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Holiday recommendations – blog break summer 2018

Holiday recommendations – blog break summer 2018

Even dedicated workaholics such as the editors of your EGU GD Blog Team sometimes deserve a break! Let me clarify that by saying ‘an intentional break’ (because uploading every Wednesday is hard!). We will be ‘on holiday’ during August, so there won’t be any new blog posts then. But don’t worry: we will be back stronger than ever in September and we already have a lot of very good blog posts in the pipeline for you. To start the holidays properly and to get you in the holiday spirit as well, the EGU GD Blog Team shares their geodynamical holiday recommendations with you. Enjoy & relax!

Iris van Zelst – Edinburgh

Hutton’s Section with a very young me (in 2012) for scale

Go. To. Edinburgh. Seriously: Edinburgh is the place to be for anyone who has an affinity with the Earth sciences. In this beautiful, historic city, James Hutton – the founder of modern geology, who originated the idea of uniformitarianism – lived and died. Everywhere in the city you can find little reminders indicating this iconic scientist lived there. You could, for example, visit his grave, and hike to his geological section on Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags. There are also little plaques spread around the city that mark significant James Hutton places and events. The city itself is also steeped in a mix of geology and history: Edinburgh Castle, situated on the impressive volcanic Castle Rock, boasts an 1100-year-old history and towers over the city. Directly across from the castle, connected by the charming Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, where you can soak up even more history – Mary Queen of Scots lived here for a while. Nearby, there is Holyrood Park where you can find the group of hills that hosts Hutton’s Section and a 350 million year old volcano named Arthur’s Seat. Climb it when the weather is nice and you will have the most amazing view of Edinburgh. The whole park is perfect for day hikes and picknicks.
Even if you (or your travel buddy) are not that into Earth Sciences (or history), Edinburgh has plenty of other attractions. It is the perfect place for book and literature lovers with the large International Book Festival every August and a very rich literary history with iconic writers such as Walter Scott (Ivanhoe), Robert Louis Stevenson (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; Treasure Island), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), and – more recently – J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter). Theatre fans will also love Edinburgh, particularly during August when it hosts the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the largest arts festival in the world.
I totally should’ve booked a trip to Edinburgh this year… Learn from my mistakes and enjoy it in my stead!

The view of Edinburgh when you’re standing on top of Arthur’s Seat: a more than 300 million year old volcano. Pretty epic.
Picture by me in 2012 (also: proof that the weather can be good in Scotland!)

Luca Dal Zilio – Aeolian Islands

My recommendation? I vote for the Aeolian Islands! Smouldering volcanoes, bubbling mud baths and steaming fumaroles make these tiny islands north of Sicily a truly hot destination. This is the best place to practice the joys of “dolce far niente“: eat, sleep, and play. The Aeolian Arc is a volcanic structure, about 200 km long, located on the internal margin of the Calabrian-Peloritan Arc. The arc is formed by seven subaerial volcanic edifices (Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina, Lipari, Vulcano, Panarea, and Stromboli) and by several volcanic seamounts which roughly surround the Marsili Basin. The subduction-related volcanic activity showed the same eastward migration going from the Oligo-Miocene Sardinian Arc to the Pliocene Anchise-Ponza Arc and, at last, to the Pleistocene Aeolian Arc. My favourite island, Stromboli, is one of the few volcanoes on earth displaying continuous eruptive activity over a period longer than a few years or decades. I like Stromboli because it conforms perfectly to one’s childhood idea of a volcano, with its symmetrical, smoking silhouette rising from the sea. Most of this activity is of a very moderate size, consisting of brief and small bursts of glowing lava fragments to heights of rarely more than 150 m above the vents. Occasionally, there are periods of stronger, more continuous activity, with fountaining lasting several hours, violent ejection of blocks and large bombs, and, still more rarely, lava outflow. I can’t quite explain what made it so special to me. It may be because Stromboli itself is an island, and all the time during the hike I enjoyed splendid sea views (with a beer in my hand). It may be the all encompassing experience, where I could see, hear and literally feel the lava explosions. It was simply fantastic.

Credit: Flickr

Anne Glerum – Montenegro

In case you don’t make it to Montenegro/Serbia this summer, it’s fun in winter too. And yes, it’s fun in spring too – there’s snow, mountains and a younger me on a tiny sled. Photo courtesy of Cyriel de Grijs

My geo-holiday-destination: Montenegro!
A summer without beach-time is not a summer to me (already got one beach-day in this year, phew). Being Dutch, a proper holiday also requires some proper mountains – or hills at least. And no trip is complete without cultural and culinary highlights to explore.
Montenegro is a country that ticks all the boxes. Situated along the Adriatic Sea it hosts a score of picture-perfect beaches; quiet or taken over by the jet-set, intimate coves or long stretches of white sand, take your pick.
Further inland, you reach the Dinarides orogenic chain, the product of 150 My of contractional tectonics and later collapse during the Miocene. Traversing the chain into neighboring Serbia will lead you past complete ophiolite sequences, syn-orognic magma intrusions and major detachment zones of the extensional orogenic collapse.
Visit the centuries old fortified coastal cities of Budva or Kotor or one of the many churches and frescoed monasteries spread around the countryside. For more bodily sustenance, enjoy the fresh fish dishes, rich meats or the regional cheeses and yoghurts. Seasonal fruits are eaten for dessert or, even better, turned into wine and rakija. Ehm, why I am not going there again this year – this time in summer?

Not-so-sunny spring view from St. John’s fortress onto Kotor along the Bay of Kotor. Photo courtesy of Cyriel de Grijs

Diogo Lourenço – CIDER Summer School

This year, my favourite geodynamical destination is CIDER 2018! It’s far from holidays… but it’s really cool! For the last three weeks (one week to go), we have been intensely learning about heterogeneity in the Earth, and trying to understand it in an interdisciplinary perspective with contributions from geochemistry, geodynamics, and seismology. Quite an intense schedule and a lot of information to process, but I think we are all learning a lot, and hopefully in the future we will use more constraints coming from other fields into our own work. Oh, and did I mention that it is happening in Santa Barbara? Great Californian weather, beautiful coastal landscapes, barbecues by the beach, and swimming in the ocean, all sprinkled with scientific discussions! Quite the geodynamical destination, no?

Just had to cross the street from the KITP building where the conference is happening to take this photo…

Grace Shephard – Svalbard

Geoscientists are no strangers to travelling to exotic places and many of us take the opportunity to turn a work-related trip into potential holiday scouting. My suggested destination is most probably the northernmost point you can quite easily travel to on this planet – Svalbard.
Svalbard is an Arctic archipelago located around between 74-81°N latitude. It is sometimes confused with Spitsbergen, which is actually the name of the largest island where the main settlements, including Longyearbyen and Barentsburg, are situated. The islands are part of Norwegian sovereignty, though with some interesting taxation and military restrictions (the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 makes for some pretty interesting reading). Svalbard is host to a stream of tourists and scientific researchers year-round, and this week I will travel back to Longyearbyen as a lecturer for an Arctic tectonics, volcanism and geodynamics course at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).
Geologically speaking, Svalbard makes for a very interesting destination. It offers a diverse range of rock ages and types; having experienced orogenic deformation events, widespread magmatism, and extensive sedimentary and glacial processes.
If you’re after a more usual tourist package amongst the draw cards are of course iconic polar bears (though please keep your distance), stumpy reindeer, arctic foxes, whales, birds and special flora. There are many glaciers – in fact around 60% of Svalbard is covered in ice – as well as fjords and mountains, former coal mining settlements… the list goes on. You are even spoilt for choice between midnight sun or midday darkness, depending on the time of year, so prioritise your activities wisely. Plus, did I mention those miles and miles of unvegetated, uninterrupted rock exposures to keep any geology enthusiast happy?… if you’re lucky you might come across some incredible fossil sites.

Itinerary recommendation, tried and tested: Whale watching and fjord cruising to a Russian mining ghost town (Pyramiden) followed by an important sampling of the world’s northernmost brewery.

Let’s talk about disability in geosciences

Let’s talk about disability in geosciences

Climbing towards outcrops during fieldwork for your undergraduate studies simply isn’t doable for everyone. However, this doesn’t mean that there are adequate alternative solutions available. This week, Katy Willis, PhD student on strain-localisation in the continental lithosphere at the University of Leeds, UK, discusses disability in the geosciences, because regardless of who you are a career in geosciences should be available to you.

On June 4th, 2018 at The Geological Society in London, the UK branch of the International Association for Geodiversity (IAGD) was launched under the name DiG-UK (Diversity in Geosciences, UK), and I was one of those in attendance. The IAGD focuses on the inclusion of people with disabilities within the geosciences, and DiG-UK has incorporated this aim along with championing a better representation of black, Asian, and other ethnic minority groups. Here, I am going to focus on the disability inclusion.

Before I go on – and it’s a shame that I have to type this in the 21st century – let me point out that just because a person has a mental or physical handicap it in no way detracts from their ability to study geosciences or advance in a career in either academia or industry. What hinders them is the barriers that are erected by others before their careers even start. There are a range of disabilities. Anyone may experience a temporary one, like a broken leg restricting your mobility. Some people may experience longer term issues, for example depression triggered by the death of a parent. It may be a health issue that has intermittent effects, such as Crohn’s disease. Or it could be a lifelong issue, such as partial blindness or complex mental health issues.

Geosciences is a broad term for anything from geology to paleo-climate, right up to geodynamics. The one thing that unites such studies, especially at an undergraduate level, is fieldwork. In the UK, an accredited geology degree requires a component of fieldwork, and graduation above a certain level may demand an extended independent fieldwork experience lasting weeks. This is all well and good if you are physically and mentally capable of doing such work, but each year a small proportion of students find themselves unable to go on fieldwork. The old “solution” was to give them a desktop study while the rest of the year went off to Cyprus, Scotland, or Spain. The field group would form close friendships while away, so that those left searching dusty library shelves felt partially excluded from their year group. Hardly an acceptable solution.

The inaugural DiG-UK meeting brought together academia and industry to discuss disability inclusion. An open session looking at how different organisations have got people thinking about disability inclusion and how to practically implement it got us all chatting and sharing ideas. I was delighted to see the approach the Open University had taken regarding fieldwork. It acknowledges that not all field locations are accessible to those with physical disabilities, but there is no need to prevent such students attending field trips because there will remain a number of locations that can be readily visited. For the inaccessible locations they set up a local WiFi network and use iPads so an able bodied person can stream a live image to those who can’t reach that particular outcrop. Genius!

Manchester Metropolitan University has developed a “Diversity Dash” game to help groups understand the many barriers that all students and staff can face. Each team is allocated a character, and a range of scenarios are presented (lab work, unexpected meeting on the top floor, taking notes in lectures). The teams then have to find realistic ways in which their character can take part in the scenario. The characters cover a range of people, from someone who has a pregnant partner through to the rich student that seems to have everything but certain issues are causing increased complications.

If universities automatically allow for the provision of disabled people in their fieldwork plans, then it allows students to continue their studies should they suffer a mild injury such as a sprained ankle. During my undergraduate time, I saw two people fail to finish their course because the university was unable to accommodate their disability needs. They were intelligent people, who knew that beyond graduation lay geoscience careers that did not rely on fieldwork, but they could not pass that barrier of obtaining the appropriate degree. In both cases a few simple adjustments would have allowed them to finish.

It behoves any institute to set up a framework that encourages practical and workable disability inclusion in the geosciences. Organisations such as DiG-UK and the IAGD can provide valuable information on how to do this. Our area of study – geodynamics – sees many of us sat in front of a computer, but a lot of us were required to carry out field studies at some point in our education. It added to our knowledge and experience and in my case it inspired me into the direction of geodynamics and the desire to understand the broader picture.

In September I am taking part in a field trip to Anglesey UK. There will be a range of people going and we aim to discover which methods assist inclusion and accessibility in the field (and which don’t!). Then the findings will be shared so real and practical ways of being inclusive can be implemented for geoscience fieldwork across the UK (and hopefully internationally).

So, go on. What are you going to do this month to help people with disabilities become more involved in geosciences?

Follow DiG-UK on twitter: @DiG_UK_IAGD

The EUGEN e.V. meeting – a unique (geological) experience

The EUGEN e.V. meeting – a unique (geological) experience

Extracurricular activities for current and former geosciences students provide great value to early career scientists in terms of networking and broadening their scientific horizon. PhD student Maximilian Döhmann, who studies rock deformation with numerical models based on high temperature and pressure torsion experiments in the Geodynamic Modelling group of GFZ Potsdam, shares his experiences with the yearly EUGEN meeting.

PhD Student Max Döhmann.

Today I would like to introduce to you the EUGEN e.V., the EUropean GEosciences students Network. The network’s main goal is to bring together geosciences students (and former students) from all over the world through organizing annual meetings throughout Europe (see map of meeting locations). The network can already look back at a continuous history of meetings since 1996 and this year’s 22nd meeting took place in the beautiful Croatia.

Map of EUGEN Meeting locations. Red flag pinpoints the 2017 meeting location Croatia. Credit: eugen-ev.de.

In the second week of August, roughly 100 geoscientists met to enjoy a week of geological and cultural field trips, talks and presentations, making new contacts and simply meeting old friends. The camp ground was located at the karst-river Mrežnica – a perfect location during the hot Croatian summer. There, we experienced a typical EUGEN week starting with the ice-breaker party on Monday, followed by three days of field trips, one day of the traditional and challenging Geolympix and one day of cultural sight seeing.

Three varied field trip destinations were offered this year, organized by the local hosts (students from the University of Zagreb): the Velebit mountain range (part of a fold and thrust belt), the Istria peninsula and the Skrad valley in north-west Croatia. As a part of the Dinarides, the latter is known for the Devil’s Passage canyon and the Green Whirlpool. Composed of Permian clastic rocks, Triassic clastic rocks and dolomites as well as Lower Jurassic limestones, the area has a lot to offer for sedimentary geologists. But also structural geologists get their money’s worth due to the complex tectonic history resulting in nappe tectonics, extensional features and impressive folding structures.

Waterfall close to the Green Whirlpool (Skrad valley) due to an impermeable Permian or Triassic layer. Folds are younger carbonates. Credit: Max Döhmann.

The Geolympix rope-bound team-running. Credit: Mario Hendriks.

Besides having fun on the spectacular field trips, we also competed in a big social event – the Geolympix. The competition traditionally consists of highly entertaining (see photo) games played between teams composed of people from as many different countries as possible. Among others, we played rope-bound team-running (very effective for getting to know each other), platform diving (from ~5 m height) and wheelbarrow-jousting. The team with the most points in the whole competition won a delicious price (no spoiler here, find out what the price entails for yourself next time!).

To decide where the next meeting would be located, every country interested in hosting the event gave a presentation about themselves and their country during the week. On the last evening a decision was made by all participants, it will be … drum rolls … Austria! The next day everyone started their journey home feeling a little sad because the week went by so fast. But, after this so called post-EUGEN-depression, you will soon start to feel better when looking forward to the upcoming meeting. On that note, I hope that I have given you a compelling impression of what the EUGEN is all about and that I will see some of you August next year in Austria!