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Jennell Johnson

University of Idaho Chapter

By: Jennell Johnson, University of Idaho Chapter

On March 26th to the 29th, the Northwest Science Association held their annual conference. The University of Idaho Chapter of the Women in Science Society provided the opportunity for 3 members to attend the conference, and I was ecstatic to be picked along with two other girls. This being the first conference any of us had attended, two of us went to the social Tuesday evening to meet and network with other attendees. With delicious food, we were able to make conversation and learn some names to help our transition in to the conference.
The next day early in the morning and armed with coffee we drove down to the Lewis-Clark State College. The conference began with greetings from the Gregg Riegel and an opening prayer by a Native American Elder. We were told the story of a geologist who passed away a few years ago who had worked at that very college. This led to the outstanding keynote speaker, Brian Atwater, who presented his findings about Cascadia fault and its history.
The two speakers after the keynote helped deepen our knowledge of the geography and history of the great Pacific Northwest. Their passion for sharing their knowledge was inspiring and reminded us of the importance of bridging the gap between scientists and the public through communication. During our lunch break, we found a sandwich shop and began planning which of the remaining talks we wanted to see. Now this would be a good time to mention I am studying microbiology, and this conference focuses on geology, ecology and wildlife. This forced me to zoom out from my micro world and look at the world on a macro scale. I went to talks about snails to mammoths all on the same day! We ended the day by checking out the poster session, and headed home with our brains full and our curiosity heightened.
On the second day, I had the opportunity to sit in on a session about the replanting on the Colville reservation in Washington. A few years ago there was a major fire, and having grown up frequently going to the land that was almost destroyed from it, I was excited to hear more information about it. The session had passionate talks about the affected Native American lands and the native’s views on outsiders trying to gain their trust to conduct research on these lands.
After listening to the talks in this session I was ready to do something more hands on, so I signed up for the lichenologist class, which allowed me to use a microscope to look at lichen and attempt to identify them. Once we all got comfortable identifying them under a microscope, we played BINGO with identifying lichen! I had a blast, and one of the girls and I combined our teams and ended up winning!
The last day of the conference was for field trips, and I chose to pair the lichenologist class I took the day before with the lichen field trip. We drove out to Hells Canyon, around 30 minutes outside of Lewiston, to a location that had lovely views and small trail to walk.

As we walked, people pulled away from the group and began admiring all the lichen they had found on nearby rocks, fences and branches. It was the cutest thing to see these people, of all ages, sitting on the ground being so excited over this organism!

Overall, this experience was one of a kind and it gave me a great feel for what I should expect should I ever attend another conference or present at a conference myself. I am so grateful for this opportunity that this club has provided for me, and I can’t wait for other girls to get the same!

Jennell Johnson
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