GeoLog

Laura Roberts-Artal

Laura Roberts Artal is the Communications Officer at the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the management of the Union's social media presence and the EGU blogs, where she writes regularly for the EGU's official blog, GeoLog. She is also the point of contact for early career scientists (ECS) at the EGU Office. Laura has a PhD in palaeomagnetism from the University of Liverpool. Laura tweets at @LauRob85.

Imaggeo on Mondays: A single beam in the dancing night lights

Laser and auroras. (Credit: Matias Takala distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

Laser and auroras. (Credit: Matias Takala distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

Research takes Earth scientists to the four corners of globe. So, if you happen to have a keen interest in photography and find yourself doing research at high latitudes, chances are you’ll get lucky and photograph the dancing night lights: aurora (or northern lights), arguably one of the planet’s most breath taking natural phenomenon. That is exactly the position Matias Takala, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI), was in when he was able to take this incredible photograph of the swirling aurora and a single beam of green penetrating the Finnish night sky.

The green beam is emitted by Lidar (the Mobile Aerosol Raman Lidar, MARL, to be more precise). This lidar system is designed to measure tropospheric and stratospheric aerosol profiles (backscatter, size distribution, mass), tropospheric water vapour and clouds, with the ability to distinguish between particulates such as dust, ash, and smoke from biomass burning. The system is based at the Arctic Research Centre (ARC) at Sodankylä. Because environmental change is most pronounced in the Polar Regions, the location is ideal to study the effects of a warming climate as a result of environmental changes brought about by the activities of humans.

The high latitude position of the research station means it is also ideally located to contribute to the continuous monitoring of ionospheric activity. Think of the ionosphere as a ring, 85 km to 600 km above the Earth’s surface, of electrons, electrically charged atoms and molecules that surround the Planet. It is here that aurora are generated as incoming charged particles from solar wind collide with the electrons and atoms of gas in the ionosphere. A network of FMI auroral cameras and magnetometers continually survey the sky to provide space weather services, including alerts for when the best auroral displays are likely.

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

Townhall and Splinter Meetings at EGU 2015

In addition to the wealth of scientific sessions at the General Assembly (12–17 April 2015), there is also the option to attend other meetings during EGU 2015. These include Townhall and Splinter Meetings, which are organised by conference participants. 

Townhall Meetings

Townhall Meetings are meetings open for all participants in the conference. During these meetings new initiatives or decisions are announced to a larger audience following an open discussion on the matter.

Anyone may organise a Townhall Meeting, subject to approval by the Programme Committee chair. Townhall Meetings will be scheduled from Monday to Friday from 19:00 to 20:00 in the conference centre’s lecture rooms. Applications should be sent to the Programme Committee chair using the Townhall Meeting Request Form. Upon acceptance, the respective meeting will appear in the Townhall Meetings Programme as a regular session.

Further information on Townhall Meetings is available on the EGU 2015 website.

Opening night at EGU 2014. (Credit: EGU/Tim Middleton)

Opening night at EGU 2014. (Credit: EGU/Tim Middleton)

Splinter Meetings

Splinter Meetings can also be organised by participants during the course of the conference and they can be public or by invitation only. To request a Splinter meeting, please complete the online Splinter Meeting Request Form. Splinter Meeting rooms are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please see the Splinter Meeting Overview to determine room availability before submitting your request.

Note, that these splinter meeting rooms are not available for booking as an extension of a session or a Poster Summary Discussion (PSD). Such requests will automatically be withdrawn. Instead, conveners can request a PSD room in their Session Organising Tool SOII from 17 – 20 January 2015.

Additional information on Splinter Meetings is available on the EGU 2015 website.

Connecting Earth scientists and school students – Apply to take part in I’m a Geoscientist!

What and when

Imagine a talent show where contestants get voted off depending on their skills in their area of choice. Then imagine that this talent show is populated by scientists with school students voting them off based on the scientist’s ability to communicate their research well. This is the basis of a recent EGU educational initiative that launched earlier in 2014, and that will return in 2015.

The EGU are continuing their collaboration with Gallomanor, the UK company in charge of I’m a Scientist (Get me out of here) and I’m an Engineer (Get me out of here), to run the European-wide sister project I’m a Geoscientist. The event provides school students with the opportunity to meet and interact with real (geo)scientists!I'm a geoscientist

The event takes the form of an online chat forum using an innovative online platform. School students log on and post questions to the scientists taking part, querying them on everything (with moderation) from their research to their favourite music. The scientists then log on and answer those questions. Based on their answers (e.g. on how well they’ve explained a particular piece of science), students get to vote out scientists until there is one left – the best scientific communicator – who wins €500 for a new public-engagement project of their choice.

The primary objective of the event is to change students’ attitudes to the geosciences and make them feel it’s something they can relate to and discuss in a rapidly changing world. Students have fun, but also get beyond stereotypes, learn about how science relates to real life, develop their thinking and discussion skills and make connections with real scientists. Giving students some real power (deciding where the prize money goes) also makes the event more real for them. The student who interacts the most with scientists and asks the most insightful questions will also win a €20 gift voucher.

I'm a geoscientistIIThe next I’m a Geoscientist event is taking place on 9–20 March 2015. If you’d like to apply as a teacher (giving your classes the opportunity to interact with geoscientists) or as a researcher, see the details below. The deadline for all applications is 26 January 2015, and GIFT teachers and EGU members are eligible to apply.

 

Teachers

To apply to take part in the event, go to http://imageoscientist.eu/teachers/ and fill in the simple online form for teachers. Applications are open to all teachers who have taken part in a GIFT event (at any time). Successful teachers will be notified shortly after the deadline for applications, and the event will take place over two weeks on 9–20 March 2015. You will need to use some class time before the event to prepare your students, but we have flexible lesson plans already prepared to help you keep the class time used to a minimum.

To take part you need to be able to devote at least 2 hours (it doesn’t matter when, and the maximum you will need is 5 hours) for those two weeks to ready your students for interacting with the scientists and take part in some online discussion – and of course you will have to have reliable internet access. The entire event will be conducted in English, so you and your class will also need a basic understanding of and ability to write questions to scientists in English. Why not team up with your school’s English department and use the event as a language learning exercise as well? If you choose to do this, make sure that the teacher who has been involved with GIFT in the past is the one who formally registers.

 

Scientists

For scientists, this is a unique opportunity to get involved with some public engagement from the comfort of your own home or lab computer, in your own time. You can build up your skills in talking about your research to varied audiences, tick the box for public engagement in your funding proposals, gain an understanding of how the public relate to research and, importantly, help inspire the next generation about the geosciences.

The potential of winning the €500 prize for further public engagement is also attractive. A public engagement activity could involve: buying equipment to allow a research oceanography vessel to communicate with school students during expeditions, funding an open day for communities living in a disaster area to find out about natural hazards research and get advice, giving the money to a school in Uganda to pay for science kits and a projector to watch science films on or buying a quadcopter to film inside the rim of a volcano and help school children understand their local natural environment. To find out more about the experience of participating as a scientist read the interview with 2014 winner Anna Rabitti.

To apply to take part in the event go to http://imageoscientist.eu/geoscientists/ and fill in the simple online form for scientists. Applications are open to all EGU members (if you are not a member you can register on the EGU website) from across Europe. Once applications close, we will ask the registered school classes to judge the scientist applications and chose the final 5 scientists who will get to take part in the final event. Successful scientists will be notified a couple of weeks after the deadline for applications.

To take part you need to be able to devote around an hour a day (it doesn’t matter when, but if you can devote more time that is always better) for those two weeks to answer the questions posed by the students – and of course you will have to have reliable internet access. The entire event will be conducted in English, so you will also need to be able to confidently understand and communicate in English.

If you have any other questions about the event, please contact Bárbara Ferreira at EGU (media@egu.eu, +49-89-2180-6703) or Gallomanor’s Angela Manasor (angela@gallomanor.com, and +44-1225-326892).

This blog post is based on materials by Jane Robb, former EGU Educational Fellow

 

Imaggeo on Mondays: An ancient landscape and the never setting sun.

This week’s Imaggeo on Mondays image is brought to you by Florian Heinlein, a meteorologist by training now working on his PhD modelling water transport in agricultural plants. This image was taken even before he started his bachelor’s degree and studying the Earth’s atmosphere and climate change was still a pipeline dream.

Credit: Glacial erratics in the evening sun by Florian Heinlein (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

Credit: Glacial erratics in the evening sun by Florian Heinlein (distributed via imaggeo.egu.eu)

This picture was taken during a holiday trip through the Baltics in July 2006 during the search of Purekkari, the northernmost point of Estonia which lies in Lahemaa National Park, about 70km East of Tallinn. Two principal elements are noticeable in this picture: the sky with the evening sun and the randomly distributed stones which seem to rise up from the Gulf of Finland.

Even if the sun was starting to set when the picture was taken at 8pm a month after the summer solstice, the sun could still be observed all night long due to the high geographic latitude. Nevertheless, the picture is characterized by subtle red and yellow colors near the horizon. The physical reason for these colors lies in the scattering of the solar radiation on its way through the Earth’s atmosphere. When we look into the sky, but not directly into the bright and white sun, we only see scattered sunlight. Blue light, which has a low wavelength of around 450nm, is stronger scattered by air molecules, aerosols and water vapor than yellow, orange and red light (wavelengths between 560 and 780nm). Since the pathway of the solar radiation through the atmosphere is short when the sun is high, a blue sky dominates during daytime while a longer pathway of the sunlight during sunset (and sunrise) removes the blue and green component of the solar radiation, and is thus, responsible for the reddening of the sky.

The stones in the sea are glacial erratics. In general, they can be found all over the world in regions where glaciers formed the landscapes. Glaciers can transport material of very different sizes, from soil particle size to large stones with volumes of over 6500m³ and weights of around 15000t. They can either gather already loosened stones by passing over, or quarry out parts of boulders due to freezing. When glaciers retreat, they leave the erratics often at locations where these rock types would otherwise not be found. In Northern Middle Europe erratics are mostly igneous rock, granite or metamorphic rock. Sedimentary rocks rarely occur as erratics in this region because of their low resistance.

James Hutton, (1726 - 1797 ) by Sir Henry Raeburn. (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

James Hutton, (1726 – 1797 ) by Sir Henry Raeburn. (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

Explaining the origin of glacial erratics or stones with different characteristics compared to other surrounding (country) rock was a huge problem in the scientific community of the 18th century as geology was considered to be static since the Creation of the world. Different theories, such as giants throwing stones or the transport of stones during the Deluge evolved to explain their occurence. In 1787, the Swiss politician Bernhard Friedrich Kuhn and the Scottish geologist James Hutton assumed glaciers to be responsible for the transport of erratics, but this theory contradicted the actual world view. During this time the name “erratic” was assigned which comes from the Latin world “errare” (to stray, to ramble). In 1835 the German natural scientist Karl Friedrich Schimper invented the term “Ice Age”. This theory was later refined together with Jean de Charpentier, director of Bex saline (Switzerland), and Louis Agassiz, a Swiss natural scientist. Thus, glacier research was promoted and advanced, meaning the problem of the slowly transported stones was solved. However, it should be noted that the Ice Age theory was not commonly accepted before the 1870s.

Finally, I want to thank my dear friend, Bernhard Kahle, for having taken this picture with his digital camera while I was only able to take a similar picture with my film camera.

Florian Heinlein, Institute of Soil Ecology, Helmholtz Zentrum München

 

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

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