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Join the EGU Blog Network!

Join the EGU Blog Network!

After announcing earlier this week that we are sadly saying goodbye to the EGU network blog Between a Rock and Hard Place, the time has come to find a new blog to take their place. If you are an Earth, planetary or space researcher (a PhD student, an early career scientist, or a more established one) with a passion for communicating your work, we’d like to hear from you!

We currently feature blogs in palaeontology (Green Tea and Velociraptors), international development (Geology for Global Development), geochemistry (GeoSphere), atmospheric sciences (Polluting the Internet), and more! Initially, we are looking to fill the gap left in the network by Between a Rock and Hard Place, which covered broad themes within volcanology and petrology. But, with so much great geoscience out there, we’d love to receive blog proposals from more fields within the Earth, planetary and space sciences we don’t yet feature on the network. This also means we may not limit the addition to the EGU network to one blog; if there is more than one strong candidate we’ll consider expanding the network further.

The network aims at fostering a diverse community of geoscience bloggers, sharing accurate information about geoscientific research in a language understandable not only to fellow scientists but also to the broader public. You, as an expert in your own research area, are in a better position than we are to share recent development in your area of research.

The benefits: apart from your site gaining exposure by having its posts listed on the front page of the EGU website, we will also share highlights of your work on our social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+) and advertise the blog network at our General Assembly, which has over 12,000 attendees. And, of course, you’ll get to join a great community of bloggers!

With the exception of An Atom’s-Eye View of the Planet, the network blogs are authored by early career researchers. In this call for bloggers we are particularly keen to add diversity to the network, and particularly welcome applications from more established scientists.

Having an existing blog is not a requirement for application. However, if you don’t have a blog already, we’d like you to have at least some experience of writing for a broader audience, be it as a guest blogger, or contributing to outlets such as The Conversation, for instance. In this case, let us know what you’d like your blog to be called, what topics you would cover, and link to articles you’ve published in the past.

If you’d like your blog (or blog idea) to be considered for our network, fill out this form by 11th September.

Join the EGU Network blogs . Credit: ClkerFreeVectorImages (distributed via  pixabay)

Join the EGU Network blogs . Credit: ClkerFreeVectorImages (distributed via pixabay)

Please note that only blogs in English will be considered, as this is the EGU working language, and the language of the blog network. We particularly encourage applications from all European countries, not just English-speaking countries, but bloggers from outside Europe can also apply.

Feel free to contact the EGU Communications Officer Laura Roberts if you have any questions. In the meantime – happy blogging!

Imaggeo on Mondays: Dragon Blood Tree

Imaggeo on Mondays: Dragon Blood Tree

On a small and isolated island in the Indian Ocean you’ll find an endemic population of Dragon Blood Trees (Dracaena cinnabari). Burly, with an interesting umbrella-shaped fractal canopy, these unique trees are a sight to behold.

To see them for yourself, you’ll have to travel to the little known Socotra archipelago. Off the coast of Somalia, but belonging to Yemen, the group of islands boast an impressive assortment of endemic plant life, making them know as the ‘Galapagos of the Middle East’.

Crucial to the uniqueness of the flora and fauna of the archipelago is Socotra’s geographical position and how it came to be there. The African plate extends out from the Horn of Africa, east of the Guardafui graben, in what is known as the Socotra Platform. Here you’ll find four islands, of which Socotra is the largest, as well as two scars of former islands which have been eroded away by wave action.

At in excess of 240 kilometres east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometres south of the Arabian Peninsula there is no getting away from the remoteness of the archipelago. Testament to this is the presence of seven endemic bird species on the island.

So how did the strange looking Dragon Blood Tress and other flora and fauna come to populate Socotra and its neighbours?

It is thought that until 43 million years ago, the Socotra archipelago remained largely submerged. Although there were some brief emergence events during the Jurassic/Cretaceous and Cretaceous/Tertiary, given the area was re-submerged after this time, they are considered of little importance.

Subsequently, Socotra Island continued to grow due to uplift. Despite changing sea depths, there are indications that land species could migrate over from mainland African and Arabia via land bridges and stepping stones. With ‘cousin’ species present in Somalia and Arabia, it’s likely the Dragon Blood Trees originated there in the distant past.

From 16,000 years ago onwards, the isolation of the archipelago grew due to a combination of further flooding of low-lying areas, the formation of large basins (namely the Guardafui and Brothers basin) and increasing distance from the mainland. Since then, the species on Socotra and its neighbouring islands have had time to evolve and adapt to their surroundings, become different, albeit sometimes closely related, to their continental counterparts.

It was only around the third century BC that Socotra started to emerge from its isolation after attracting the attention of the young Alexander the Great during one of his war campaigns. The island then became known in the Hellenic World and all the Mediterranean for being one of the main sources of incense, myrrh and dragon’s blood powder resin.

As Socotra commercial importance gradually faded away in the centuries to follow, Dragon’s Blood resin remained one of the main exports of the island. The resin was considered a precious ingredient of dyes, lacquers and varnishes, and the legend has it that Antonio Stradivari – the famous seventeenth century luthier from Cremona – used Socotra’s red resin to varnish his violins.

yemen

The landscape of the Socotra archipelago. Credit: Annalisa Molini via Flickr.

One thing is for sure, as Annalisa Molini’s (Assistant Professor at the Institute Center for Water and Environment, in Abu Dhabi), photographs attest to: Socotra island and it’s Dragon Blood Trees are stunning.

However, the remoteness of the Socotra archipelago and the current armed conflict in Yemen threaten to put at risk the island’s important and unique natural heritage; one that no doubt, should be protected and preserved.

References

M. Culek: Geological and morphological evolution of the Socotra Archipelago (Yemen) from the biogeographical view, Journal of Landscape Ecology, 6, 3, 84–108, DOI: 10.2478/jlecol-2014-0005, 2014

Brown, B.A. Mies, Vegetation Ecology of Socotra, Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, 2012. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-4141-6.

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/.

GeoTalk: Wouter Berghuijs, Union Level Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Wouter Berghuijs, Union Level Early Career Scientist Representative

The EGU offers a platform for early career scientists (ECS) to become involved in interdisciplinary research in the Earth, planetary and space sciences, through sessions, social events and short courses at the annual General Assembly in April. One of the ways of ensuring that the voice of the Union’s ECS membership is heard is via the division early career scientist representatives.

Feedback gathered by the division representatives is collected by the Union level representative, who takes it to the EGU’s Programme Committee (PC) – the group responsible for organising the EGU’s annual General Assembly and the EGU Council – which is in charge of the overall management of the Union.  At the 2015 General Assembly (GA), Wouter Berghuijs, took on the role of union level Early Career Scientist Representative; a post he will hold until April 2016. In this instalment of GeoTalk, Wouter will tell us more about the ECS membership and how he hopes to make a difference to the community during his one-year term.

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

My name is Wouter Berghuijs. I am a PhD student in Hydrology at the University of Bristol (UK). Prior to moving to Bristol, I gained an MSc and BSc in Civil Engineering at Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands). During my MSc, I spent three months at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA) for a research stay, and a further three months at the University of Bristol. I have been involved with the EGU since 2013, first as the Young Scientist Representative for the Hydrology Division, and since the GA in 2015 as the Union-wide Early Career Scientist Representative (editors note – Council approved having the newly elected representative to have a Union-wide role, rather than just represent the ECS membership at the Programme Committee level).

In my day-to-day research I am interested in what factors drive hydrological differences between places. Instead of studying one place in detail, I compare several hundred catchments (surface area that drains rainfall into a river, lake or reservoir) located in different landscapes and climatic regions. The aspects of hydrologic behaviour I look at can range from floods to droughts, and from short-term dynamics to multi-decadal averages. With a large part of hydrological science consisting of case-studies at individual locations, findings are difficult to transfers to other places. The comparative approach brings in opportunities to develop generalisations and expose patterns that would not be observed when a single catchment is studied in isolation.

For those readers who might not be so familiar with the Union’s ECS membership, could you explain the main idea behind it and your role as Union Level Early Career Scientist Representative?

Approximately one quarter of the Unions’ membership consists of scientists in the early stages of their career. EGU wants to provide support to this group, which has different needs compared to more established scientists. Therefore EGU supports these members by providing reduced conference fees, recognising outstanding students, awarding travel grants, organising short-courses, arranging networking possibilities and more.

Instead of going for a top-down (senior members decide all) approach, EGU decided to appoint Early Career Scientists Representatives for all their scientific divisions. These representatives serve as the link between the ECS members and the board of the different divisions. It is their task to ensure ECS needs are met, both at the Assembly and throughout the year. Other ECS members with questions, comments and thoughts can get in touch with them to ensure their opinion is represented within their division.

In my position of Union level Early Career Scientist Representative, I gather information from each of the division representatives and bring it to the EGU’s Programme Committee – the group responsible for organising the EGU’s annual General Assembly, and the Union’s Council – the board responsible for the overall management and control of the Union.

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).

Why do you feel passionately about the ECS community?

The nice part of working for the ECS community is that relatively small contributions can make huge difference to people’s research career. For example, the ability to attend a conference due to an awarded travel grant can be really important to meet other people in your field and create exposure for your research. It sounds somewhat cliché, but the ECS members are the future of geoscience. An investment now in one of these members can be important for the next 40 years.

Additionally, with the recent appointment of ECS representatives it is an interesting task to start shaping how these representatives can best contribute to the Union, and can make sure they voice the opinion of a broad group of ECS members. With a significant part of the members being ECS it is a nice challenge to change this group from being mostly consumers of activities, to explicitly having them contributing at an organisation level.

What is your vision for the EGU ECS community and how do you hope to drive change during your year long position?

Sam Illingworth (on the left) handing over the batton of the ECS Community over to Wouter at EGU 2014. Image Credit: Roelof Rietbroek, ECS Representative for the EGU Geodesy Division.

Sam Illingworth (on the left) handing over the batton of the ECS Community over to Wouter at the EGU General Assembly, 2014. Image Credit: Roelof Rietbroek, ECS Representative for the EGU Geodesy Division.

Last year Sam Illingworth was the PC Early Career Scientist Representative and made a great start to bringing all ECS together and voice their opinion to Council. My first task is to continue this work. The relative short appointment (1-year) makes it difficult to ensure both short-term and long-term improvements to the Union are made. Short-term improvements involve, for example, dealing with the feedback that provided suggestion for improvement of next years’s GA. During the year I have regular Skype meetings with all ECS representatives, and it is then my task to make sure the outcomes are discussed during e.g. the programme committee meeting (where the plans for the upcoming GA are usually set out), and council meeting later this year.

Recently, the name used to refer to early researchers across EGU was changed from Young Scientist to Early Career Scientists. Could you tell us a little more about what brought about that change and its significance?

One of the findings of the 2014 Young Scientist Survey and Forum at the GA was that early career scientist did not identify with the term young scientists due to the age connotations associated with the name. ECS benefits were considered important during the onset of academic career, independent of the age of the person. The ECS Representatives put together a proposal promoting for the name change which was brought to the EGU Council; who voted in favour of the renaming. It highlights the bottom-up nature of the organisation and how early stage scientists can make a difference in the Union.

The past General Assembly, saw a record number of short courses take place and the growth of networking opportunities and ECS specific activities. What further changes can the ECS look forward to for the 2016 conference?

The young scientists' lounge at EGU 2014. Credit: Stephanie McClellan/EGU

The young scientists’ lounge at EGU 2014. Credit: Stephanie McClellan/EGU

The short courses and ECS specific activities have been very popular at this year’s EGU, and they are definitely a keeper. I don’t think these activities should increase in number, as it is not the intention to lure away the ECS from the regular parts of the scientific meeting; it is important that they also integrated as best as possible with the more established members of their divisions.

The goal for next year is mostly to maintain the activities that were a success, try a few new concepts for those sessions that didn’t work so well. There are also several improvements that can be made such as the capacity of the rooms of short courses and their timing compared to the rest of the programme.

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

EGU is a versatile organisation; besides organising their Annual General Assembly and running 17 peer-reviewed open access journals, EGU is busy with Topical meetings, education, and various forms of outreach. Because all these aspects are run by members there is always need for motivated people with refreshing ideas. If the ideas you have (or you want to develop) relate to your division, you should contact the respective ECS representative. If the ideas are broader ranging than your division, a good start is to contact me as the Union Level ECS representative.

You can also check the EGU volunteering pages, where you’ll find information on the helping out the EGU in their activities year round. Additionally, the EGU Blogs, from the EGU offical blog GeoLog, through to the Network and Division Blogs, welcome guest contributions; so if you’d like to report from an Earth science event, conference or fieldwork, or comment on the latest geoscientific developments and write about recently published findings in peer-reviewed journals you might consider sharing your thoughts on the Blogs. For more information or to submit a post, click here or get in touch with the EGU Communications Officer, Laura Roberts Artal.

Film review: Revolution

Film review: Revolution

It’s not every day you are asked to review a film, and since it’s a documentary that encompasses a few of EGU’s sciences (such as climate sciences, biogeosciences, and energy, resources and the environment), I couldn’t say no. I’ll start by giving it a rating, 3.5/5 stars, though I would probably give it more if I were part of the film’s main target audience.

Revolution, by biologist-photographer turned filmmaker-conservationist Rob Stewart, is about some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. It aims to educate the audience about ocean acidification, climate change, overfishing and deforestation, alerting them to how these issues can impact our planet and, in turn, humanity. But it’s also about much more than that.

The film starts with Stewart telling his own story, revealing how his personal experiences lead him to make his first documentary, Sharkwater, and how researching and promoting that film made him want to tell the broader story of Revolution. This makes for good story telling, and it’s an interesting and candid introduction (Stewart says at one point that he had no idea how to make a movie before Sharkwater). But it seems a tad overly dramatic at times and not always scientific in its claims. For example, to illustrate how humans, responsible for many environmental problems, can also be part of their solution, Stewart tells a crowd in Hong Kong that the “holes in the ozone layer are almost a figment of our imagination now”, which is not exactly true. According to a 2014 NASA release, the ozone hole is still roughly the size of North America, though it has been shrinking over the past couple of decades. I should point out, however, that while there are some minor scientific inaccuracies here and there in the film (and a glaring typo in a sentence where CO2 appears incorrectly written as CO2) the majority of the facts and figures cited in the movie do roughly seem to be accurate, even if rather dramatic and seemingly exaggerated at first.

The movie becomes more exciting (though, at times, depressing too) when Stewart changes the focus from his story to the story of how life evolved on Earth, and what its future might look like. The backdrop is beautiful footage, worthy of a BBC wildlife programme. Stewart starts where life itself started, underwater, and the images showing a diversity of corals and colourful fish (and the cute pigmy sea horse) are breath-taking and work well in illustrating his points. For example, as the colourful imagery gives place to shades of grey, Stewart describes and shows how corals have been affected by ocean acidification and rising temperatures.

Coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef has declined by 36% over the last 25 years. That's an enormous loss. Photo © Rob Stewart. From the documentary film Revolution.

Coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef has declined by 36% over the last 25 years. That’s an enormous loss. Photo © Rob Stewart. From the documentary film Revolution.

If the footage, both underwater and on land, makes for a stunning background, the interviews with various scientific experts bring home the film’s key messages. To me, they are the strongest aspect of Revolution. Stewart talks to credible researchers who are able to communicate their, often complex, science in clear language. Some of the readers of this blog may be able to relate to scientists Charlie Veron and Katharina Fabricius, whose field work is shown in the film, while viewers less familiar with the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs will likely be moved by the dramatic words of these researchers.

What the scientists tell us will happen if humans continue in the business-as-usual path is indeed gloomy: deforestation increasing, fisheries collapsing, greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures on the rise at unprecedented rates, species going extinct en masse… the list goes on. The issues of deforestation and mass extinction are addressed when Stewart travels to Madagascar: the island’s tropical dry forests are home to unique animals and plants, many of which have seen their habitats destroyed by the burning of trees to make room for pastures and crops. Humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels is illustrated when Stewart talks about the Alberta tar sands, and how resource intensive and polluting it is to extract oil from them. A key message of the film is again illustrated here by one of the experts interviewed. Hans Joachim (‘John’) Schellnhuber, a scientific advisor to the German Government and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, explains how stopping the Canadian tar sands project “is one of the decisive battles in the war against global warming”.

Indeed, Stewart sets out not only to inform people about the environmental issues faced by humanity, but also to encourage the audience to act on them: “Revolution is not just about the environment – it’s a film about hope and inspiration.” As such, Stewart balances out this negative outlook with examples of people who are standing up for climate justice and fighting for an end to fossil-fuel burning (and, sometimes, with clips of flamboyant cuttlefish and jumping lemurs!). Although it may not seem like it halfway through the film, the overall message is positive.

This is most evident when Stewart talks to young people, particularly those who travelled to Cancun, Mexico for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2010 (COP16). It is heartening to find out how committed and courageous some young people are in fighting for our future, their future, and in wanting to make the Earth a better place by changing human behaviour. This fighting spirit is best encapsulated in a speech by Mirna Haider, from the COP16 Lebanon Youth Delegation, which is particularly bold and moving, if impatient: “You have been negotiating all my life, you cannot tell me you need more time.”

Flamboyant Cuttlefish. Photo © Rob Stewart. From the documentary film Revolution.

Flamboyant Cuttlefish. Photo © Rob Stewart. From the documentary film Revolution.

Young people are those who may have the most to benefit from watching this film, and I think are the primary target audience of Revolution (there’s even an accompanying Educator’s guide with pre- and post-viewing resources and classroom activities teachers and parents might find useful). It inspires them towards (peaceful) revolution against corporations who profit from burning fossil fuels and from destroying natural resources, and against governments who take no action to stop them. It is a shame the film doesn’t address other ways in which individuals could help fight climate change, deforestation and ocean acidification, such as divesting from fossil fuels or eating less meat. But perhaps that’s something that resonates better with older people. Children and teenagers tend to be more optimistic about their power to save the Planet through revolution, and this film is sure to inspire them to act on the most pressing environmental problems the Earth faces.

Revolution premiered at festivals in 2012/2013, but has only been widely released earlier this year. You can watch the film online on the Revolution website, or through the platforms indicated there (sadly, it’s not free, but you can either rent it or buy it for only a few dollars, so it’s certainly affordable!).

 

By Bárbara Ferreira, EGU Media and Communications Manager

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