary science with friends from the Phoenix Mission after having spent a year doing terrestrial science with Environment Canada. That was already a good start and things improved from there.

Since academic jobs must be applied for a year or more in advance, there was no break in making applications with the starting of the new job at York (as I was on a one-year contract there). Within the first few months of the year one of these panned out for me. My applications and research proposals to NSERC and the CATP were both accepted, paving the way for my employment at the University of Western Ontario at CPSX. Initially, I worried that these would present an, admittedly, happy problem of determining which to accept. However, in the end there was a way to combine the two (both are administered through NSERC).

Also, in early January, first-author paper #3 "Atmospheric Dynamics at the Phoenix Landing Site as seen by the Surface Stereo Imager" was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. This was the culmination of some hard work on the Phoenix Mission and processing data from observations which I designed and advocated for during the ops phase of the mission. The addition of this paper to my CV already improved my chances with search committees. But this was further improved when I was informed that it would receive the Roger Daley postdoctoral publication award from CMOS for the year. The ceremony took place at their annual meeting in June.

Over the summer, I was able to realize a minor scientific expedition of my own with my father, a former marine biologist who worked with the Government of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We took a couple of hikes in British Columbia to visit the Mt. Stephen Trillobite Beds and the Burgess Shale (these were official tours guided by the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation, spaces are available for next season here). These two fossil beds are rich records of life just after the cambrian explosion when macroscopic organisms first took over the earth. You could say that it was my first astrobiology experience of the year. Aside from that, the hikes were great fun and the setting was spectacular.

After I got back, I decided that it was time to get more writing practice. In January, I had begun reading through the Hugo and Nebula award winners for Science Fiction. In July, I decided to start writing about them and started a new blog to document the project. Planetary Science and Space Exploration has always attracted the interest of people outside of the field, even seeping into popular culture. It's interesting to look at the best of the genre to see how the interested public views our work and it's implications. In some ways it helps to give a fuller understanding, I believe.

Meanwhile, my EPO activities were heating up. I had been a docent at the York Observatory since September of 2009, but starting in the summer of 2010 I began contributing to our radio show "Live at York U." The conversations on the radio have been a great deal of fun and I've been lucky to have in Paul Delaney, Robert Bethiaume and Jesse Rogerson some great co-hosts. In particular a series of interviews I did with early career scientists at the DPS conference was very rewarding.

Speaking of the DPS, as readers of yesterday's post know, the Division for Planetary Sciences Conference was a bit of a turning point for me. It was my first planetary conference since LPSC 2007, and the first conference I'd attended since AGU2009/AGUJM2010. I now feel like I'm back on track a little bit with my career. I also was able to present some good results, the first science done entirely outside of my PhD, which looks like it may be published in the new year.

In November, I also received some good news. First author paper #4 "Adsorptive fractionation of HDO on JSC MARS-1 during sublimation with implications for the regolith of Mars" will be published in Icarus in the coming year! This was work that I had done as part of my PhD, but I had been having some difficulties getting it through review. To finally get it accepted was very satisfying. Since there is a fully-formated version now available, I'll be reviewing it soon.

Lastly, to end out the year, I was pleasantly surprised to have found an audience beyond my expectations. Over the month of December, 2,717 people viewed this little corner of the web. The most popular article was my commentary on Arsenic Life, which had 455 views over that time. Thank-you all for your interest! I hope that I continue to find topics as interesting well into 2011 and that 2011 is as productive a year as 2010 was.

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