The Edge Effect

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eagle Lake Zooarchaeology Conference

Over at North State Science there is information about a conference specifically for zooarchaeology. It's the Stanley J Olsen Eagle Lake Zooarchaeology Conference and it's happening at the field station for CSU Chico. It looks like a lot of fun so those of you interested in Fauna should consider checking it out.

I'm looking forward to SAAs in San Juan (leaving at 6:00 tomorrow morning), but there's something about these smaller, more specialized conferences that is really nice. One of the best conference experiences I've had was a little over a year ago at the Flint Hills Conference in Council Grove, Kansas. All of the student-types and a couple of friends with jobs (about a dozen altogether) got a cabin together on the lake nearby. Besides having a great time with everybody, several of us brought along artifacts from projects we were currently working on. I got a lot of input on materials I didn't recognize and I saw some things in other collections that looked more like my stuff than it should have. On the downside, my friend HC pointed out that if a meteorite hit that cabin, the world would have lost an entire generation of Kansas archaeologists. That seems like a risk not worth taking.

I understand that the Pecos conference in New Mexico is also quite an event, but we haven't made it there yet. It looks like the Eagle Lake conference is held at a field station so there is good opportunity for fishing, hiking, and otherwise enjoying mountain life.

SAA is a fun conference and there is something nice about getting 2000 archaeologists together to talk about all kinds of research. But the sheer volume of the conference has gotten out of control. Based on the preliminary program, I count 38 events happening concurrent with my session on Thursday morning. This includes symposia, general sessions, poster sessions, forums, and working groups; it does not include committee meetings, ethics bowl, exhibits, book sales, and the jobs fair. It's so overwhelming that it's basically impossible to hear all the papers you are interested in.

I don't really know that there is a solution to this, a lot of people complain that SAA should reject more papers, but I don't think the correlation between abstract quality and paper quality is tight enough to use this as a deciding factor. Also there is something nice about being able to give a paper no matter what its merits if for no other reason than to have the experience of giving a crappy paper and knowing how to avoid it in the future. I gave my flaming-ball-of-crap paper at a much smaller conference, which actually meant that every single person at the conference knew about it and it was hard to blow off. Hopefully that will never happen again.