GeoLog

Sessions

General Assembly 2015: Time-lapse animations

General Assembly 2015: Time-lapse animations

During the EGU General Assembly 2015, at four separate locations in the Austria Center Vienna, 72 000 pictures were taken to create time-lapse animations. The animations capture the essence of the conference. Re-live your time at the General Assembly by watching the animations, or get a taste for what to expect if 2016 will be your first time at the conference.

Entrance and exhibition

A day in exhibition area: the entrance hall on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. (Credit: EGU/Copernicus)

Science and networking

This animation shows the poster hall A on Friday 17 April 2015.(Credit: EGU/Copernicus)

PICO, poster, presentations

A PICO (Presenting Interactive Content) spot, poster boards, and one lecture room entrance recorded in poster hall Y on Tuesday, 14 April 2015. (Credit: EGU/Copernicus)

Art Intervention

The ‘scales in art‘ was an exhibition space at the EGU 2015 General Assembly, which had A Voyage Through Scales as a theme. The exhibition invited the participants to the dialogue between science and art. At the space, attendees watched the artistic interpretation of the theme developing over the week, with artist Eva Petrič. (Credit: EGU/Copernicus). You can find out more about the exhibition in this video, by EGU Press Assistant, Stephanie McClellan.

You can also catch up with all the the best bits of the conference and highlights of a productive week by taking a look at this year’s highlights video. Couldn’t make it to the General Assembly or a session clash meant you missed one of the union wide talks? Take a look at our YouTube Channel, we’ve recently uploaded videos of selected scientific sessions as well as of the nine press conferences which took place during the week.

We hope to see many of you at next year’s EGU General Assembly 2016 which takes place on: 17 – 22 April 2016, in Vienna, Austria.

General Assembly 2015 – Highlights

It’s been just over a month since the EGU General Assembly 2015 in Vienna. The conference this year was a great success with 4,870 oral, 8,489 poster, and 705 PICO presentations. There were 577 unique scientific sessions, complimented by an impressive 310 side events, making for an interesting and diverse programme.

The conference brought together 11,837 scientists from 108 countries, 23% of which were students. Keeping abreast of everything that was going on throughout the week was made easier due to the distribution of 15,000 copies of EGU Today, and as a result of a keen media presence and their reporting of the scientific sessions. Thousands of visits to the webstreams, as well as GeoLog, meant  those at the conference and those who couldn’t make it stayed tuned to the best of the conference! We thank all of you very much for your attendance and active contribution to the conference.

Why not watch this video of the best bits of the conference and highlights of a productive week?

The conference this year, as showcased in the highlights video, celebrate a theme: A voyage through scales. The theme was an invitation to contemplate the Earth’s extraordinary variability extending from milliseconds to its age, from microns to the size of the planet. The range of scales in space, in time – in space-time – is truly mindboggling. Their complexity challenges our ability to measure, to model, to comprehend. The range of scales were explored across four exhibition spots throughout the conference centre.

One of the exhibitions, ‘The scales in art‘, invited conference participants to participate in the dialogue between science and art. At the space, attendees watched the artistic interpretation of the theme developing over the week, with artist Eva Petrič.

We hope to see many of you at next year’s EGU General Assembly 2016 which takes place on: 17 – 22 April 2016, in Vienna, Austria.

GeoTalk: How hydrothermal gases change soil biology

The biosphere is an incredible thing – whether you’re looking at it through the eye of a satellite and admiring the Amazon’s vast green landscape, or looking at Earth’s surface much more closely and watching the life that blossoms on scales the naked eye might never see, you are sure to be inspired. Geochemist, Antonina Lisa Gagliano has been working on the slopes of Pantelleria Island in an effort to find out what can make soil and its biota change enormously over just a few metres. Following her presentation at the EGU General Assembly, she spoke to Sara Mynott, shedding light on what makes volcanic soils so special…

Antonina Lisa Gagliano out in the field. Credit: Antonina Lisa Gagliano

Antonina Lisa Gagliano out in the field. Credit: Antonina Lisa Gagliano

What’s your scientific background, and what drew you to soil biota?

I am a geologist with a background in Natural Sciences and, in 2011, I started my research in biogeochemistry during my PhD in Geochemistry and Volcanology at the University of Palermo. I’ve always tried to look at the interactions between different factors in all sorts of subjects, but if you apply this concept to biotic and abiotic factors, it is particularly interesting and fascinating. I started the study on soil biota when my supervisors introduced me to the biogeochemistry of a geothermal area, thinking that I could have enough scientific background and enthusiasm to start studying something new in our team.

Tell me about your field site – what makes it a great place to study?

Pantelleria Island, a volcano located in the Sicily channel, is a really interesting place. It is an active volcanic system – at present quiescent – that hosts a high-energy geothermal system, with a high temperature gradient and gaseous manifestations all over the island. We studied the most active area, Favara Grande, sampling soils and soil gases from its geothermal field. A first look at the island’s geochemistry suggested high methane fluxes from the soil and high surface temperatures – reaching up 62 °C at only 2 cm below the surface. Indirect evidence of methanotrophic activity led us to better investigate soil biota and how it interacts with methane emissions. It is a great place to study because the peculiar composition of the geofluids is extraordinarily rich in methane and hydrogen, and because the geothermal system is stable both in space and time.

Geothermal area at Favara Grande, Pantelleria Island, Italy. Credit: Walter D’Alessandro.

Geothermal area at Favara Grande, Pantelleria Island, Italy. Credit: Walter D’Alessandro.

During the General Assembly, you highlighted key differences in soil sites that were only 10 metres apart – what did you find and why are they different?

We investigated two really close sites in the Favara Grande geothermal field. They released similar gases (CH4, H2, CO2) and had similar surface temperatures, but at the same time they showed differences in soil chemistry (in particular, pH, NH4+, H2O, sulphur, salinity, and oxides). Amazingly, one site showed high methane consumption and the other was totally inactive, despite both sites being characterised by high methane emissions.

These differences were due to the hydrothermal flux from the ground. As the gasses rise, the gas mixture is influenced by several factors including changes in soil and subsoil properties, such as fracturing, level of alteration, permeability and many others. Variations in even only one of these factors can change the flux velocity, which directly regulates soil temperature. When the temperature goes below 100 ⁰C the most soluble species (H2S and NH3), start to dissolve, releasing hydrogen ions and changing the soil’s characteristics.

The condition of one site was much more mild than the other (higher pH, lower amounts of NH4+, sulphur, soil water content and salinity). These differences were due to a lowering of the hydrothermal flux velocity in deeper layers at the milder site, leading to the depletion of soluble species in the surface soil layers. These conditions created two totally different environments for bacterial populations thriving in the two sites.

How did you identify the different species? How many did you find?

Nowadays, Next-Generation-Sequencing techniques (NGS) are available to screen the microbiota in different substrates. We extracted total bacterial and archeal DNA from soil samples and from the geothermal field at Favara Grande. We found an extraordinary diversity of methanotrophs, that use methane as sole source of carbon and energy in the milder site. In the harsher site, we found a high diversity of chemolithotrophs, that use inorganic reduced substrates to produce energy. Here, there was no methanotrophic activity, nor any evidence of the presence of methanotrophs.

On the left, the harsher site – the stains on the surface are signs of the soil alteration. To the right, the milder site – here, soil alteration is much harder to see without a microscope. Credit: Walter D’Alessandro.

On the left, the harsher site – the stains on the surface are signs of the soil alteration. To the right, the milder site – here, soil alteration is much harder to see without a microscope. Credit: Walter D’Alessandro.

Has anything like this been found before, perhaps at another volcanic site, hot spring or hydrothermal vent?

Currently, integrated studies of bacteria thriving in geothermal soils are still at the pioneer stage and few studies on similar work are available; What we found in terms of chemolithotrophic species is similar to other volcanic sites, but the diversity of methanotrophs detected in our soil samples seem to be unique, probably because the geothermal soils are still under-investigated in this regard.

What do you hope to work on next?

Several questions regarding the relationship between biotic and abiotic factors at our sampling sites are open, so our next challenge is to better investigate the dynamics in this geothermal field. We would also like to extend this research to other sites and establish new collaborations to study different areas and discover new things.

What are your biggest challenges in the field and how do you overcome them?

The first challenge is to find a good sampling site; sampling is like a closed box, particularly when you don’t have anything for comparison terms or any state of art equipment at your disposal. But we overcome these challenges with good planning ahead of the field campaign.

If you could give an aspiring biogeochemist one piece of advice, what would it be?

Biogeochemistry puts together several spheres of knowledge (geochemistry and biology, above all), so my first advice is never stop studying, because when you think to know a lot about something, it’s likely that you may completely overlook the other aspects of the argument. Secondly, go outside the scheme of classical and sectorial research and collaborate with scientists of different sectors to increase your expertise and look at problems from other points of view.

Interview by Sara Mynott, PhD student at the University of Exeter.

Meet the experts: The future of solar-terrestrial research

Meet the experts: The future of solar-terrestrial research

This year’s General Assembly saw more Short Courses than ever before! With many of the 50 courses on offer having been organised by and/or for early career scientitst, there was no excuse not to pick up some new skills. In this guest blog post, Jone Peter Reistad a PhD candidate at the University of Bergen, outlines the details of a session which explored what the future might hold for research in the Solar- Terrestrial sciences. With active discussion between established and early career scietists this course was no doubt a hit.

During the General Assembly a new short course took place: Meet the Experts – The Future of Solar-Terrestrial Research. In this session, three senior scientists as well as two Early Career Scientists (ECS) were invited to talk about their visions for the future of the Solar-Terrestrial sciences. They were given the difficult task of identifying important challenges within their field of expertise that the present young scientists need to address in the future.

The speakers came from the different communities within the solar-terrestrial division. This included the solar-, heliospheric-, and the near Earth space communities. They all did an outstanding job in pointing out challenges and knowledge gaps within their field.

Starting at the Sun, Louise Harra, Professor of solar physics at University College London, pointed out how much more we know today due to all the recent solar missions. She assured us that more is definitely to come, as new missions are already in the pipe-line, and encouraged the young scientists to get involved in these future missions at an early stage. She had lots of ideas of what to look for with more precise instruments, and pointed out that a key to understand the evolution of the structures observed at the surface of the Sun is to be able to model the evolution of the structures below the surface using helioseismology.

From the Heliospheric community, emphasis was put on the more recent ability to track evolution of hot gases all the way from the Sun to the Earth. Alexis Rouillard, researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, told us that the recent satellite missions had contributed to strengthen the bonds between the Solar and Heliospheric communities so that the two now uses a more common terminology. This was a tendency he very much hoped to see continuing into the future.

The crucial link to Space Weather applications is the ability to predict the orientation of the magnetic field originating from the Sun when it reaches the Earth. This is by far the most uncertain factor in modeling the geomagnetic impact of a solar storm. Rouillard discussed how having a satellite closer to the Sun could possibility enhance our understanding of this propagation and hence revolutionise space weather predictions in the future.

Yuri Shprits, speaking at the session about the  future of solar-terrestrial research. (Credit:  Christer van der Meeren, Birkeland Centre for Space Science, University of Bergen)

Yuri Shprits, speaking at the session about the future of solar-terrestrial research. (Credit: Christer van der Meeren, Birkeland Centre for Space Science, University of Bergen)

Space Weather – the impact on the near Earth space from the outside – was also discussed from a more Earth-centered perspective. Communication through space-based instrumentation becomes increasingly important as more and more infrastructure is becoming dependent on satellite communications. A detailed knowledge of the mechanisms that influence our communications are therefore more important now than ever. Yuri Shprits, researcher at MIT and UCLA, emphasized that the Earths radiation belts is a key region, and that there are still open questions regarding their buildup and loss mechanisms.

This short course was a result of feedback from last years survey among Early Career Scientists in EGU. The short courses at EGU was highlighted as one of the most important activities that was directly targeting the ECS’s. As each division in EGU has their own ECS representative, you can influence the division specific activities for young scientists by contacting your respective ECS representative. Visit https://www.egu.eu/young-scientists/ for more information about the Early Career Scientist activity within the EGU.

 

By Jone Peter Reistad, PhD Candiadte at the University of Bergen.

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