2019 Southeastern Geological Society of America Overview

By Mary Jane Hughes

SE GSA 2019:

The 68th annual meeting of the Southeastern Section of the Geological Society of America (SE GSA) was held in Charleston, SC, on March 28–29. Members of the myFOSSIL team were in attendance, including Jen Bauer, MacKenzie Smith, Fauve Wilson, and Victor Perez, as well as the two social media interns, Sam Ocon, and Mary Jane Hughes. 

Two of our team members completed oral presentations during the meeting on the second day of the conference. MacKenzie Smith presented on Thursday, March 28, 2019, from 3:40 – 4:00 p.m. and Fauve Wilson presented on Friday, March 29, 2019, from 11:15 – 11:35 a.m.

The social media interns presented posters of their research on Instagram posts and stories from the FOSSIL Project account (@thefossilproject). The poster session lasted from 9:00 –11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 29, 2019. 

Oral Sessions: 

MacKenzie Smith is a paleobotany Ph.D. student with the FOSSIL Project at the Florida Museum of Natural History. He presented on Thursday, March 28, 2019, on how to generate engagement with the paleontology community on YouTube. Using this social media platform for a different form of digital science communication, Smith gathered data to see if video format (genre) or topic has an effect on user/viewer engagement.


Fauve Wilson is a volunteer researcher in the vertebrate paleontology department at the Florida Museum working with paleontology graduate student Victor Perez to work through the fossils gathered at the Belgrade Quarry and determine the various ancient shark species found in Maysville, North Carolina. Wilson presented on the fossils discovered from the early Miocene Belgrade Formation sediment that was collected during the 2018 Belgrade Community Science event. 



MacKenzie Smith presenting his work on considering what type of videos performs better on YouTube.

Fauve Wilson presenting on the shark and ray fauna found during the FOSSIL Belgrade 2018 trip.

Poster Sessions: 

Samantha Ocon at her poster examining the utility of Instagram stories.

Samantha Ocon is a rising senior in geology specializing in invertebrate paleontology and science communication. She presented on Instagram stories as an understudied facet of Instagram that can be implemented to share and discuss information in an interactive and novel way. Ocon’s study defines metrics for educational Instagram stories while exploring methods we found to be successful at conveying paleontological knowledge. We developed a retention rate metric that measures viewership retention throughout a story. This is calculated by taking the number of viewers from the last slide, dividing it by the number of viewers on the first slide, and multiplying by 100. We also found that using interactive tools such as the poll sticker, provide insight into how engaged our users were with our content. Read the entire abstract by clicking here.



Mary Jane Hughes with the conference proceedings!

Mary Jane Hughes is a recent UF graduate who majored in Public Relations with a concentration in business and a passion for science communication. Her poster served as a visual representation to help answer the question: “What post types are most effective for generating followers and engagement with social paleontology in this social niche?” The social media team has collected data since the start of the account in an effort to better understand how this unique platform can be used to further engage with a diverse community, increasing participation and contribution to the science of paleontology. From these data, Hughes focused on creating a method of classifying the FOSSIL Project’s posts into six different types. These post types include Opportunity, News, Information, Promotion, Activity Updates, and Other. The results indicate that opportunity and informational posts garner higher engagement rates when compared to other types and have the potential to reach broad, diverse audiences. Read the entire abstract by clicking here.






Reflection from a non-scientist:

Sam and Fauve enjoying Charleston SC!

Coming from a communications background, visiting conferences is the hallmark for networking or finding your future co-workers and SE GSA did not disappoint. There was a variety of opportunities to meet others both within your field and in multiple areas of geology. One aspect that I did not expect were the vendors that sold a variety of gems and jewelry during the first night of the conference. I think this was a positive addition with the other activities and I could not pass up the opportunity to buy the FOSSIL Project’s logo, the ammonite. The poster sessions were well organized and very efficient to walk through when visiting each booth. The subjects ranged from three-dimensional geometric modeling to advances in geoscience education. 

During the poster session Friday morning of the conference, there was excitement in the air and a strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Standing in one spot for two hours seemed to fly by once people started to approach the poster and ask questions such as “How do you find other paleontologists on Instagram?” and “Do you think this makes a valuable impact on the community?” Most of the conference-goers interested in the poster were also educators looking to utilize social media in their classrooms and develop a repertoire with the online paleontological community. Overall, I believe this was an enjoyable learning experience and even a non-scientist can have a great time! 


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