There are even more benefits to choosing a PICO session at EGU 2016!

There are even more benefits to choosing a PICO session at EGU 2016!

Some of the sessions scheduled for the upcoming EGU General Assembly are PICO only sessions. This means that, rather than being oral or poster format, they involve Presenting Interactive COntent (PICO). The aim of these presentations is to highlight the essence of a particular research area – just enough to get the audience excited about a topic without overloading them with information.

PICO sessions start with a series of 2 minute long presentations – one from each author. They can be a Power Point, a movie, an animation, or simply a PDF showing your research on a display. After the 2 minute talks, the audience can explore each presentation on touch screens, where authors are also available to answer questions and discuss their research in more detail.

This format combines the best of oral and poster presentations, allowing researchers to stand up and be recognised for great research while giving an oral contribution as well as discussing their work in detail and network with other participants. This year we are also making a few improvements to the layout of the PICO presentation areas in the large halls to minimise noise disruption to presenters.

An exciting development for the 2016 General Assembly is that PICO presentations are now included in the Outstanding Student Poster Awards (as they were formerly known), and have now been renamed to Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Awards.

The aim of the award is to improve the overall quality of poster and PICO presentations and most importantly, to foster the excitement of early career scientists in presenting their work. To be considered for the OSPP award, you must be the first author and personally present the PICO at the conference, as well as satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • being a current undergraduate (e.g., BSc) or postgraduate (e.g., MSc, PhD) student;
  • being a recent undergraduate or postgraduate student (conferral of degree after 1 January of the year preceding the conference) who are presenting their thesis work.

Entering couldn’t be easier! Make sure you nominate yourself when you submit your abstract on-line. You’ll receive a letter, known as ‘Letter of Schedule’, confirming your presentation has been accepted, which will also include a link by which to register for the award. Before the conference, make sure you include the OSPP label (which you can find here) to your PICO presentation header so that the judges of the OSPP award now to evaluate your presentation.

To learn more about PICO presentations see the General Assembly website. You can also check out the short introductory video below:

Geoscience hot topics – Part I: The Earth’s past and its origin

Geoscience hot topics – Part I: The Earth’s past and its origin

What are the most interesting, cutting-edge and compelling research topics within the scientific areas represented in the EGU divisions? Ground-breaking and innovative research features yearly at our annual General Assembly, but what are the overarching ideas and big research questions that still remain unanswered? We spoke to some of our division presidents and canvased their thoughts on what the current Earth, ocean and planetary hot topics will be.

There are too many to fit in a single post so we’ve brought some of them together in a series of posts which will tackle three main areas: the Earth’s past and its origin, the Earth as it is now and what its future looks like, while the final post of the series will explore where our understanding of the Earth and its structure is still lacking. We’d love to know what the opinions of the readers of GeoLog are on this topic too, so we welcome and encourage lively discussion in the comment section!

The Earth’s past and its origin

Rephrasing the famous sentence by James Hutton, i.e. the present is the key to the past, we can even say that the past is the key to the future – a better understanding of past Earth processes can help understand why and how our planet evolved to have oceans, an atmosphere, a planetary magnetic field as well as the ability to sustain life. Not only that, a greater understanding of the Earth’s past can aid in finding solutions to present day problems. A strong interdisciplinary research effort is required to delve into the Earth’s past and that makes it one of the most important geoscience hot topics, albeit very broad.

Life on Earth and the physical environment

Recent research has suggested that zircons found in the rocks of The Jack Hills in Western Australia harbour evidence of the very first life forms. The remarkable thing is that these rocks are 300 million years older than the 3.8 billion year old rocks from Greenland, which were thought to hold the oldest evidence for life on Earth, until now.

Image by Robert Simmon, based on data from the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility

Jack Hills, Western Australia. Image by Robert Simmon, based on data from the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility

These findings are no doubt very exciting, but they also go hand in hand with gaining a greater understanding about the physical environment in which these early life forms evolved. According to Helmut Weissert, President of the Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology Division (SSP), understanding the co-evolution of life and the physical environment in Earth’s history is one of the biggest challenges for current and future scientists. Understanding past changes of the System Earth will facilitate the evaluation of man’s role as a major geological agent affecting global material and geochemical cycles in the Anthropocene.

The work of scientists in the SSP fields on understanding how the evolution of life was affected by major climatic perturbations is particularly timely, given the ongoing debate as to whether the presence of humans on Earth is potentially driving a sixth mass extinction event. Not only that, a big research question still unanswered is how did catastrophic events during the Earth’s history also affect evolutionary rates?

Developing new models and tools which might aid investigation in these areas is at the forefront of challenges to come, along with a greater interaction between related disciplines, for instance (but of course, not limited to!) the geosciences and genetics.

A changing inner Earth

The Earth’s magnetic field is one of ingredients for the presence of life on Earth, because it screens most of the cosmic rays that otherwise would penetrate in major quantities into the atmosphere and reach the surface, being dangerous for human health.

“A recent discovery is that the absence of magnetic field would cause serious damages not only to humans through a significant increase of cancer cases, but also to plants”, say Angelo De Santis, President of the Earth Magnetism and Rock Physics Division (EMRP), “implying that geomagnetic field reversals characterised by times with very low intensity of the field, would have serious implications for life on the planet”.

Another way to understand this aspect would be to have a look at the past. One of the (many) tools which can be used to understand what our planet might have looked like in its infancy is palaeomagnetism. This is especially true when it comes to one of the biggest conundrums of the Precambrian: when did plate tectonics, as we understand them now, start?

That there was perhaps some form of plate motions in the Earth’s early life is likely, but exactly what the style of those plate motions were during the Precambrian is still highly debated. Palaeomagnetic directions measured over time are used to estimate lateral plate motions associated with modern day style plate tectonics involving subduction. If similar plate motions can be identified in rocks younger than 500Ma then they might support lateral plate motions early in the Earth’s history. This, says Angelo De Santis, is one of the most exciting areas of research within Earth magnetism.

 Earth Magnetic Field Declination from 1590 to 1990 by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons . Click on the image to see how the field changes over time.

Earth Magnetic Field Declination from 1590 to 1990 by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons . Click on the image to see how the field changes over time.

Not only that, studying the strength of the geomagnetic field (which is generated in the liquid outer core by a process known as the geodynamo) and how it changes over different time scales can give us information about the early inner structure of the planet. For instance, news of a new date for the age of the formation of the inner core, after researches identified the sharpest increase in the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field, hit the headlines recently. The findings imply that maybe some of the views Earth scientists hold about the core of the Earth might need to be revised!

Which leads us onto secular variation – the study of how the geomagnetic field changes, not only in strength but also in direction – because if the early core is different to how it was previously thought, is the understanding of secular variation also affected? The implications are far reaching, but a highlight, according to Angelo De Santis, has to be how the findings might affect how periods of large change (more commonly known as geomagnetic reversals) are understood. Therefore, it is key that the evolution of the geodynamo is better understood, so that scientists might be able to assess the possibility of an imminent excursion (a large change of the field, but not a permanent flip of the direction) or reversal.

From the inner Earth to the surface

If studying the inner depths of the Earth in the past might give us clues about the present and future of the planet’s core, so to on and above the surface the past can be the key to the future.

Geological time spiral" by United States Geological Survey - Graham, Joseph, Newman, William, and Stacy, John, 2008, The geologic time spiral—A path to the past (ver. 1.1): U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 58, poster, 1 sheet. Available online at Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Geological time spiral by United States Geological Survey – Graham, Joseph, Newman, William, and Stacy, John, 2008, The geologic time spiral—A path to the past (ver. 1.1): U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 58, poster, 1 sheet. Available online at Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Present day climate change is a given, but predictions of how the face of the Earth might change as a result remain difficult to make while, at the same time, its consequences are not yet fully understood. Studying the climate of the past and how the biosphere, oceans and the Earth’s surface (including erosion and weathering processes), responded to abrupt and potentially damaging changes in Earth’s past climate provides a starting point to make forecasts about the future.

“A better time resolution of geological archives means we are able to further test present day climate, weathering and ocean models,” says SSP President Helmut Weissert.

And so, not only does the past tell us where we come from and how the Earth became the only planet in our Solar System capable of sustain complex forms of life, a better understanding of its origins and past behaviour might just help us improve the future too.

Next time, in the Geosciences hot topics short series, we’ll be looking at our understanding of the Earth as we know it now and how we might be able to adapt to the future. The question of how we develop the needs for an ever growing population in a way that is sustainable opens up exciting research avenues in the EMRP and SSP Divisions, as well as the Energy, Resources and the Environment (ERE), Seismology (SM) and Earth and Space Science Informatics (ESSI) Divisions.

Showcase your film at Geocinema at the 2016 General Assembly!

Showcase your film at Geocinema at the 2016 General Assembly!

Every year, we showcase a great selection of geoscience films at the EGU General Assembly and after six successful years we will again be running Geocinema in 2016. If you’ve shadowed a scientist in the lab, filmed fantastic spectacles in the field, or have produced an educational feature on the Earth, planetary or space sciences, we want to hear from you.

Geocinema features short clips and longer films related to the geosciences, and from animations to interviews, all films are welcome. If you would like to contribute to this popular event, please fill out the submission form by 4 January 2016.

This year, in line with the theme of the EGU 2016 General Assembly, we particularly encourage submissions representing the conference theme: Active Planet. If your film highlights the conference theme, please indicate this in the submission form.

To get a feel for what we have screened in previous years, take a look at the online archive, with films that explore all facets of geoscience – from ocean depths to outer space.

Suitable films will be screened at the Geocinema room during the EGU 2016 General Assembly in Vienna (17–22 April 2016). Note that you must be able to provide us with an electronic or DVD version of your film and you must have appropriate permission to show the feature in a public venue. Multiple submissions from the same person are welcome. Films must be in English or have subtitles in English, since it is the language of the conference. Multiple submissions from the same person are welcome.

For more information, please send us an email or get in touch with our Communications Officer Laura Roberts.

GeoTalk: Anne Pluymakers, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Anne Pluymakers, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, where we highlight the work and achievements of early career researchers, over the next few months we’ll be introducing the Division early career scientist representatives (ECS). They are responsible for ensuring that the voice of EGU ECS membership is heard. From organising short courses during the General Assembly, through to running Division Blogs and attending regular ECS representative meetings, their tasks in this role are varied. Their role is entirely voluntary and they are all active members of their research community, so we’ll also be touching on their scientific work during the interview. Today we are talking to Anne Pluymakers, ECS representative for the Tectonics and Structural Geology Division (TS).

Before we get stuck in, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and your career?

I am Anne Pluymakers, and my background is in Geomechanics and Structural Geology. I defended my PhD last March at the HPT lab at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. During my PhD I performed experiments to determine the effects of CO2 on the frictional and healing behaviour of faults, at pressure and temperature conditions representative for potential CO2 storage sites. Since January I work as a post-doc at Oslo University investigating CO2-shale interactions, which forms part of an international combined CO2 storage/enhanced gas recovery research project. As these project descriptions also demonstrate, it is the combination of science and societal challenges that captivates me.

Although we touch upon it in the introduction of this post: what does your role as ECS representative involve?

As an ECS representative I think it is important to help Early Career Scientists discover what they want achieve, during their PhD but also in their future careers. I feel it is good to start thinking about where you want to go early on, and to try to acquire the necessary skill set that will help you get there. Apart from that, with our TS ECS organising committee we will organise activities that involve people further in EGU and its organisation, as well as try to help people develop such skill sets.

Why did you put yourself forward for the role?

It sounded like an interesting role to take, and a good way to increase my understanding of EGU as an organisation and a community. Besides that, I love organising things and talking to new people and this is a great way to do just that.

Some of the ECS Representatives at the most recent General Assembly in Vienna. From left to right, top to bottom: Matthew Agius (SM), Shaun Harrigan (HS),

Some of the ECS Representatives at the 2014 General Assembly in Vienna. Top, from left to right, (in brackets, the Division they represent) : Matthew Agius (SM), Shaun Harrigan (HS), Wouter Berghuijs (ECS Representative), Roelof Rietbroek (G), Matthias Vanmaercke (SSS), Auguste Gires (NP), Nanna B. Karlsson (CR), Bottom (left to right): Ina Plesa (GD), Lena Noack (PS and Deputy Union Level ECS PC Representative), Sam Illingworth (ECS PC Representative , 2013- 2015), Guilhem Douillet (SSP), Anne Pluymakers (TS), Jone Peter (stand-in for Beate Krøvel Humberset, ST).

What is your vision for the EGU ECS TS community and what do you hope to achieve in the time you hold the position?

I would love to increase the community feeling of all the Early Career Scientists that feel affinity with Tectonics and Structural Geology, and to strengthen the TS network. I think it is important as well to make it easier for the new Early Career Scientists to connect to the existing network.

What can your ECS Division members expect from the TS Division in the 2016 General Assembly?

We have several ideas, amongst which EGU-wide workshops such as a grant writing workshop, and a first-timers workshop. These will be organized in conjunction with the other ECS. Oriented specifically towards our TS community, we will organize a dinner and pub night early on in the conference, so we all can get to know as many people as possible. Later on there will also be a feedback session for all TS-affine ECS to see how we can keep on improving.

How can those wanting to, get involved with the EGU?

If you would like to get in touch with the ECS of the TS Division, and possibly help organise activities, please send an email to me, or to João Duarte.

To find out about all the early career events and activities at the General Assembly and throughout the year be sure to check the dedicated ECS website. There, you’ll also be able to find out who you’re Division ECS representative is, if you’d like to get in touch with them and become involved in the Union. The website also hosts a page full of useful resources for career development as well as a database of undergraduate and postgraduate courses spanning the geosciences across Europe.


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