Cryospheric Sciences

Cryospheric Sciences

4 Reasons Why You Should Get Involved as an Early Career Scientist (& a caveat) – Allen Pope

4 Reasons Why You Should Get Involved as an Early Career Scientist (& a caveat) – Allen Pope

You’re an early career scientist (ECS), or maybe you mentor one. So you know that we ECS are busy people, with responsibilities ranging from coursework to teaching, research to outreach, and labwork to fieldwork. And now there is this listicle (no, I’m not embarrassed about choosing this format) telling you to make time in your already packed day to volunteer some of your time to a(n early career) professional organization. Please, take a moment to hear me out.

When I was working on my master’s degree, I saw a workshop that I really wanted to attend, but I knew that similar previous events had been over-subscribed. So, I figured the best way to make sure I had a spot was to help organize the event myself. I enjoyed it and saw how much benefit both the attendees and myself got from the whole process. So, one thing led to another and eventually I became president of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, an organization created by ECS for ECS to be able to stimulate interdisciplinary and international research collaborations, and develop effective future leaders in polar research, education and outreach. Involvement with APECS transitioned to being one of the first elected early career members of the Council of the American Geophysical Union. Despite the time investment, these opportunities have been very valuable to me, so let me tell you why I (as an ECS) have gotten and continue to be involved in (early career) professional organizations.


1) Networking & Building Connections

Networking doesn’t have to be a dirty word – really, it’s just meeting new people (choose your favorite way), finding shared interests, and keeping in touch with colleagues. Normally, people think of networking as just for extroverts – but there are ways to make it work for introverts, too.

Getting involved with a professional organization can be the key to making friends in your field and having conference buddies no matter where you go in the world. You can practice your networking skills with other ECS: share stories, grab a drink, find out about training courses or job opportunities, and build a support network. The shared mission of your volunteering will help bring you together.

And, if that weren’t enough, getting involved with a(n early career) professional organization can be the key – or the excuse – to meet that rock star scientist whose papers you’ve read. Except you’re not just a fan – you’re a colleague with a reason to interact. Take advantage of this for all it’s worth!

Taku A & the crew

2) Gaining Skills & Experience

There are so many things that volunteering for a(n early career) professional society can teach you. Leadership, running a meeting, building consensus, motivating a team, facilitating discussion, organizing an event, asking for funding, building a newsletter, communicating to diverse audiences – and the list goes on. Whether you bring it back to your research career (running a lab group takes a lot more skills than MATLAB), or discover that you have a knack and love for research coordination and decide to change career tracks, you come out on top by getting involved.


3) Practice Taking Initiative

Making things happen is satisfying and fun, pIMG_8985articularly when you’re in a field where results take years to come to fruition (if ever). No matter what career path you take, having the ability to be  “do-er” will be helpful. Being on some committees can help you achieve this – and being on others (in a good organization) will give you faith that recommendations put forwards by committees that only seem to provide advice are actually acted on and executed in meaningful ways.

Use your experience and expertise to go from talk to action – following through on meaningful contributions will get you noticed and allow you to continue to build and progress. But make sure that you’re choosing activities that are beneficial to you, too. As an ECS, you owe it to yourself to build skills and connections that you find fulfilling and that will contribute to your future career. Volunteering your time should always be a win-win situation for both you and the team you are working with.

4) Balance and Time Management

While your thesis or pushing out that next paper might seem like the only important thing right now, it won’t be forever. As you continue to grow in your career, multiple projects, proposals, reviews, etc. etc. will begin to pile up – and you’ll wish you had gained more experience handling the workload earlier on.

By getting involved in a professional organization as an ECS, you are getting an early start on training yourself to maintain a work-life balance. You will learn to prioritize what you need to get done and when. You will learn to balance your own time with other peoples’ schedules (both are valuable). You will also learn the importance of everybody knowing what time zone a conference call is on. Getting a thesis puppy might not be right for you, but having something that isn’t just your primary research can be healthy, gratifying, and productive all at the same time.

A Caveat: It’s all about the continuum.

“Getting involved” means different things for different groups – check out your options, put yourself out there, and find out what works for you. Whichever group you choose to get involved with (and I mention a few ideas below), a very important thing to keep in mind is that you want to interact with not only other ECS, but also experienced colleagues who will be able to mentor and guide you. Even ECS organizations should include not-so-early-career-scientists in as many ways as possible, bringing together a continuum and transferring knowledge, rather than reinventing the wheel.

There are many organizations you can get involved with as an ECS, whether it is an early-career specific group (like APECS, PYRN, or ICYS) or a larger international body (like EGU, AGU, IASC, etc.). You could “just” co-convene a session at a conference you are planning on attending (with other ECS or an experienced colleague), organize a discussion group or mentor panel in your department or at a regional meeting, or even set up a pub meet-up sometime. It’s all getting involved in your community: networking, building skills, taking initiative, and balancing your priorities.


Allen Pope is a postdoc working at NSIDC and UW’s PSC, studying snow and ice, mostly from space. He tweets about the cryosphere, remote sensing, and few other things @PopePolar. Find out more about his research and what other projects he’s involved in at The photos accompanying this blog entry are also by Allen.

My drone summer – Johnny Ryan

My drone summer – Johnny Ryan

In the summer of 2014, our group at Aberystwyth University and the University of Cambridge decided to pursue an ambitious but exciting field campaign in West Greenland. The aim was to survey Store Glacier once a day using a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) (see photo above for a view from the UAV on its way back from a mission with Store Glacier, West Greenland in the background). The UAV is equipped with a digital camera, which takes photos every two seconds during its dangerous 40 km sortie over the glacier. These photos can be stitched together using multi-view stereophotogrammetry to produce high-resolution orthoimages and digital elevation models of the glacier. We hope to use the data to provide insights into the process of calving and the interplay between the glacier and sea-ice mélange that forms during the winter and breaks up in late spring.

A) Landsat 8 true colour image of Store Glacier in August 2014 with the location of camp site. B) MODIS mosaic image of Greenland (Kargel et al., 2012, The Cryosphere) with location of Store Glacier which is situated in Uummannaq Bay.

A) Landsat 8 true colour image of Store Glacier in August 2014 with the location of camp site. B) MODIS mosaic image of Greenland (Kargel et al., 2012, The Cryosphere) with location of Store Glacier which is situated in Uummannaq Bay.

The field campaign started on 7th May 2014 when my colleague, Nick Toberg, and I were dropped off by a helicopter on a peninsula by side of Store Glacier. This site was to be our home for the next 10 weeks and as we watched the helicopter disappear down the fjord, there were not two lonelier men on Earth. Temperatures dropped quickly to -20 degrees as the sun set behind the mountains so it was important to set up camp and prepare for a chilly first night. We were well provided for, with a large mess/science dome tent, individual sleeping tents, generators, a stove, kerosene heaters and a table and camping chairs. By the 9th May we were ready to start flying missions over Store Glacier.


The camp with sleeping tents and mess/science tent. Generators and solar panels were used to charge laptops and UAV LiPo batteries.

The camp with sleeping tents and mess/science tent. Generators and solar panels were used to charge laptops and UAV LiPo batteries.

A typical day would consist of a lazy breakfast, followed by some reading or hiking during the morning. We would then have lunch and aim to fly the UAV at 3pm. Setting up the UAV took a few minutes and a typical survey would take 30 minutes. At the start of the field campaign, these 30 minutes would seem like a lifetime and we would usually be too worried and agitated to think of anything but the plane. I would pace up and down trying to remember whether I had checked a certain part or become increasingly nervous about the wind speed, which always seemed to increase as the plane started its mission. As time passed and more data was collected, we became more and more relaxed. We got to a point where, once the UAV was launched, we would go straight back into the mess tent and read our books. Then once, we heard the plane over our heads, we would head out and land it.

Inside the mess tent. Downloading the GPS, attitude and the locations of the camera triggers from the flight controller.

Inside the mess tent. Downloading the GPS, attitude and the locations of the camera triggers from the flight controller.

Once the plane was safely landed (see video below), which was difficult on the short, boulder-strewn runway, the photos would be downloaded from the SD card and the log files from the flight controller (see photo above). We would then check for damage and repair anything that needed fixing. Cooking and washing up duties were rotated every evening and we would watch a film (usually something starring Nick Cage) after dinner. After the film, we would head to our individual sleeping tents. There was something magical about brushing your teeth overlooking Store Glacier below, the Greenland Ice Sheet to the east and the beautiful fjord and rugged mountains to the west.

In total we completed 55 surveys of Store Glacier from early May to late July. Nick and I are still friends and are now processing the data. We hope to be able to provide some exciting results soon.


Johnny Ryan is a PhD student working at Aberystwyth University in Wales and is supervised by Prof. Alun Hubbard. He is interested in understanding the dynamics of the Greenland Ice Sheet and its fast flowing tidewater outlet glaciers. The primary tool Johnny uses for his research is a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which can be used to survey the cryosphere at fine temporal and spatial scales. Currently he is using data collected by UAVs combined with timelapse camera imagery, meterological stations and tide gauges to investigate processes that control calving and the break-up of the ice melangé at Store Glacier. Johnny tweets as @glaciology_uavs .




Hello and welcome to the blog of the EGU Cryosphere Division.

This blog aims to spread the enthusiasm for ice in all its forms – from snow, glaciers and ice sheets, to ice crystals, extra-terrestrial ice bodies and isotopic ice composition.

The blog will feature stories related to cryospheric research, particularly the latest in fieldwork programmes, research projects and scientific results. With the help of beautiful imagery and riveting tales of hardships (or at least tales of cold conditions), we hope to inspire interest in the role of ice in our climate system.

The editor of the blog is Nanna B. Karlsson, the Young Scientist representative of the EGU Cryosphere Division. Researchers from the cryospheric community will contribute with content, making sure that the blog entries highlight the exciting and thrilling research projects that are engaging us at present.

The first blog entry will be from Johnny Ryan (Aberystwyth University, UK), who will write about his work with UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in Greenland. This is promising be an exciting insight into a new technique in glaciological fieldwork.

Next year there will be entries in a variety of subjects within the cryospheric field. We hope to take you to the world’s northernmost research institution in Svalbard, where Heidi Sevestre is conducting her research. We will go on an expedition with a wooden schooner to the fjords of Southern Greenland with Anne-Katrine Faber and Malte N. Winther (University of Copenhagen, Denmark). Eva Huintjes (RWTH Aachen University) will take us even further afield to the Tibetan Plateau where she conducted her PhD research. And Alexandra Messerli (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) will show us what is happening at the bed of a glacier when the melt season starts. All very exciting stuff – and lots more to come!

If you would like to write a blog entry about your research, please get in touch with the editor, especially if you are a young scientist! We welcome all contributions that fit broadly within the topic of cryospheric research.