Roelof Rietbroek

Roelof Rietbroek is a post-doc researcher at the university of Bonn in Germany, and is currently the early career scientist representative of the EGU. Main research topics include, but are not limited to, sea level, time-variable gravity, Earth surface loading, and reference system issues ( i.e. geocenter motion). To this means, geodetic datasets from spaceborne gravimetry, altimetry and GPS networks are used and combined while keeping an eye on consistency. Roelof tweets as @r_rietje , and personal blogposts can be found on wobbly.earth

EGU’s Geodesy Division needs a new early career scientist voice

EGU’s Geodesy Division needs a new early career scientist voice

In the run-up to the general assembly in 2017, The geodesy division is looking for a fresh early career scientist (ECS) to take over the role of the ECS-representative. But what comprises being an ECS-representative? And where can you sign up?

Early career scientists represent a significant share of the EGU general assembly attendees. It is therefore desirable to involve this group not only as participants, but also on the division and EGU level. To enable this, every division has assigned an early career scientist representative (ECS-rep), who have contact with the representatives from the other divisions. This allows to gather ideas, issues and thoughts relevant to the early career scientist group and communicate these at an EGU-wide level.

We’re looking for a new geodesy division representative

Since April 2014, I’ve been the early career scientist representative of the geodesy division. However, from April 2017, I will lay down this task and take over the role as the union-wide ECS-rep. It is therefore time to find a enthusiastic candidate for the next 2 years, who can bring her/his own ideas to the geodesy division. A prerequisite is that you fulfill the conditions of being an early career scientist, i.e. the date of obtaining your highest degree (BSc, MSc, or PhD)  lies within the past 7 years.

Early career scientist representatives met at the EGU general assembly in 2016

What am I supposed to do?

There are several playgrounds where the ECS-rep is active:

  • Communicate with the Geodesy division president and its deputies. This may cover ECS involvement but also programmatic issues, topics such as the division business meeting, and website content.
  • Participate with the EGU-wide ECS-rep discussions. We all meet in person during the EGU but several times over the course of the year we set up skype meetings to discuss new ideas, recommendations, questionnaire results, short-course organization and much more. These meetings are essential for the workings of the ECS representation at EGU level.
  • Engage in person and over social media with other scientists and motivate them to contribute to the geodesy program and/or social events
  • Collect content and contribute to the geodesy blog and twitter account of the division

How did you like being the representative?

I’m obviously biased now, but initially I was a bit skeptical about being involved. I’m now looking back at some valuable years adding to my skillset. I got to know people from other divisions, learned about the workings of the EGU, and got more involved in organizing short courses. Furthermore, contact with the Geodesy division program committee has been very fruitful and I appreciate their openness.

Outside the ECS-lounge. During the general assembly, you can see ample mentions of early career scientists related events and facilities.

Where and when can I sign up?

Please send a brief motivation letter and a CV to the current geodesy division president, Michael Schmidt, at g@egu.eu. Deadline is the 31st of March 2017. If you have any further questions or if you want a first hand report, you can also contact me under ecs-g@egu.eu or on twitter.

Your scientific talk: mental breakdown or conference highlight?

Your scientific talk: mental breakdown or conference highlight?

After last years success, we’re again organizing a short course on presentation techniques. EGU GA 2016 participants who are interested in rehearsing their talk and getting feedback can sign up of for a rehearsal here (deadline 31 March 2016). Of course we welcome and encourage contributions from all divisions.

You can feel it coming, sometimes it kicks in days before your talk, at other times just moments before you climb the podium.  When it is at its peak, speech anxiety or, in scientific terms, glossophobia, may even have physical ramifications. Your heart rate raises, your breathing is irregular and your armpits are spraying sweat, or at least you think they are. In this state, your body is in an excellent shape to the one thing it considers sane: flee.

The problem is you can’t. You are a scientific speaker at a conference and there is an audience eagerly waiting to hear about your research. Some of us may be tempted to opt for something in between fleeing and presenting, but this usually results in someone hiding and whispering behind a lectern.  Alternatively, you have the option to look your speech anxiety in the face and tell yourself that it is an unavoidable part of your job as a scientist.

The good news is however, that this doesn’t need to affect the quality of your talk at all. On the contrary, your anxious state also enables you to be very alert and focused, which may actually help you delivering an excellent talk.

Besides your mental state, there are plenty of other issues, which influence the effectiveness of information-flow to your audience. Some of those are behavioral, such as making eye contact with your audience, stress parts of your talk by using your voice dynamically, or simply avoiding some ineffective habits like non-stop lightsabering your slides with a laser pointer.


On the more material side, you may consider structuring your presentation using narratives, making use of effective graphics and trying to eliminate those parts from your presentation which do not contribute to it. Just that someone at Microsoft thought it was a cool idea to offer transition effects like slides disintegrating in blocks and stars, doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Most people, including me, are not entertained by it but respond allergically to such slide transitions, resulting in an instant distraction from what you’re telling. You may also consider avoiding some fonts, which have the potential to cause political uproar. For some, seeing comicsans in your scientific presentation is like saying you like Obamacare in a GOPdebate.

In a nutshell, the single piece of advice for making a good presentation is the old boyscout credo: “Be prepared”. Once you prepared your presentation, you may want to check if it is effective and can be finished within the allocated time slot. Weathered speakers may know this from their experience, but even better is to rehearse your talk in front of group of friendly but critical peers. For a conference talk, the group would ideally consists of scientists from varying research fields, such that the audience better resembles reality. By rehearsing you (1) know whether your talk fits in the 12 minute limit, (2) can check if your main points came accross, and (3) see if your presentation material looks the way it is supposed to do.

The EGU 2016 short course 54 Presentation feedback round”, builds on the observation that doing a rehearsal is a very effective way of improving the quality of your talk, whilst building your confidence on the podium. Last year, we organized the short course for the first time, and the feedback encouraged us to organize this again. Bernd Uebbing, early career scientist and participant of last year’s round commented: “Very helpful general information on how to present scientific results in an interesting way combined with constructive individual feedback after my trial presentation; would recommend!”

The short course is set up as follows. After kicking off with an entertaining talk on presenting, registered participants will give their presentation after which there is time to receive feedback from the organizers and audience. In contrast to your actual conference talk, more time is scheduled for feedback and topics related to presentation skills will be given plenty of attention. Everybody is welcome to attend the short course, but we specifically invite scientists, notably early career scientists, to sign up for a try-out of their EGU talk (PICO or oral).

But even after attending our shortcourse, and being very well prepared, you’re climbing that podium and are still nervous. But now, you got what it takes to deliver a conference highlight.

EGSIEM wants to use GRACE gravity field data for operational flooding and drought management

EGSIEM wants to use GRACE gravity field data for operational flooding and drought management

The terrestial water cycle leaves traces in the Earth’s gravity field

The current onset of el Nino is raising hope in California to replenish some of its multiyear water deficit. Due to the warm pool of water on the East side of the Pacific, more rain, and consequently also larger potential for flooding is expected. At the other side of the Pacific, the water is colder than usual leading to Australia bracing itself for a period of drought.

Besides sea surface height and temperature changes, these precipitation patterns move water masses which are even detectable in the time varying gravity field of the Earth. It would therefore make a lot of sense to integrate gravity field data within drought and flood monitoring schemes. The German-American Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) already supplies this information, and has proven to be very valuable for climate studies. These range from studies of the mass variations of the world’s major ice sheets and glaciers and their impact on sea level, to studies focusing on anthropogenic uses of groundwater resources.

Near-real time availability of Gravity field data from GRACE opens up possibilities for flooding and drought management

GRACE is therefore very interesting for operational flooding and drought management,  however, the time it takes from the raw in-orbit GRACE measurements to become a widely usable product takes roughly 60 days. In order to embed this innovative gravity field data into operational systems this time needs to be reduced. In light of this, the EGSIEM consortium (European Gravity Service for Improved Emergency Management) are striving to provide a solution to the lack of prompt, uniform environmental mass redistribution data from the GRACE mission.

EGSIEM is a three year research and innovations project funded by the European Union under their Horizon 2020 Programme. It brings together around 20 scientists from geodesy and hydrology backgrounds around Europe who are taking a holistic approach to Earth Observation (EO) Data with the end goal of providing faster, standardized gravity field data. Such products may facilitate not only a broad scientific community, but are also of benefit for the general public who live in areas under threat of large-scale flooding and drought events. Changes in continental water storage conditions form (arguably) the most significant portion of mass redistribution data which, depending on local conditions, may lead to severe flooding and drought events. EGSIEM aims to demonstrate that observations of water and ice mass redistribution derived from satellite gravity data can provide critical and complementary information to more traditional EO products.


The GRACE twin satellite are accurately mapping tiny perturbations of the Earth's gravity field since 2002

The GRACE twin satellite have been accurately mapping tiny perturbations of the Earth’s gravity field since 2002

EGSIEM eases the acquaintance with gravity field data

“By offering improved and timely gravity fields, we want to encourage and open up novel approaches to flood and drought monitoring and forecasting” says Adrian Jäggi project coordinator of EGSIEM. The project’s main aims are: To provide a scientific combination service which will, using the knowledge of the entire European GRACE community, deliver a robust standardization of gravity-derived products. Reducing the current delays in provision of observations, such a near real-time service aims to reduce the average time of gravity field products from the current 60 days to five, and for initial Level 1 instrument data from 11 days to one. Also, by developing gravity based indicators for extreme hydrological events the EGSIEM team aim to demonstrate their value to flood and drought forecasting and monitoring services in a hydrological early warning service.

The EGSIEM team proactively maintain their impressive looking website (www.egsiem.eu), where scientists working in the field of gravity recovery and hydrology regularly post blog entries of their findings. According to Keith Cann-Guthauser who is the EGSIEM project administrator: “a key strength of EGSIEM is our engagement and effort to disseminate our findings to a larger audience.” The website further offers a direct visualization of satellite gravity field data with the EGSIEM plotter, and a possibility to sign up for a quarterly newsletter.

Keith Cann-Guthauser (front row second right) and Adrian Jäggi (front row left) are based at the Astronomisches Institut, Universität Bern.

Keith Cann-Guthauser (front row second right) and Adrian Jäggi (front row center) are based at the Astronomisches Institut, Universität Bern.

Should we, as session conveners, have an expiry date?

Should we, as session conveners, have an expiry date?

This is a guest post written by Jürgen Kusche, who has convened numerous sessions on various international conferences, and had the wonderful idea to use the geodesy division blog to initiate an open discussion on the topic session convening. For that reason, readers are encouraged to comment at the end of this post. Currently, Jürgen Kusche is professor at the Chair of Astronomical, Mathematical and Physical Geodesy at Bonn University in Germany. 

One of the nice things of the EGU way of organizing a conference is that everybody can suggest sessions, not only the ‘officials’. This is an important option to allow young scientists develop experiences and a sense for service to the community. It also allows to create sessions more ‘adaptive’, e.g. in order to support spectacular new findings from some satellite data release, or in response to natural disasters.

But maybe the system has become less flexible now. I notice that some geodesy sessions are organized by the same distinguished scientists nearly over decades. While this has its merits, as it guarantees continuity and the highest level of scientific knowledge in organizing the sessions, sometimes it may congest the path for creating new sessions by new, younger convenors. True, everybody is invited to propose a session and one may argue, let the new ones compete with the established ones in terms of abstract submissions. But this does not work well since all session proposals tend to be formulated very wide in order to attract contributions. Having too many sessions competing for the same group does not make the program attractive.

This may be an argument for simply limiting the convenor service, in the same session, to terms of, say four years. This way, new people would be brought in.

True, the EGU rules do not allow that the division presidents stipulate, let alone enforce, such rules. But we, as G division, might give us a code of conduct?

I’d would be happy to see your thoughts on this placed as comments here