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Northeastern Section GSA Meeting, 2006, Camp Hill, PA
Report to the Northeastern Section, Geological Society of America

Noel Potter, Jr., General Chair
Department of Geology
Dickinson College
Carlisle, PA 17013
Phone: 717-528-8485 or 717-385-4071

Financial Overview

The 2006 NE GSA Meeting was held at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Convention Center in Camp Hill, PA, just across the Susquehanna River from downtown Harrisburg. Total registration was 923 (or 933, depending upon how a few complimentary registrations are counted). This is the best single-section meeting attendance since 1997 at Valley Forge (Graph 1).

Graph 1. Attendance at NE GSA since 1993. Attendance for the joint NE/SE GSA at Tysons Corner was halved.

All bills are paid, and Mary Kerns, accountant at GSA and I have reconciled accounts. We returned a profit of $25,704.32 to the NE Section treasury, and since the reconciliation, I sold 30 left over Abstracts with Programs back to Nancy Carlson and an additional $360 should have been deposited in the Section account. We were asked by Section Secretary Steve Pollock to return about $7,000-9,000 to the Section. We budgeted conservatively for an attendance of 700, and our high return is primarily the result of attendance >200 above that budgeted for. We had obtained forms for GSA to obtain exemption for PA 6% sales tax, but through loss of a GSA staff person this never got done.  Thanks to Jack Hess and Kay Dragon, GSA has graciously refunded to the Section $2,350.68 in the amount of taxes paid to the hotel. (Attach our and Mary's spreadsheets)

Thanks to Melissa Cummiskey at GSA and a can-do hotel staff we had a good contract.  We committed to a room-block of 150 rooms/night for 3 nights at $102/room + tax for up to four persons per room. We easily met that with a room pickup of >600 room nights reserved for the duration of the meeting. Indeed the hotel filled all available rooms for Monday night and some people were referred to a nearby motel at the same rate for some 20+ rooms.

Publicity and NE GSA Posters

Primary advertising for the meeting was: 1) by traditional Preliminary and Final Announcements in GSA Today and on the GSA web site, and 2) by less traditional production and distribution of a nice digital terrain image of the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada with the meeting prominently advertises. The NE GSA poster followed the spectacular poster produced by Paul Morin (National Center for Earth Dynamics, University of Minnesota) from Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission (SRTM) data. Paul agreed to do a similar image for us at the cost of sending him a few hundred printed posters. Folded versions of the poster were bound into the September GSA Today for all 3400 copies mailed to the NE Section with the Preliminary Announcement for our meeting. Unfortunately somehow the poster was printed as black and white vs. what was supposed to be grayscale. This caused some agony on the part of Paul Morin and me. However, Jon Olsen, GSA's Director of Publications, kindly arranged to have another printing done the right way at GSA's cost for distribution as: 1) give-aways at national GSA in Salt Lake City, 2) mailings by me, and 3) at our NE GSA meeting. Despite the printing glitch, I think the posters were helpful with publicity and well-received. Paul also produced for me at cost a dozen giant 5' x 8' stereo anaglyph copies of the poster, one for display in the exhibits area at our meeting, and the others were sold at a modest profit to various geology departments. Total cost for the poster, taking account of income from sales of the large posters, was $2,043.41. To put this in perspective, this added about $2.20 per registrant to fees.


Of the 933 registrants, 632 (67.7%) preregistered and 301 (32.3%) registered on-site (Table from Budget). Free registration was extended to: a) 24 student workers, b) 13 exhibitors, c) 4 GSA staff/support/comp. people, and d) 2 guest speakers. Fully 48.4% of registrants were students, 41.5% were Professionals, and 10.1 % were Exhibitors, Guests, or Field Trip Only registrants. Of those for whom GSA charged a registration fee, we were charged $25 each for 401 Professional registrants and $12 each for 516 Student, Guest, Comp., and Exhibitor registrants. Registration went very smoothly with the good help of Kevin Ricker, supported at the meeting by Mollie VanOtterloo, both from the GSA staff.

Technical Program

There is little doubt that the technical program is the "bedrock" of the meeting, and the quality of the program is the major "draw" that makes people want to come. Program Co-chairs Jennifer Elick and Pete Sak spent countless hours to insure a program of diversity and quality.

We received 378 abstracts, of which 193 were presented as oral papers and 185 as posters. Graphs 2 and 3 illustrate the trends over the past few years in numbers. Undergraduate students were first authors on 109 (29% of total) of the papers. Of these 18 were oral and 91 were posters.

Graph 2. Presentations at NE GSA meetings since 1990. Figures for the 2004 Tysons Corner meeting were halved.


Graph 3. Ratio of registrants to presentations at NE GSA meetings since 1993.

Putting together a good program requires lots of conversation with our diverse clientele and deserves careful attention. The Program Chairs and I started brainstorming topics for possible Theme and Symposium sessions a monthor or two before the 2005 Saratoga meeting. We then went to work at the Saratoga meeting asking people who work in diverse sub-disciplines for suggestions, often querying what the "hot topics" are. We asked if the person would convene a session if we decided to go with it. It is best not to commit to specific sessions until all options are on the table. Upon return from Saratoga we compiled a list and tried the topics out on our whole Local Committee. Topics fell into 3 categories: 1) run with it, 2) modify it and go with it, 3) forget it. In a few cases we "invented" topics to fill gaps that we knew would be popular. Contact with potential conveners/advocates is crucial. They must understand that part of their job is to make contact with people active in their topic and "smoke out" good papers. Most of our conveners did an excellent job, but it is clear that they can not sit back and just wait for papers to roll in. As in other recent years, the Appalachian Tectonics group were very active in getting a series of good sessions together.

The period from abstract deadline to when the Program is put to bed is a particularly busy time, involving lots of contact with convener/advocates. For us, this period fell over the December-early January holidays and we had to work around not being able to reach many for a couple of weeks. GSA's Confex computer program and the steady, helpful hand of Nancy Carlson at GSA makes the logistics smooth, but someone has to put sessions in logical order and avoid conflicts.

At the urging of some previous Program chairs we decided to do away with the "Undergraduate Poster Session(s)" of recent years sponsored by CUR, and carefully advertised that we would merge student papers with like ones by others according to discipline. This caused some consternation on the part of some CUR members, but we worked out our differences. We identified papers by undergraduate authors in the Program, and by CUR logo stickers next to titles on superstats outside session rooms. The only negative expressed by some faculty was that undergraduates couldn't just come for one day to do their poster and go home. Others argued that students should attend at least some of the rest of the meeting too. I recommend that the new format be continued.

Thanks to an aggressive campaign by Exhibits Co-chairs Michelle Curry and Anne Lutz to keep in touch with 2005 exhibitors and find new ones, we had 18 diverse exhibits (Table ). The Section paid for GSA's double exhibit, but GSA Bookstore paid for a high-speed internet connection and electricity. We decided to have a NE Section booth, which was useful for poster give-aways, to publicize the UNH 2007 meeting, and for Section people and meeting staff to hang their hats. We charged $100 for a basic booth for non-profit organizations and $200 for for-profit companies. We did not try to make money on exhibits on the philosophy that we would attract more by keeping costs low.

Audio Visual (furnished by Duane Braun and Joe Hill, AV Co-chairs)

A total of 193 oral presentations were given in 26 different theme sessions and symposia. Presentations were given concurrently in five session rooms on Monday AM & PM  and concurrently in four session rooms on Tuesday AM & PM and Wednesday AM.  There were only 4 no-shows for the oral presentations. The overall rental cost for all AV equipment was around $18,000.

We decided to permit only power point presentations and gave the presenters 3 ways to give us their presentations (instructions to presenters attached at end). We set up an ftp site for them to email their presentations to prior to the meeting. Only 21 presenters did so and all those arrived within 5 days of the meeting.  During the meeting the presenters could also email their presentations to the ftp site and 12 did so. The conference hotel had an internet network so people could send in their presentations from their rooms. All the other presenters brought their presentations to us at the Speaker Ready Room on a CD or USB memory stick.  About 25 % of the presenters arrived in the last 30 minutes before the AM or PM session began. About 5 % of the presenters arrived in the last 10 minutes before the AM or PM session began. A few showed up late, necessitating loading the presentation during a session break or immediately before the presentation was given.

One presenter refused to use Power Point and brought his presentation as an Adobe Acrobat file. Adobe is a standard part of most laptop software today and it was on the laptops that were rented. So the presentation ran fine. In the future, an option for presenters to use Adobe could be offered. The caveat is that it confuses some session chairs operating the laptop to have to switch back and forth between the 2 software packages. So maybe it could be a “background option” if a presenter asks the AV chair for it.

We had around 15 presentations that were done on Macs that had problems with the graphics showing on PCs. Fortunately, Joe Hill is an expert on Power Point and computer graphics and managed to help all but three presenters reconfigure their graphics so they showed in their entirety on the PC. The three remaining presenters had all but a few of their graphics show completely.

 The meeting was held in a conference facility that did not have a wire or wireless computer network. For an additional rental fee, a single internet line was strung to the Speaker Ready Room. This necessitated running a USB memory stick over to each Session Room to load the talks at the beginning of each AM and PM meeting time. The AV rental company also provided laptops that had graphics capability differences between 2 different brands and within a single brand. So some Power Point graphics that ran on the Speaker Ready Room laptops did not run on the Session Room laptops. This necessitated “switching out” a laptop between the Speaker Ready Room and the Session Room for 3 presentations during the meeting. For the future we strongly urge that only networked conference meeting room facilities be considered for meeting sites. Having a networked server in the Speaker Ready Room would make loading presentations easy and permit “transparent” loading of late presentations while sessions are underway. The combined Northeast-Southeast GSA meeting in 2004 has such a network and it worked well.
Submitted by AV Co-chairs, Duane Braun and Joe Hill


Bob Ganis, meeting Treasurer and my main sounding board for virtually everything related to the meeting, raised $3,300 in sponsorship contributions from 6 local aggregate producers in south-central Pennsylvania. These contributions were used to offset most of the cost of coffee breaks, with thank-you signs prominently displayed. Contributions were also acknowledged in the meeting Program.

Field Trips

Andy de Wet, with the help of a number of leaders, arranged 7 field trips for Sunday before the meeting. Two of these trips were eventually cancelled. Those that ran were as follows, with leaders and number of participants:

Cambrian Microbial Reefs, LWB Quarry, York County, Pennsylvania—Carol de Wet, 27 participants.
Nappe Mechanics and Changing Tectonic Patterns in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—Don Wise and Bob Ganis, 39 participants.
Karst Subsidence Problems along Bushkill Creek, Northampton County, Pennsylvania—Bill Kochanov, 21 participants.
A Sampling of Conodont-Bearing Strata in the Central Appalachians—John Repetski, 11 participants.
Acid Drainage Problems at Skytop, Pennsylvania—Duff Gold, Ryan Mathur, Larry Mutti, and Arnold Doden, 15 participants.

Andy prepared a guidebook that included all but the Conodont trip, which was given to all field trip participants. We sold 18 additional copies at the meeting and another 4 since. I still have a few guidebooks left for sale. Field trip expenses of $3,596.78 and income of $4,855.00 produced a profit of $1,258.22. We were able to keep costs down by having box lunches for the trips provided by a college food service at roughly half the cost we would have paid at the hotel. Similarly we used a college print facility to produce the guidebook rather than going to a commercial printer.

K–12 Activities

Jeb Baxter and Ron Dowey worked long and hard to put together 4 half-day workshops and a field trip designed for K–12 teachers. The field trip would have been to an aggregate quarry to see some good structural geology and how stone is produced to make roads. Bob Ganis had even lined up contributions from aggregate producers to subsidize the field trip. Unfortunately, by the pre-registration deadline no more than 2 people had signed up for any of these events, and all were reluctantly cancelled. Despite strong efforts to connect with the K–12 teacher community, we drew a near blank. This was disappointing for all of us.

Student Help (Furnished by Marcus Key and Ben Edwards, Co-chairs)

From Marcus: Based on the needs of AV and registration, we identified 60 half-day jobs, which we filled with 30 student volunteers. Students received free registration for the entire meeting for taking two half-day jobs. At times there were too many students at registration and AV, but this was usually offset by the need to cover for students who cancelled at the last minute. In fact, Ben had to cover AV in one of the sessions because we were short of students on the last day. Therefore, to play it safe, we would recommend not reducing the number of student volunteers.

As far as recruiting, I would not start before spring semester classes begin in January for NE college and universities so that students know their Spring schedules. We asked "local" geology department chairs to forward a recruiting e-mail to all their graduate and undergraduate geology majors (Dickinson College, Penn State University, Franklin and Marshall College, Bloomsburg University, Susquehanna University, Shippensburg University, Kutztown University, Millersville University, Gettysburg College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Bucknell University, and West Chester University). We also sent a recruiting e-mail to all the abstract authors that identified themselves as students. Despite all this, the majority of student volunteers came from two of the host organizations, Dickinson College and Bloomsburg University.

Additional comments from Ben: Although it may have seemed like we had too many volunteers, it was a great resource to have spares already on-hand during emergencies. For almost every shift we had to move someone from Registration to cover AV. It is useful to have the list of students in Excel, and sorted a couple of different ways. The best format ended up being sorted by Job AND Day, so it was easy for everyone to see what students were need in what shifts for specific jobs. Also it was much easier to schedule the same student for two shifts in a row, so that they were already around and trained for the second shift by the time they finished the first.


With considerable effort, we tried to get several workshops to run on Saturday and Sunday before the meeting. We offered 2 workshops for college teacher, one on measurement of indoor radon, and one on making digital movies for earth science classes. By the pre-registration deadline none of these had more than 2 people signed up, and all were cancelled. We worked with the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists to offer their review course for the Pennsylvania Professional Geologist Licensing Examination. They eventually offered the course independently of our meeting, but in the same hotel just before our meeting with an attendance of about two dozen people. We made reciprocal links to one another's' web sites to advertise the two events, and I think attendance at their workshop brought a few consultants to our meeting who might not have otherwise come.

Special Guests

At the suggestion of the "Hepburn Committee on Sections" report to GSA Council, we tried to "jazz up" the meeting with a couple of special guests.

We invited Jim Bell, Cornell University, to give a Special Hot Topic Lecture in a plenary session on "Mars Exploration Rovers: Latest Geology, Geochemistry, and Mineralogy Results." About 400 people attended. Although we offered to cover Jim's expenses, he provided the whole thing free.

We invited geologist/mystery writer Sarah Andrews to participate in several events at the meeting. She gave a paper in the oral session on Forensic Geology, participated in a book-signing during the Map Blast, and gave an illustrated talk as banquet speaker on her recent adventures in Antarctica where she was doing research for her next book. We paid Sarah's expenses and a modest honorarium, which I think was well worth it.

General Comments and Acknowledgements

I have not mentioned many other items dealt with for the meeting. Among these are the following:

  1. A substantial amount of time was devoted to dealing with representatives of associated societies that meet with us, some of whom co-sponsor sessions, exhibit, and/or have social events. These included the Association for Women Geoscientists, Council on Undergraduate Research, Paleontological Society, Pander Society, and SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology). I am grateful to all who responded to my calls for help.
  2. We re-instituted formal get-togethers with next year's Local Committee over lunch to answer their questions and help them know what to expect. I strongly recommend that these exchanges of words of wisdom continue.
  3. The details of dealing with a section meeting and what to expect were furnished to Wally Bothner (Durham, 2006 meeting General Chair) in a long document called WallyWatchOut.doc. I would be pleased to furnish a copy to future chairs.
  4. We had heard many horror stories regarding dealing with hotels and convention facilities. We were fortunate to have a superb group to deal with at the Radisson. They were a can-do bunch.
  5. We designed aisles 10 feet wide between poster rows. This was not wide enough. The aisles were jammed. Future groups should plan to "open them up" more.

Putting together a section meeting involves direct interaction with a substantial number of people. These include GSA staff, hotel staff, session conveners, student help, associated society representatives, exhibitors, and a Local Committee. I am grateful to all of these for helping put the pieces together that culminated in an astonishingly busy 4 days of the meeting. I am particularly grateful for an excellent Local Committee who did lots of the real work to make the meeting a good one. Bob Ganis and Pete Sak were particularly valuable as sounding boards because they were readily available to me. I am also grateful to Steve Pollock, our quiet but effective Section Secretary for his help with my (probably too frequent) questions and his advice on many, many occasions. Most of our members don't know how much Steve does for the Section.

Finally, at an early stage of preparation for our meeting I was a bit critical of the lack of help I had received from some GSA headquarters staff. I am happy to eat crow and say that I have come away from this adventure with a tremendous amount of respect for the GSA staff members I dealt with. I worked with a dozen or more staff, and all were helpful and responded to my queries and needs. My respect intensified when I realized that they were simultaneously working on other section meetings and the demands of their chairs. I am grateful to all of those good folks in Boulder. At some risk of playing favorites, the three people I dealt with the most were Kevin Ricker for Registration, Nancy Carlson for Technical Program, and Mary Kerns for the financial side of the meeting. They were superb. Thank you all!

Separate files attached with this document:
1) Our budget account spreadsheet for the meeting— 006WORKINGBUDGET2.xls
2) Mary Kern's GSA account spreadsheet—2006 mtg summary.xls
3) Long-term NE GSA attendance history brought up to date— NEGSAAttendHist.xls
4) Exhibitors at 2006 NE GSA—Exhibitors106.xls
5) Final Registration Reports from GSA–nereg_history7.xls