A Day in the Life – Rachel Oien

A Day in the Life – Rachel Oien

This blog post is part of our series: “A day in the life of a geomorphologist” for which we’re accepting contributions! Please contact one of the GM blog editors, Emily or Emma, if you’d like to contribute on this topic, or others. 

by Rachel P. Oien, Glacial Geomorphologist, Postdoctoral Fellow, University at Buffalo, NY (Remotely based in the UK)
Twitter: @rpassig1     |    Email:

Picture this: the vibrant streets of Italy, sunlight streaming through every nook and cranny. And there I was, ready to conquer INQUA, armed with my passion for geomorphology. But little did I know that nature had a surprise in store – a blazing heatwave that added an extra layer of challenge to an already exciting day. I woke up on what was expected to be the hottest day of the ongoing heatwave in Roma, Italy.  I was attending the XXI Congress of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA). While Italy is lovely, Italy at 42°C, is scorching. As I headed to the conference to convene Session 33, Mountain Glaciations, I tried to walk as slowly as possible to not arrive completely drenched. As an ECS, I’ve been very privileged to be asked to be a part of the convening team for this exciting session. I already had spent time going over each name to be able to properly introduce my colleagues. 

As the session started, Prof. Carrivick (Leeds) gave an insightful keynote on the paleo and current state of mountain glaciations worldwide. While loading the next speakers’ talk, the problems began. The room had dual screens, one of which went down. In the face of technical hitches, I endeavoured to captivate an audience while navigating through technology-induced challenges. It seems just as we would get one screen working, the other one would begin flashing or crash altogether. This began my technical tango of attempting to transform disruptions into opportunities, giving speakers extra time for questions and discussions. By the end of the morning session we were running 30+ mins behind and I was endeavouring to keep an ever-sweltering audience attentive in the growing heat, but we were able to close the session through a bit of hand waving and a positive attitude. The discussions that unfolded amidst technical complexities showcased the resilience of scientific discourse, turning challenges into stepping stones for insightful conversations.

As dusk fell and temperatures lessened from the heat of the day, I savoured a glass of white wine and reflected on the significance of the day. The heatwaves and tech hiccups may have tried to steal the show, but it was the collective curiosity, the resilient spirit of the attendees, and the dynamic discourse that truly shone. This day in the life of a geomorphologist reminded me that science isn’t just about data and theories – it’s about embracing challenges, fostering connections, and celebrating the beauty of the unexpected. As I bid farewell to Italy and INQUA, I carried with me the memories of engaging in discussions, unexpected twists, igniting new collaborations, future projects, and the camaraderie of fellow geomorphologists. 

All photos by Rachel Oien.

Did you enjoy this blog post? This blog post is part of our series: “A day in the life of a geomorphologist” for which we’re accepting contributions! Please contact one of the GM blog editors, Emily or Emma, if you’d like to contribute. 

This guest post was contributed by a scientist, student or a professional in the Earth, planetary or space sciences. The EGU blogs welcome guest contributions, so if you've got a great idea for a post or fancy trying your hand at science communication, please contact the blog editor or the EGU Communications Officer to pitch your idea.

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