EGU GD Whirlwind Wednesday: Geodynamics 101 & other events

EGU GD Whirlwind Wednesday: Geodynamics 101 & other events

Yesterday (Wednesday, April 12, 2018), the first ever Geodynamics 101 short course at EGU was held. It was inspired by our regular blog series of the same name. I can happily report that it was a success! With at least 60 people attending (admittedly, we didn’t count as we were trying to focus on explaining geodynamics) we had a nicely filled room. Surprisingly, quite some geodynamicists were in the audience. Hopefully, we inspired them with new, fun ways to communicate geodynamics to people from other disciplines.

The short course was organised by me (Iris van Zelst, ETH Zürich), Adina Pusok (ECS GD Representative; UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, IGPP), Antoine Rozel (ETH Zürich), Fabio Crameri (CEED, Oslo), Juliane Dannberg (UC Davis), and Anne Glerum (GFZ Potsdam). Unfortunately, Anne and Juliane were unable to attend EGU, so the presentation was given by Antoine, Adina, Fabio and me in the end.

The main goal of this short course was to provide an introduction into the basic concepts of numerical modelling of solid Earth processes in the Earth’s crust and mantle in a non-technical, fun manner. It was dedicated to everyone who is interested in, but not necessarily experienced with, understanding numerical models; in particular early career scientists (BSc, MSc, PhD students and postdocs) and people who are new to the field of geodynamic modelling. Emphasis was put on what numerical models are and how scientists can interpret, use, and work with them while taking into account the advantages and limitations of the different methods. We went through setting up a numerical model in a step-by-step process, with specific examples from key papers and problems in solid Earth geodynamics to showcase:

(1) The motivation behind using numerical methods,
(2) The basic equations used in geodynamic modelling studies, what they mean, and their assumptions,
(3) How to choose appropriate numerical methods,
(4) How to benchmark the resulting code,
(5) How to go from the geological problem to the model setup,
(6) How to set initial and boundary conditions,
(7) How to interpret the model results.

Armed with the knowledge of a typical modelling workflow, we hope that our participants will now be able to better assess geodynamical papers and maybe even start working with numerical methods themselves in the future.

Apart from the Geodynamics 101 course, the evening was packed with ECS events for geodynamicists. About 40 people attended the ECS GD dinner at Wieden Bräu that was organised by Adina and Nico (the ECS Co-representative for geodynamics; full introduction will follow soon). After the dinner, most people went onwards to Bermuda Bräu for drinks with the geodynamics, tectonics & structural geology, and seismology division. It featured lots of dancing and networking and should thus be also considered a great success. On to the last couple of days packed with science!

Making the most of the EGU General Assembly 2018 as a Geodynamicist and Early Career Scientist

Making the most of the EGU General Assembly 2018 as a Geodynamicist and Early Career Scientist

Are you still deciding on how to best fill your EGU General Assembly program next week in Vienna? Wondering what is on offer specifically for the Geodynamics (GD) early career community? Our EGU GD Early Career Scientist representative, Adina Pusok (Scripps, UC San Diego), shares some planning tips and event highlights for the big week ahead. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

The EGU General Assembly 2018 (popularly known as EGU2018, or the official hashtag of #EGU18) in Vienna is about to kick off this coming Sunday, and I am sure many geoscientists worldwide are making the last preparations, or even getting the last results in (good luck!). Hopefully, some of you have already had a chance to look on the EGU2018 meeting organizer available (also with a great mobile app) and “star” some of your favourite sessions and events in your personal programme. And probably soon enough, you have also realized that it is not humanly possible to attend everything that you find interesting (unless you are in possession of a time machine to be in multiple places at the same time).

A meeting the size of EGU2018 can be intimidating to most attendees, especially first timers, and being selective becomes a valuable skill. It is a place where you can check out the latest research across a wide range of fields within the geosciences, and within your own area of science. And of course, it is a place to catch up or make new friends and collaborations from all over the world.

Assuming that you’ve already marked in your personal programme your own presentation(s) and scientific sessions of interest, I want to draw your attention to the other side of the conference. The EGU2018 is not just a conference where the latest science is reported, but also one of the best places where you can develop your personal and career skills in a short amount of time. As I’ve written before, Early Career Scientists (ECS) have different needs compared to established scientists. And for that, the EGU2018 schedule comes with a wide range of sessions, short courses, great debates, union wide events, and division social events that complement the scientific agenda of the meeting.

I write this blog post primarily for Geodynamics ECS and first time attendees at the EGU2018 to help them navigate through this “hidden” schedule and make the most out of EGU2018. As an ECS myself, I’ve always liked to explore what every meeting has to offer, and try to learn some new things. So, here are some of my tips and highlights for this year’s EGU2018 meeting schedule:

  1. Short courses – learn a new skill or two in no time

    Learn a scientific skill:
  • Geodynamics 101 (Figure 1) – First short course on numerical geodynamics at the EGU General Assembly! So it’s a must whether you are a geodynamicist, or you just want to understand why all those pretty pictures also make sense scientifically (Wed, afternoon)
  • GPlates – Try this hands-on tutorial with a popular open-source software for plate tectonic reconstructions (Thu, morning) 
  • Seismology for non-seismologists – Learning how to correctly interpret seismic data is an important skill for every solid-earth geodynamicist (Mon, afternoon)

For first time attendees:

  • How to navigate EGU: tips and tricks – Dedicated to first time attendees! If you fit the bill, make sure you wake up early on Monday morning for this introductory short course (Mon, morning) 

Learn to polish these professional skills:

  • Academic presentations – Having last minute nerves about your presentation? Get some tips and tricks to ace that talk! (Mon, afternoon)
  • How to convene a session at EGU’s General Assembly – Convening a session is regarded as an important duty in the scientific community that also gets you a free ticket to the conveners’ party on the Friday evening (Tue, afternoon)
  • How do you peer-review? – Something that nobody during your graduate studies will actually tell you, but you’re expected to know how to do.
  • Applying for Marie Sklodowska-Curie grants – Info session on the highly competitive individual fellowships that are definitely worth applying for, and are aimed at Early Career Scientists (Wed, lunch) 
  • ERC grants – More funding opportunities from the European Research Council (ERC) at all career levels (Thu, evening) 

Explore outside your bubble:

  • Academia is not the only route – Are you finishing your degree and not overly excited by an academic future? Try this short course on exploring career alternatives both inside and outside academia (Thu, afternoon) 
  • Unconscious bias – Become aware of the obstacles that some of your colleagues face every day, and that might prevent them from doing the best science (Tue, morning)

Learn how new technology can help your research:

  • Writing reproducible science – You know you’ve complained at least once that it’s difficult to reproduce the results of a certain paper. Now you can learn ways to improve the conduction and dissemination of your work! (Thu, afternoon)
  • Learning git – This is a life-saver skill that every scientist should have! No more n-versions of your theses, manuscripts or projects (Wed, morning)

Fun skills:

  1. Great debates – teams argue opposite views on a particular topic. Let’s see some science-worthy arguments there!

Don’t worry if you cannot (really) make it to the great debates. You can follow and join in the debates using the web-streaming service.

  1. Awards events – Come and celebrate the work of distinguished scientists! Tip: Medal lectures are particularly interesting across all geosciences fields! This year’s medal lectures specific to the GD division are:
  1. More events and sessions dedicated to professional and career development:
  • EarthArXiv – A general introduction to preprints and the new pre-print server for Earth Sciences, a concept that has been very successful across science disciplines (Mon, evening)
  • Industry career opportunities for early career scientists – The title is clear enough of what you can expect here: how to transition from academia to industry (Mon, evening) 
  • Promoting and supporting equality of opportunities in geosciences – If you care to promote an open, equal opportunities working environment (and you should!), this session promises some very interesting talks and posters on some common issues, solutions and initiatives (posters – Tue, morning, orals – Wed, afternoon) 
  • Meet the chief executive editor of Solid Earth – Thinking of submitting your next manuscript to an EGU journal, such as the Solid Earth? Learn tips and how the publishing process works by meeting the editor–in-chief of the journal (Mon, afternoon)
  • Games for Geoscience – Because it’s always more fun to work and play (orals and posters – Wed, afternoon) 
  1. Other ECS events – Get active and involved into the EGU ECS community with these events:
  • Meet the EGU ECS Representatives and EGU Communications Officer (Roelof Rietbroek, Stephanie Zihms, and Olivia Trani) – These are the people representing ECS at the union level and will be happy to chat with you about your EGU experience, or future plans for the ECS community! (Wed, afternoon)
  • EGU ECS Forum – Open-discussion session for all ECS. Lunch provided! (Thu, lunch)
  • Imaggeo photo competition – Announcing the winners of the photo competition. High-quality photos guaranteed! (Fri, lunch)
  1. Union wide events – Great events to network with medalists or other scientists over some food and drinks! Do not miss them!
  • Opening reception – Sun, 18:30–21:00
  • EGU Award Ceremony – Wed, 17:30–20:00
  • ECS Networking and Careers Reception – Mon, 19:00–20:30
  1. Geodynamics and ECS events
  • ECS GD informal lunch* – Meet in front of the conference center (look for “GD” stickers), to head to the food court in Kagran (2 subway stops away from the conference center). Looking forward to meeting many ECS and come up with more exciting projects for GD! (Note: this blog started taking shape at the ECS GD lunch last year) (Tue, 12:00-13:30)
  • ECS GD dinner* – Join us for a friendly dinner with fellow ECS Geodynamicists at Wieden Bräu – Waaggasse 5, 1040 Wien! (Wed, 19:30-22:00) If you would like to attend the ECS GD dinner on Wednesday, please fill out this form to keep track on the number of people:
  • GD/TS drinks* – No worries if you cannot make for the ECS GD dinner! We will continue with joint TS/GD drinks in Bermuda Bräu – Rabensteig 6, 1010 Wien! (Wed, after ECS GD dinner)
  • GD Division meeting – The division president, Paul Tackley, will show the latest updates regarding the GD division and will present the OSPP award winner from last year. Lunch provided! (Fri, lunch)

*All events are organized by the EGU GD ECS representative, and are open to GD division members and friends.

Just by writing this post, I’ve realized how many interesting events are going to happen next week! Hope you will be creative with your conference schedule and try some of these “hidden” events! Make sure you follow the EGU Blogs and social media, and the division specific events so that you make the most of your attendance at EGU General Assembly 2018. For GD division related news stay tuned for important updates on the EGU GD Facebook page and blog in the coming days. I wish you a great and productive EGU2018 week!

Convection in eggs

Convection in eggs

Happy Easter everybody! It is that time of year again when you wake up excitedly on Easter Sunday and run into the garden to find the chocolate eggs the Easter Bunny hid for you! What? That’s just me? Hm. Well, in any case, you will probably have a couple of extra days off from work and this should be celebrated with a themed blog post! As you know, geodynamics is about the large scale dynamics of the Earth. One of the most important and most studied processes in geodynamics is mantle convection. However, convection processes are not only present on this large (mantle) scale. In fact, you can find convection processes everywhere around you. Think for example about adding cold milk to your hot tea or coffee: a more beautiful example of a(n analogue) model of convection you will only rarely find. However, for this happy Easter occasion, we will focus on the convection in eggs! Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: real eggs!

What is convection?

Let’s start with the definition of convection. Feel free to skip this section if you are a diehard geodynamicist already. For those of you that are not: convection is a natural process of heat transfer where material flows (convects) due to material density differences that are caused by a difference in temperature. To go back to our coffee analogy: the coffee is hot, and therefore less dense than the cold milk. If you pour the milk in the coffee, the milk is denser (~heavier) than the coffee and thus sinks to the bottom of your cup driven by buoyancy contrasts. This heat transfer via the movement of liquids is called convection. It happens in your coffee cup, and it also happens in the mantle of the Earth. And is an egg really that different? Imaging that the egg white is the mantle and the egg yolk the core and we have a nice analogy (okay, the yolk can move, I know. Cut me some slack).

Why would you study the convection in eggs?

Good question. I also didn’t have no clue at first. However, as it turns out, studying the convection in eggs is very important for the food processing of eggs. People like to cook with actual, intact eggs, but there is always a risk that raw eggs contain salmonellae. Apparently there are pasteurised ‘liquid egg’ products on the market, but they can not be used in as many different ways as real, intact eggs. So, in order to make sure that you can safely lick the spoon used to make the cake batter, the idea of ‘pasteurisation of intact eggs’ was born. By pasteurising intact eggs, the illness-inducing salmonellae is killed, without actually compromising the great versatility of the egg. In order to determine how long you should heat an egg at which temperature to kill all the salmonellae (and without accidentally boiling the egg), one needs to know how heat is transferred inside the egg. Hence, one should study the convection of an egg.

So what does convection in eggs look like?

Denys et al., 2004 conducted a numerical study into the computational fluid dynamics of conductive and convective heat transfer in eggs. They used three model setups:
• a reference egg without a yolk
• an egg with a yolk in the middle
• an egg with a yolk at the top

They looked at the time evolution of heating of the egg, while also keeping track of the coldest point in the egg (which is a measure of the pasteurisation process). The initial egg was at a uniform temperature of 24.5 ℃. They then simulated the placement of the egg in a 59.4 ℃ water bath. The calculated velocity fields and time evolution are shown in the figures below.

Calculated velocity field (top) and contours (bottom) after 30s of food processing in a water bath for the three types of model setups: a) no yolk, b) yolk in the middle, c) yolk at the top. Figure from Denys et al., 2004.

Time evolution of the temperature in the model of an egg with a yolk in the middle after being heated in a water bath for a) 5s, b) 10s, c) 30s, d) 80s, e) 150s, and f) 300s. White line is the 53 °C temperature contour and the cross represents the coldest point in the egg. Figure from Denys et al., 2004.

Denys et al., 2004 conclude that the convection in the egg changes the location of the coldest point in the egg: if there was only conduction at play, the coldest spot would be at the geometrical centre of the egg, but the convection forces the slowest heating zone to the bottom of the egg.

This conclusion is of course not applicable to the Earth: the core doesn’t move through the mantle, like the egg yolk can move through the egg white. Still, studying the process of convection systematically across all natural scales ultimately leads to a better understanding of the convection process, which is beneficial for everyone studying the physical process of convection on whatever scale.

So now you know what happens during convection in an egg. It’s not quite the Earth, but with a bit of festive imagination we can go a long way. Hopefully this piece of convection trivia will come in handy during the long Easter weekend. Enjoy!

Denys, S., Pieters, J. G., & Dewettinck, K. (2004). Computational fluid dynamics analysis of combined conductive and convective heat transfer in model eggs. Journal of Food Engineering, 63(3), 281-290.

Help us fight patriarchy, one comic strip at a time!

Help us fight patriarchy, one comic strip at a time!

Women in science/geodynamics: a topic we have discussed before and should continue to discuss, because we’re not there yet. In this new Wit & Wisdom post, Marie Bocher, postdoc at the Seismology and Wave Physics group of ETH Zürich, discusses a range of all-too-common encounters women face and a possible solution to awareness: comics (drawn by Alice Adenis, PhD student at ENS Lyon).

Credit: Alice Adenis

You know it is so much easier for women in science these days

“Oh I don’t hire female PhD students anymore: they get pregnant and then they’re lost for science”

“Yes, I remember you, you were wearing that red dress last time”

“Now that you have responsibilities, you can’t get pregnant again”

Oh, yes, they needed a woman for this committee, that’s why they asked you

And my two personal favourites:

“You should be happy that someone called you an angel [author’s note: in a professional setting], that means that you are beautiful, what are you complaining about?”

“I do not understand why women need to work, I mean, my wife did a marvelous job raising our children while I was working, I don’t get why this way of life has to change.”

These statements have been heard in real life, in the professional setting of the research lab (or at a conference), and were directed towards real humans, who share the particularity of being both women and Earth scientists (I know! Crazy, right?). If you have said similar things or think that some (or all) of these sentences are not that big of a deal, please go to the end of this article: I have a small text just for you! Anyway, I am pretty sure I’m not the only one to find this type of comments disturbing, to say the least. And I want to do something about it.

Credit: Alice Adenis

One of the first steps in the fight against sexism is to identify and describe the various ways it is expressed in our community. Research in geodynamics is definitely international, and patriarchy comes in different flavours all around the world. Each lab has its own blend of cultures and individuals that leads to different climates. That is also true for conferences and other events. As a result, the experience of working as a female in academia and developing as a scientist varies.

Credit: Alice Adenis

However, the patriarchal power structures and strategies are similar, even if the degree to which those are expressed in a specific setting varies. Here is a diagram that, I think, sums up the variety of barriers to gender equality we face in academia pretty well:

Diagram summing up the different barriers to gender equality in academia, taken from Holmes (2015).

Credit: Alice Adenis

The sentences I quoted in the beginning of the article, and illustrated by Alice Adenis throughout this post, are examples of sexist microaggressions (look up the interactional circle in the diagram!). Generally speaking, microaggressions are, according to Derald Wing Sue (2010), “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership”. In the context of sexism, they remind women of the stereotypical roles society has assigned to them: we should be pleasant to the eye; our most important achievement should be to become a mother; we are not as competent as men in science, and therefore any attempt to reach parity in committees means that women are helped or preferred over more competent men… Taken individually, and depending on the person they are addressed to, they go unnoticed, they are annoying, or they are deeply hurtful. Put together and accumulated over time, they create a chilly climate for women in academia and contribute to discourage young female researchers to pursue an academic career.

Credit: Alice Adenis

These sexist microaggressions are the subject of an initiative to which I contribute, together with Alice Adenis, Claire Mallard, Maëlis Arnould, Martina Ulvrova, Mélanie Gérault and Nicolas Coltice: the project “did this really happen?!“. We gather testimonies of everyday sexism in academia, translate them into comics, and publish them on this blog. The aim is to show the nature of current everyday sexism in academia, to make it visible to people who do not see it, and to start a conversation in our community on how we can do better, be more inclusive and more respectful of each other. To achieve this goal, we need you, dear reader. You want to contribute? Here is what you can do:
• Enjoy reading the comics, and think about how you would have reacted in such situations
• Share the contents of the website on your favorite social media
• Print some comics and put them in the common room of your lab to start discussions
• Share one of your personal stories with us, anonymously or not, through this form

Finally, you can join the course on unconscious bias and the session on ‘promoting and supporting equality of opportunities in geosciences’ of the next EGU general assembly in Vienna!

Hope to see you there!

Credit: Alice Adenis









A text to those who do not see why I ‘make such a fuss’ about some people sometimes saying stuff which are ‘maybe a bit sexist’.

Marie Bocher

You might feel like I’m attacking you. I am not. I’m against sexist behaviour – not against people. I am not fighting against men, I am fighting against patriarchy. I have very rarely encountered profoundly sexist people, and I am convinced that the people who did say the sentences I gave as an example meant no harm. Moreover, I have also said sexist (and racist) stuff and will probably say more in the future, because – like the majority of researchers right now – I grew up and live in a white-supremacist and patriarchal society, and this affects my behaviour even if I don’t want to, even if I am a convinced feminist, fighting for a world with more equality.

That being said, here is how I interpret the example sentences and why I think they are not acceptable:

“You know it is so much easier for women in science these days”
This sentence is a classical variation on the concept that women are now favoured over more competent men because of parity issues. While the discrimination against women during the recruitment process has been documented (see for example this article on CV selection, this article on the letter of recommendations, and this article on the same topic), I am still trying to find a study on all these incompetent women who steal the jobs of competent men…

“Oh I don’t hire female PhD students anymore: they get pregnant and then they’re lost for science”
By saying that, you suppose that every woman will systematically want children and renounce her career plans as soon as she becomes a mother. This results in restricting women to only one of the many lives they could choose for themselves. This is also gender discrimination and illegal in a lot of countries.

“Yes, I remember you, you were wearing that red dress last time”
When you say that, you send the message that you are paying more attention to my appearance than to what I have to say. This is objectifying and out of place in a professional setting.

“Now that you have responsibilities, you can’t get pregnant again”
Choosing to have a child or not IS A PERSONAL DECISION. Please do not give your opinion on these matters unless your colleague actually asks for it.

Alice Adenis: Cartoonist, Data Scientist, and PhD in geophysics

“Oh, yes, they needed a woman for this committee, that’s why they asked you.”
You are implying that I am not competent for this committee, but only selected for my gender. That is insulting.

“You should be happy that someone called you an angel [author’s note: in a professional setting], that means that you are beautiful, what are you complaining about?”
See the red dress remark.

“I do not understand why women need to work, I mean, my wife did a marvelous job raising our children while I was working, I don’t get why this way of life has to change.”
Again, this restricts women into one role, that does not necessarily fit everybody.

 Holmes, M. A. (2015) A Sociological Framework to Address Gender Parity, in Women in the Geosciences: Practical, Positive Practices Toward Parity (eds M. A. Holmes, S. OConnell and K. Dutt), John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ. doi: 10.1002/9781119067573.ch3
 Sue, Derald Wing. Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.