GeoLog

Outreach

GeoTalk: Roelof Rietbroek, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Roelof Rietbroek, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, were 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 Roelof Rietbroek, ECS representative for the Geodesy Division.

Before we get stuck in, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and your career?
Looking back, I have to admit that I’m not a geodesist by ‘birth’. I originally studied aerospace engineering at the TU Delft in the Netherlands, not so far from The Hague where I was born. Choosing that field study seemed to be a good idea at the time, although it turned out that I found the Earth to be more challenging to study compared to building aircraft. During my Msc I then found myself studying oceanographic (mass) variability with the use of geodetic satellites (i.e. the GRACE mission), and doing a 3-month internship at the oceanographic institute IFREMER in Brest. After graduating, I moved to Berlin and worked with data from the GRACE mission, satellite radar altimetry and a network of permanent GPS stations at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ. Since 2010, I work at the university of Bonn at the institute of astronomical, physical and mathematical geodesy. In 2014, I obtained my PhD, and now have a post-doc position (post-docking?). Currently, observed sea level change is the main focal point of my research.

Although we touch upon it in the introduction of this post: what does your role as ECS representative involve?
I really value the regular skype meetings with the ECS-reps from the other divisions. Although this involves a whole bunch of ECS-reps these meetings are relatively low-effort, and are nevertheless surprisingly effective. It enables me to have my say on ECS-issues. From these meetings we gather recommendations which we then propose to the EGU divisions and board. They are very open to our input, and several recommendations have since then been adopted.

Furthermore, I stay in close contact with the geodesy division (deputy) presidents, and they actively involve me in for example the planning and structuring of sessions. Besides that, they gave me the opportunity to have my say on the geodesy division business meeting during the general assembly. As a final remark, I consider it to be my role to write more blog-posts for the geodesy division, although admittedly there is room for improvement there.

Why did you put yourself forward for the role?
In fact, I wasn’t aware of the possibility to become a geodesy ECS-representative, until it was proposed to me. Considering this, I suspect that there are a lot of other ECS out there which are unaware that they can be involved. Initially, I was somewhat afraid that it would take up a lot of additional time, but itturned out that this is not the case. In hindsight, I’m happy that I took the decision to candidate, and I can recommend it to anyone. Under the new definition of an ECS, I may stay ECS-rep somewhat longer, but would happily make room for a new candidate as well.

What is your vision for the EGU ECS Geodesy community and what do you hope to achieve in the time you hold the position?
I would like to see a small team of motivated ECS’s who want to organize some events, and want to increase the visibility of the geodesy division. You can get inspired by looking at the activities of the hydrology division. I think they set a really nice example on what is possible.

What can your ECS Division members expect from the Geodesy Division in the 2016 General Assembly?
Besides our sessions? I’m involved in organizing a short course on presentation feedback again. ECS who want to improve their presentation skills can sign up for a rehearsal where they can take home some tips and tricks.

Maybe we can reverse the question as well? What do I expect from the ECS division members in the 2016 General assembly? That they come and approach me, and express their interests in becoming involved in ECS activities.

How can those wanting to, get involved with the EGU?
It is quite simple really, If you don’t let yourself be heard we don’t know that you’re there. So use your voice, phone, PC: speak to, phone, email and tweet your division presidents and ECS-reps.

GeoEd: For the best hands-on outreach experiences, just provide opportunities for playing!

GeoEd: For the best hands-on outreach experiences, just provide opportunities for playing!

This month’s GeoEd post is brought to you by Dr. Mirjam S. Glessmer. Mirjam, is a physical oceanographer and now works as Coordinator of Teaching Innovation at Hamburg University of Technology. Mirjam blogs about her “Adventures in Teaching and Oceanography” and tweets as @meermini. Get in touch if you are interested in talking about teaching and learning in the geosciences!

“For the best hands-on outreach experiences, just provide opportunities for playing!” I claim.

Seriously? You wonder. We want to spark the public’s curiosity about geosciences, engage the public in thinking about topics as important as sea level rise or ocean acidification, and provide learning experiences that will enable them to take responsibility for difficult decisions. And you say we should just provide opportunities for them to play?

Yes. Hear me out. Playing does not necessarily equal mindlessly killing time. Kids learn a lot by playing, and even grown ups do. But if you prefer, we can use the term “serious play” instead of just “play”. Using the term “serious play” makes it clear that we are talking about “improvising with the unanticipated in ways that create new value”, which is exactly what outreach should be doing: getting people intrigued and wanting to understand more about your topic.

So how would we go about if we wanted to create outreach activities which gave the public opportunity to play in order to lure them into being fascinated by our field of science? There are several steps I recommend we take.

  1. Identify the topic nearest and dearest to your heart

Even if your aim is to educate the public about climate change or some other big picture topic, pick the one element that fascinates you most. If you are really fascinated by what you are showing, chances are that the excitement of doing the activity will carry over to your audience. Plus, once you have this really great activity, you will likely be asked to repeat it many times, so you had better pick one that you love! J

Me, I am a physical oceanographer. I care about motion in the ocean: Why and how it happens. Consequently, all of my outreach activities have people playing with water. Sometimes at different temperatures, sometimes at different salinities, sometimes frozen, sometimes with wind, but always with water.

  1. Find an intriguing question to ask
An experiment melting ice cubes in water. (Credit: Mirjam Glessmer).

An experiment melting ice cubes in water. (Credit: Mirjam Glessmer).

Questions that intrigue me are, for example, “do ice cubes melt faster in fresh water or in salt water?”, “how differently will ice look when I freeze salt water instead of fresh water?” or “what happens if a stratification is stable in temperature and unstable in salt?”. Of course, all these questions are related to scientific questions that I find interesting, but even without knowledge of all the science around them, they are cool questions. And they all instantly spark follow-up questions like “what would happen if the ice cubes weren’t floating, but moored to the ground?”, “what if I used sugar instead of salt?”, “wait, does the food dye influence what happens here?”. And all of those questions can be investigated right then and there. As soon as someone asks a question, you hand them the materials and let them find the answer themselves. That is why we talk about hands-on outreach activities and not demonstrations: It is about actively involving everybody in the exploration and wonder of doing scientific experiments!

  1. Test with family, friends and colleagues

Many, if not all, the outreach activities I am using and promoting have been tested on family, friends and colleagues before. You know that you have found an intriguing question when your friends sacrifice the last bit of red wine they brought at a Norwegian mountain cabin, to use as stand in for food dye in an experiment you just told them about, because they absolutely have to see it for themselves!

By the way, this is always good to aim at with outreach activities: always try to keep them easy enough to be recreated at a mountain cabin, in your aunt’s kitchen, at the beach or anywhere anyone who saw it or heard about it wants to show their friends. People might occasionally have to get a little creative to replace some of the materials, but that’s part of the charm and of the inquiry we want!

  1. Bring all the materials you need, and have fun!

And then, finally, Just Do It! Bring all your materials and start playing and enjoying yourself!

But now they can play with water and dye. That doesn’t mean they understand my research!

Playing with water and dye (Credit: Mirjam Glessmer).

Playing with water and dye (Credit: Mirjam Glessmer).

True, by focussing on a tiny aspect you won’t get to explain the whole climate system. But you will probably change the mindset of your audience, at least a little bit. Remember, you studied for many years to come to the understanding you have now, it is not a realistic expectation to convey all that in just one single outreach occasion. But by showing how difficult it is to even understand one tiny aspect (and how much there is still to discover), they will be a lot more likely to inquire more in the future, they will ask better questions (to themselves or to others) and they will be more open to learning about your science. Your activity is only the very first step. It’s the hook that will get them to talk to you, to become interested in what you have to say, to ask questions. And you can totally have backup materials ready to talk in more depth about your topic!

But what if it all goes horribly wrong during my activity?

The good thing is that since you are approaching the whole hands-on outreach as “get them to play!” rather then “show them in detail how the climate system works”, there really isn’t a lot that can go wrong. Yes, you can mess up and the experiment can just not show what you wanted to show. But every time I have had that happen to me, I could “save” the situation by engaging the participants in discussing how things could work better, similar to what Céline describes. People will continue to think about what went wrong and how to fix it, and will likely be even more intrigued than if everything had worked out perfectly.

But what if I am just not creative enough to come up with new ideas?

First, I bet once you start playing, you will come up with new ideas! But then of course, we don’t need to always create outreach activities from scratch. There are many awesome resources around. EGU has its own large collection in the teacher’s corner. And of course, Google (or any websearch of your choice) will find a lot. And if you were interested in outreach activity in physical oceanography specifically, you could always check out my blog “Adventures in Oceanography and Teaching”. I’m sure you’ll find the one activity that you will want to try yourself on a rainy Sunday afternoon. You will want to show your friends when they comes over to visit, and you’ll tell your colleagues about it. And there you are – you found your outreach activity!

If you want to read about how the four steps above pan out for one of my favourite outreach activities – come back to this space next month for my next GeoEd post and I’ll walk you through it! In the meanwhile tell me in the comments below – what is your best advice for doing outreach activities?

By Mirjam S. Glessmer, Coordinator of Teaching Innovation at Hamburg University of Technology

EGU Photo Contest 2016

EGU Photo Contest 2016

If you are pre-registered for the 2016 General Assembly (Vienna, 17 – 22 April), you can take part in our annual photo competition! Winners receive a free registration to next year’s General Assembly!

The seventh annual EGU photo competition opens on 1 February. Up until 1 March, every participant pre-registered for the General Assembly can submit up three original photos and one moving image on any broad theme related to the Earth, planetary, and space sciences. Shortlisted photos will be exhibited at the conference, together with the winning moving image, which will be selected by a panel of judges. General Assembly participants can vote for their favourite photos and the winning images will be announced on the last day of the meeting.

We particularly encourage submissions representing Active Planet, as there will be an additional prize for the photo that best captures the theme of the conference.

If you submit your images to the photo competition, they will also be included in the EGU’s open access photo database, Imaggeo. You retain full rights of use for any photos submitted to the database as they are licensed and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons license.

You will need to register on Imaggeo so that the organisers can appropriately process your photos. For more information, please check the EGU Photo Contest page on Imaggeo.

Previous winning photographs can be seen on the 20102011, 2012,  2013, 2014 and 2015 winners’ pages.

In the meantime, get shooting!

GeoTalk: Meet Zakaria Ghazoui, winner of the Communicate your Science Video Competition in 2015!

GeoTalk: Meet Zakaria Ghazoui, winner of the Communicate your Science Video Competition in 2015!

If you’ve not heard about our Communicate Your Science Video Competition before it gives early career scientists the chance to produce a video up-to-three-minutes long to share their research with the general public. The winning entry receives a free registration to the General Assembly the following year.

In this GeoTalk interview, Laura Roberts talks to Zakaria Ghazoiu, a PhD student whose video following his journey to the Himalayas to collect core samples from lakes was voted as the winning entry of the 2015 Communicate Your Science Video Competition. He’s since produced a longer video in collaboration with his colleague Arnaud Watlet, which will be screened at this year’s GeoCinema. Read on to hear about their top tips for filming a science video and what inspired them to use video to communicate their science in the first instance.

Before we get started, could you introduce yourself and tell our readers a little more about your research?

Z: I’m in a joint PhD with Grenoble University and Ghent University in the iTECC project (investigating Tectonism Erosion Climate Couplings). iTECC is an inter-European research group funded and sponsored by the Marie Curie Actions. We investigate the links between climate, erosion and tectonics in the Himalaya using a variety of tools that span the geoanalytical spectrum. My research topic is on the influence of tectonic versus climatic controls on erosion and exhumation rates in the Quaternary and understanding the Holocene evolution of the monsoon in Western Nepal based on river sediment and lake sediment cores.

A: I am a geologist and I am doing a PhD in hydrogeophysics over groundwater storage related problems in karst environments. Apart from that, I am an old friend of Zakaria and I joined him on his fieldwork in Nepal, together we made “Inside Himalayan Lakes”.

Some of our readers may yet not be familiar with the competition, can you tell us a little more about it and what made you decide to take part in the competition?

A and Z: This competition gave us, as scientists, the opportunity to promote our work and share it to a large audience, broader than our good old scientific community. Making a video is a perfect way to show what our research focuses on and how the environment we study it evolves.

Had you filmed any science videos prior to producing ‘Inside Himalayan Lakes’?

Z: Prior to making “Inside Himalayan Lakes” , I was editing “Pan Tsang”, with Arthur Ancion and Xavier Moucq, two other friends and professional film makers. “Pan Tsang” is a long movie on my first and second field trips to Nepal which tells the story of the human and scientific experience of being part of a long expedition.

A: I had already done some filming during previous fieldwork at an Indonesian volcano. That project was bigger and is still in production, though. I have also completed a master in film writing during my scholarship at the University of Brussels. At that time, I was member of ‘Noyau Mou’, a small association producing short movies.

What inspired you to film your fieldwork and submit the entry to the competition?

Z: We really wanted to share our human and scientific adventure with others. Not only for the outreach aspect of our project but mainly to broadcast our passion.

A: When Zak asked me to join him on his mission to Himalaya, we already knew that we could come back with amazing shots. Then came the idea to make a short clip over the mission itself. It was only a few weeks after we got back from Nepal that we became aware of the Communicate Your Science Competition. After looking at our rushes (unedited footage), we thought that it was possible to make our video fitting for the competition. As we wanted no voice over in the film, we asked Bakthi Mills, a graphic designer friend of ours, to create an animation that could illustrate the core sampling process. As for the rest, we were convinced that the images spoke for themselves.

Meet Zakaria and Arnoud. (Credit: Zakaria Ghazoui)

Meet Zakaria and Arnoud. (Credit: Zakaria Ghazoui)

We can’t go into too much detail here, but how did you go about collecting the footage and turning it into a film?

A: The footage was the most exciting part for us. We had two DSLR cameras, a tripod and an additional GoPro camera. We decided not to bring any microphone as I knew from experience that it is an additional concern that can be difficult to deal with in such an environment.

Z: That was indeed a big challenge during the expedition. Finding the balance between our scientific work and filming as much as we could while being on record. We had plenty of technical problems because of the solar electricity, cold temperatures (-20°C), the humidity, or working on such small boat while we wanted to shoot.

A: Another tricky part was to edit the movie. We had a lot of scenes but the message was not really clear yet. We had to make the movie fit into 3 minutes so it was a kind of inspiring constraint. We decided to make the movie look like the fieldwork in miniature. Then we had the thread that connected our rushes all together.

What’s your top tip for aspiring science filmmakers?

Z: Open your eyes. Feel the environment around you.Take a camera and go.

A: Don’t go too fast, though. My best advice would be to think about your movie, and what you want to say before the footage. Then, once you get a clear and simple message in your mind, start filming. The rest will come with your rushes.

Which part of the filming process did you enjoy the most?

Z: That is a tricky question, shooting is really my passion except when you do not have more battery and you loose the moment you wanted. Editing is really enjoyable but that can be a real nightmare.

A: As the fieldwork was about lakes, it was important to shoot scenes directly from the boat. As we were working on the boat, we had the idea to attach the GoPro directly to the core sampler and the result was amazing. Time-lapse sequences were also nice to capture. We tried a few times in the night and it was actually a really cool way to relax and wash away the stress of the day in the evening.

Would you recommend filmmaking as a way for scientist to reach out to a broad audience?

Z: I think that is one of the best way to reach out to a broad audience but you have to know in advance which audience you want to reach. I think it is really important during the editing process.

A: I believe indeed that it is an excellent way to reach people that you would never reach with classic publication tools. I would even say that it is crucial to use such media to open your research to the public. Somehow, this is part of our moral duty to society and it may awake young people’s interest in becoming researchers.

Would you recommend others taking part in the Communicate your Science Video Competition?

Z: I would warmly recommend to get involve in the Communicate your Science Video Competition. It is a really good introduction and experience for other movie competitions.

A: Go for it! It is an excellent opportunity to encourage you to make the movie you always thought about. Plus, you will have to share it with your friends and family to earn votes. They will love understanding more what you are doing in your research.

Has this interview inspired you to go forth and produce a science video? The Communicate Your Science Video Competition is currently open for submissions.

If you are pre-registered to attend the General Assembly in April, go ahead and produce a video with scenes of you out in the field, or at the lab bench showing how to work out water chemistry; entries can also include cartoons, animations (including stop motion), or music videos, – you name it! To submit your video simply email it to Laura Roberts (networking@egu.eu) by 4 March 2016.

For more information about the competition take a look at this blog post. For inspiration, why not take a look at the finalist videos from the 2014 and 2015 editions?

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