PAOC Spotlights

The 2011 PAOC Retreat: Ziplines, Rockstar Wannabes and Accrostic Shannanigans

Fri September 30th, 2011

Last weekend, members took off for the White Mountains for the 2011 PAOC Retreat.

The 18th annual PAOC retreat took place last weekend, September 23-25, 2011, at the Mountain Club resort on Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH. Over 100 students, postdocs, researchers, faculty, support staff and guests enjoyed the 3 day "Retreat from the Keyboard - Adventures in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate" organised, as every year, by students from across the Program.

Group photo, PAOC Retreat 2011 at the Mountain Club, NH - image credit: Allison Wing (click on the picture for a larger version)

Friday Night: Acrostic for Dinner Anyone?

This year's kick-off ice-breaker involved a fiendishly challenging PAOC crossword (devised by Yavor Kostov and Marty Singh) in which we learnt everything from (30 across) Who appeared as an extra in the movie "Vercingetorix: La legende du druide roi"? (Answer: Yavor Kostov) to (28 down) Which member of faculty funded themselves performing as a juggler in Harvard Square? (Answer: Raf Ferrari). Dan Chavas's table beat out a strong field to win a collection of glow sticks and pumpkin carving utensils. 

Saturday Morning: The 3 R's of PAOC - Rapid Research Roundup

The 3 R's of PAOC - Rapid Research Roundup

For many years, the retreat comprised of two lengthy sessions of invited science talks. This year, however, saw the return of the Rapid Reseach Roundup (3 R's), a quick-fire sequence of one-minute, one slide, no questions presentations aimed at helping PAOC's members get a handle on what everyone else in the Program is working on -- a fun, scientific elevator-pitch, if you will.

With full coffee carafes on hand, the 80+ presentations included a giant movie of a hurricane from Morgan O'Neil, an intriguing description of work by Melissa Moulton to investigate surf-zone mixing with the aid of a back-hoe and a presentation by Jean-Michel Campin about work modeling MITgcm using a version of MITgcm containing lots of mini-MITgcms. Raf Ferrari recounted his interest in ocean mixing while sharing a particularly interesting slide of himself wearing an apron brandishing an electric mixer, while Laura Meredith, Highlighting the perils of being an atmospheric chemist when a raccoon just can't keep its nose out of your instrument, shared footage from the critter-camera she had installed to monitor her apparatus in Harvard Forest, Petersham, MA this past winter. 

Despite the frenetic pace, time-keeper Dan Chavas only had to ring his bell a few times to keep everyone to time, indeed things ran so smoothly that there was even time left for David McGee (who joins the Program officially in January 2012) to give his presentation (we gave hime 10 minutes for being new) before the half-time coffee break. The slides are available here, so if you missed the retreat or the pace was just too much to keep everybody and their research straight, you can take a look back and refresh yourself on who's who and what's what.

Saturday Afternoon - Putting the "A" in Adventures

Putting the "A" in Adventure...

After a light lunch, afternoon activities included a selection of hikes to enjoy the warm sunshine and nascent fall color. Complementary gondola rides allowed even the least athletic to enjoy the upper reaches of Loon Mountain. And several groups rented mountain bikes while others assembled at the "Adventure Center" beside the resort to try out the trampolines, climbing wall and popular zipline. For the very young there were pony rides.


Saturday Evening - Got Talent?

Got Talent?

After dinner on Saturday came the eagerly anticipated Talent Show, which provided an annual forum for members to flex their non-scientific skill-set. Headliners from previous years set the bar high, including Brian Rose’s 2009 rendition of "I’ve Been Working on my Thesis" and last year's new student rendition of "The PV Song."

However, after watching this year's performances, I think it is fair to say we are a pretty talented bunch -- lots of guitarists, several singers (including new faculty Susan Solomon (also starting January 2012), who led a rendition of the theme song from Gilligan's Island accompanied by backing vocalists Susan and Kerry Emanuel), jugglers, a fiddle player, a tap dancer, a cellist, and a particularly courageous young rapper. The first years put together a version of TiK ToK by Ke$ha and few will soon forget Dan Rothman, rock guitarist. Yavor Kostov MC'd.

Sunday Morning - Down to Science

On Sunday morning Breck Owens and Delia Oppo from WHOI and new faculty Dan Cziczo presented talks about their work, centering around this year's retreat theme: Keyboard: Adventures in the Atmosphere and Ocean. Dan Rudnick from Scripps was also invited to speak, but unfortunately couldn't make the trip.

At the break, members assembled for a group photo.

State of PAOC
The retreat ended with a short discussion on the "State of PAOC". Kerry Emanuel briefed the group on the status of new hires and welcomed the three incoming faculty members. The new website has been a great success and he encouraged participation by new members of PAOC. He also discussed the John Carlson Lecture series - a community outreach program sponsored by the Lorenz Center.

Thanks to the 2011 retreat committee for all their preparation and hard work, and for throwing PAOC a highly enjoyable weekend. Until next year...


Sophia Merrifield & Veronique Dansereau


Morgan O'Neill, Allison Wing, Aditi Sheshadri, Dan Amrhein, Dan Chavas, Marty Singh, Melissa Moulton, Andrew Davis, Tim Cronin, Mike Byrne and Yavor Kostov


Relive the fun and action with photos from this and previous retreats on our PAOC and EAPS Flickr pages!


The retreat is generously subsidized by the Houghton Fund and is therefore free of charge to all faculty, post-docs, and graduate students in PAOC. Guests are welcome, although there is a fee for any guest over the age of 12.

Photography credits: Allison Wing, Helen Hill

The Best of the 2011 Retreat