Once a year, the Geological Society of America (or GSA for short) holds an annual research conference where geologists gather to present and share their research with fellow geologists. The conference is a great opportunity for students, both undergraduate and graduate, to network, practice their presentation skills, and soak in what other geologists do.

There’s so much going on that it can be a little overwhelming so we have a few recommendations for what to do with your time when at the GSA annual conference.


Go on one of the field trips!

When you register for the conference, you can also choose to go on one of the many field trips offered. This year’s selection included some pretty awesome locals such as Mount St. Helens, but I went on a local (and cheaper) trip that explored Seattle and its many geohazards.

Observing an outcrop in Discovery Park during the field trip exploring Seattle. Photo from authors
Observing an outcrop in Discovery Park during the field trip exploring Seattle. Photo from authors.


Take a Short Course:

In addition to many poster and talk sessions, you can also sign up for a short course. These are generally one or two days (8am-5pm), and take place before the conference. Some of the courses are specifically geared to graduate students. If you decide that you do not want to attend the conference, you do not have to pay for registration.


Go to Technical Talks & Poster Sessions:

At GSA, you can be sure there will be a plethora of research topics, and everyone is there to share their research either in the format of a poster or a short 15 minute talk.



The Jackson School has a pretty big presence at almost every conference, and numerous ways for you network with people. You can meet alumni at the the JSG Booth or at the Alumni and Friends reception. Additionally, if you’re considering graduate school, GSA is an excellent venue for hobnobbing with potential future advisors.


Be a Student Volunteer:

Don’t want to pay that $150 registration fee? If you’re a student (graduate or undergraduate) you can volunteer for a minimum of 10 hrs in exchange for free registration. There are many different options to volunteer, and the easier/ less time intensive opportunities get snatched up pretty early. I ended up being a technical session student volunteer, which essentially meant that I did anything that the session chair needed, such as grabbing some extra batteries for the laser pointer from the AV guy in the hallway.


Explore the City:

The Original Starbucks in Seattle. Photo from authors
The Original Starbucks in Seattle. Photo from authors

Arrive early or stay late and explore the city! The location of the conference changes yearly. Take advantage of the chance to travel to a potentially unknown city and explore some of the sites if you’ve got an extra day of vacation/ the money to do so! We got to Seattle early this year so we had a day to explore the city. Some of the sweet places we went to were the Space Needle, the first Starbucks located at Pike Place, and Pike Place Market where they make fresh crumpets and sell gigantic lobster tails.


About to explore Space Needle! Photo from authors.
About to explore Space Needle! Photo from authors.


Other useful info:

Want to know more about GSA and future annual meetings?



What other geology conferences are there?