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Salt Lake City might seem like a strange place for ocean experts from around the world to gather for their biennial meeting. After all, the Great Salt Lake doesn't really count as an ocean, and the Pacific is several hundred miles away.

But more than 4,000 visitors from 51 countries are expected to attend the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center. The conference, which includes The Oceanography Society, the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the American Geophysical Union, starts Monday and runs through Friday.

"There are oceans on the East and West coasts, as well as people coming from Europe and Asia," said Michael Roman, president of The Oceanography Society. "We are splitting the difference. A lot of direct flights come to Salt Lake City, so you don't have to switch planes. It's a great convention center, with hotels in close proximity. And you can tack on a few days before and after for skiing. That's a bit of a draw."

According to event spokeswoman Kristin Kracke, the meetings provide a venue for scientific exchange across marine science disciplines including physical, biological, chemical and geological oceanography. More than 1,200 oral presentations covering 173 topic areas are scheduled during the five-day conference.

Roman said there will be discussions on ancient oceans, geology, tidal waves, climate change, coral reefs and sea grasses.

"You go to a session and there are different scientists from across the United States, Europe and Asia there," he said. "It's a way to keep up on your field."

Of particular interest is how the warming cycle is affecting oceans.

"The ice-covered areas in the Arctic are thinning or going away," said Roman. "We will look at how this is affecting animals and the plants that live there, how it's changing the currents and possible passageways. We will have a couple of sessions on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We will have done some work on the tsunami and its effects off Japan. Natural disasters are hot topics. We are just chugging along doing basic science on how the ocean works, and what mans' effects are on the oceans."

He stressed that the three societies are apolitical.

One of the featured events at the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting will be the plenary sessions from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Salt Lake Convention Center Ballroom. Topics will include studies on sharks, education in the ocean sciences, modeling marine microbes and ocean food chains.

The conference is not open to the public.

For information on The Oceanography Society and the conference, visit

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