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Hydrological Sciences

Gender balance in the HS division- some personal thoughts

Gender balance in the HS division- some personal thoughts

Gender balance in the HS division- some personal thoughts

On 14 June 2019, there was the Swiss nationwide women strike day, with the main topic of equal pay for equal work (see e.g. here). A good opportunity to share some thoughts about gender balance in the HS division. If you have a look on the HS division composition today, you will see that we have a female president and a female deputy president, in addition 5 female officers out of 11 officers (in charge of the subdivisions) and a female early career scientist representative. Overall, 12 out of the 25 officers are female. This is indeed impressive and a nice achievement. It is without doubt the result of the passionate gender balance debate that took place during the 2014 HS business meeting (see my HEPEX blog post on this).

After that debate, it was clear that something had to change. And the change did happen! Why? Certainly because many colleagues became more proactive when looking for excellent female candidates for division positions. And, of course, because many female colleagues became less reluctant to accept these positions. I was one of them. And while I am extremely happy to see where we are now, I continuously ask myself how to make this change sustainable. Besides nominating female candidates at all levels, the most important task for all of us is certainly to keep the discussion alive, to make that little extra effort while looking for invited speakers or while nominating colleagues for awards and, more importantly, to make change happen at all levels, for example for the next summer school or for the weekly seminar.

The leaky pipeline as reported here.

And where is the link to the Swiss women strike? Back in 2014, I triggered the business meeting debate around gender balance because I had just heard about the wage imbalance in Switzerland. This imbalance continues to persist. It continues to not be explicable (e.g. here a link to a Swiss research project on this topic). And I have experienced it myself during a former position in Switzerland where my male colleague in the same lab and at the same position and with the same age and the same achievements had a considerably higher wage. Why did I not do something against it? Because I did not have the energy to fight. Let’s hope that those times are almost gone.

Talking hydrology: an interview with Hjalmar Laudon on hydrological research at the Krycklan catchment

Talking hydrology: an interview with Hjalmar Laudon on hydrological research at the Krycklan catchment

For our second post of “Talking hydrology”, we interviewed Hjalmar Laudon, professor and chair of forest landscape biogeochemistry at SLU Umeå (Sweden). We talked about past and current research in the Krycklan catchment and the usefulness of long-term datasets.

 

1) You have been conducting hydrological research at the Krycklan catchment (North of Sweden) since 2002. How did you keep yourself motivated and interested in the research in the Krycklan catchment?

I think that what we do is interesting, unique and fun, and a better understanding of the role of water in this catchment is very important in order to understand how climate, forestry and other human induced activities will affect our waters. The work and the focus of the projects themselves have been multidisciplinary. This has taught me many new things and made the work more exciting! I work with hydrologists and biogeochemists from all over the world, but also with forest historians, political scientists, forestry policy makers. Lately we also have seen big political changes and have pursued collaboration with stakeholders. Approaching Krycklan from all these different perspectives is very interesting! In addition, it is really inspiring to see that sometimes changes in the policies are implemented based on our findings. What also motivates me is the interaction with other scientists, especially young ones that come to Krycklan to carry out their research! They bring a different atmosphere compared to the ‘old guys’ that are just proceeding with their projects.

2) How were the long-term observations in the Krycklan catchment superior to the usual project lifespan of 3-5 years?

An obvious benefit of having a long-term monitoring station is that the measurement infrastructure is already installed. Since there is no need to set up everything with the start of a new project it is relatively easy to collect new data. A longer dataset also gives the opportunity to describe and understand long-term processes, such as age structure of the forest or the history of deposition of pollutants, and, all our measurements can be put into a climatic context. Nature is not in a steady-state condition if we assess it on a climatic time scale. So, if you make measurements for just a few years, you do not know on which long-term trajectory you are. In Krycklan, the long-term measurements have revealed a set of trends occurring simultaneously, for instance the increase of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in stream water, the decrease of nitrate concentrations and pH in stream water, and changes in winter conditions. Of course, there are also negative sides to measuring at one location for a long period. Since we learn more about one specific site, we might be biased to the climate and biophysical characteristics of this particular site. Therefore, we must be aware of the mindset that we take from the catchments that we study, and how the dominant processes that we observed apply to other regions. Finally, resources are finite, and with every project one needs to decide which processes are most important to continue study. We cannot just add new measurements, we also have to close some down. This is the hardest part.

3) What type of funds are used to maintain the hydrological monitoring of the catchment? 

The measurements in Krycklan started with funding by small research grants, and we combined bits and pieces to set up the infrastructure. In the last seven years we have received funding from the Swedish Research Council to maintain 15 monitoring sites on a standard protocol, which we of course hope will continue. Additionally, we search for project-based funding to do additional measurements or sampling and people that want to come to do a project in Krycklan usually take their own funding or grant with them.

4) Based on your experience with field work, what kind of advantages and disadvantages can be encountered while collecting data for a PhD or a post doc project?

One thing that has become clear is that while discharge measurements are fundamental to any hydrologist, they can be extremely difficult to carry out and are also highly uncertain. There is a large uncertainty in the discharge (or stage height) and the methods for calibration that we have are poor. We realized this when we calculated the biogeochemical fluxes in Krycklan and we found that sometimes there were some inaccuracies. So, even at a well-maintained site like Krycklan it is hard to get the discharge right, especially at the shoulder seasons to winter! To make it even more complicated: each stream section can behave differently, so it is difficult to extrapolate from a few measurements to another location. Another problem is that with extreme events the locations are likely to get damaged or require a new stage-discharge relation. This is part of the reason why we measure at 15 sites: at least one of the sites will probably survive during a flood.

Generally, when working with field data, more data show the complexity of the system which inevitably makes it harder to describe. We must also be aware that no data is flawless. That is why it is really good to have the experience of field work when you work with other people’s data.

5) Do you involve students (B.Sc. or M.Sc. level) in the work you do in the Krycklan catchment?

Currently we have about 20 PhD and 20 MSc students involved at the Krycklan catchment, but data are available on the web (open access), so there could be more people that work with the data that we are not aware of. As a result, we have around 100 publications per year that use Krycklan data! We do a lot of teaching both at SLU and at Umea University, and we take a lot of students out to the field site. Students usually work on topics on hydrology, forestry and atmospheric sciences, and currently we are starting two big new experiments: on the restoration of wetlands, and one on forest ditching and ditch network maintenance.

6) What kind of advice would you give to early career scientists approaching field work? How would you encourage them and explain them the importance of experimental hydrology?

One advice I would give is to go to a site where there are good data. It is very valuable to work with good data. On the other hand, the problems and errors in the data are not found until someone starts working with the data. It is very easy to make errors, and they can be carried on for a long time until someone discovers them. That is why only through working with the data you know how to further develop the data collection. I also found that adding a historical, cultural or educational component to the research site can be a great help to further develop and better understand field measurements.

7) Have you ever wondered how experimental hydrology could evolve in the next few years? What kind of hypotheses should be tested? And what kind of groundbreaking instrumentations or methodologies are needed to improve our knowledge of hydrological processes by experimental data?

The comparison of different sites, and the investigation of specific questions at different sites is definitely one direction for future research. Currently, we have measurements and understanding at different locations, but to compare them can bring a new, deeper understanding to the hydrological system. Another challenge is the upscaling from plot to catchment scale. I think that large controlled experiments, such as artificial extreme events or the monitoring of the effects of impactful events such as forest logging on catchment scale (several 10’s of hectares) are both very important in exploring how to tackle this challenge. As for groundbreaking methodologies, I think that high-resolution LiDAR measurements which came in over the last ten years can continue to be very powerful to get a detailed overview of the landscape. Lastly, we need to integrate our understanding of different processes across the landscape; atmosphere, vegetation, soil, groundwater, surface water. This needs a big team effort and it is interdisciplinary in many ways! We need models to validate our ideas and to connect the pieces, and data from experimental sites is of course crucial for this exercise. One of the compartments that still needs attention before we can successfully make this integration is the soil compartment. Aspects as groundwater-surface water interaction across depth and the connection between deep and shallow subsurface waters still need a refined representation.

8) Do you have any other thoughts or inspiring words that you would like to share?

 Come to work in Krycklan, we need you!

Thank you, Hjalmar, for your time and insights in experimental research in a long-term catchment as Krycklan!

 

For more info, the reader can visit the Krycklan catchment website or contact Hjalmar Laudon.

Edited by Matthias Sprenger and Giulia Zuecco

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Guest author Leonie Kiewiet is a PhD student at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). She is interested in experimental hydrology and focuses on the hillslope and catchment scale. In her PhD project, she uses a combination of tracer-based approaches and hydrometric measurements to investigate runoff generation processes and to quantify the uncertainty in source-area analyses due to spatial variability in shallow groundwater composition.

Quality through Equality – tackling gender issues in hydrology

Quality through Equality – tackling gender issues in hydrology

Quality through Equality – tackling gender issues in hydrology

Results of a 1-day workshop organised by the University of Bristol’s Water Engineering Group

“Science has a diversity problem” (Nature, 2019), and hydrology and the water sciences are no exception. For example, overall only 36% of all EGU medal awardees are female. With 31% of all nominations going to female researchers (Karatekin, 2019), this points more towards that there is not a bias in the awarding process but a gender imbalance at later career stages.

The Water Engineering Group at the University of Bristol organised a 1-day UK-wide workshop to discuss issues related to gender equality in the field of hydrology. The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness of unconscious biases, to offer role models, and to discuss ideas on how to make the hydrologic community more diverse. Although the focus of the workshop was on gender diversity, most things we have learned apply equally well to issues related to misrepresentation of ethnic minorities or disabled scientists.

This blog post presents the outcomes of the workshop, what we have learned and what has changed since.

We were very happy that three accomplished hydrologists and role models joined us as speakers for the workshop: Prof Elena Toth (University of Bologna), Prof Hannah Cloke (University of Reading) and Dr Joshua Larsen (University of Birmingham).

Elena Toth presented efforts by the EGU to encourage more diversity at their conferences and awards. Elena also stressed the importance of diversity (gender, nationality, ethnicity, ability, etc.) in award nominations and the role of the community with this regard. She also mentioned the missing data on gender ratios as one of the main challenges addressing potential lack of diversity of invited speakers and selected oral presentations. Due to data protection rules, the EGU does not record the gender of registered attendees, but instead relies on a voluntary survey after the abstract submission, which is not fully representative (13% answered).

In addition to her experience with the EGU, Elena shared some personal experiences about her career and the challenge of combining family and academia. She shared this challenge with the two other speakers. All of them agreed that combining academia and raising a family is possible, because academia offers one of the most flexible work environments. However, this flexibility does need a supportive stance from the university (flexitime working hours, childcare facilities, flexible childcare support for conferences) and supportive colleagues.

The afternoon included an unconscious bias and bystander training by Prof Havi Carel from University of Bristol. Many attendees found the training very informative and felt more able to react in future situations where they might encounter bias.

The second part of the afternoon was made up by group discussions about how academia can become more diverse and how we can create an enjoyable and inclusive academic environment. Some of the topics we discussed were:

  • What is success in academia?
    The definition of success can vary from person to person, e.g. publishing high quality material or having a good work-family-life balance. The important thing is that head of department, supervisors, and colleagues accept and nurture this diversity.
  • What is the role of role models?
    Role models can be vital in shaping career pathways as they can start or change career aspirations. Role models should be relatable (by gender, ethnicity, etc.) and if they do not exist it is the duty of the community to develop them.
  • What can leadership do to help?
    Childcare facilities and funding both at home institutions and conferences are important. The EGU should provide more funding opportunities, especially for early-career scientists who are from developing countries, so that more research and participant diversity is present at conferences.
  • What can senior and peer colleagues do?
    Regular exchange both with peers and with senior colleagues can address problems such as experienced exclusion/discrimination early on, and if addressed, it can provide a more inclusive environment.

The feedback we received from the day was overwhelmingly positive, both in personal and written feedback. The discussions about the topics and the opportunity to share experiences with others were named as the highlights of the workshop.

Some changes are already happening as a result of the workshop. For example, our research group is diversifying social activities to be more inclusive, and both the British Hydrological Society as well as the Young Hydrologic Society have appointed EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) champions now! With one third of the 44 attendees being male, the workshop demonstrated that not just women are interested to learn about biases and to discuss their experiences.

We thank the GW4 Water Security Alliance, the Cabot Institute and the School of Engineering at the University of Bristol for funding this event. A big thank you to Elena Toth, Joshua Larsen, Hannah Cloke and Havi Carel, and to all attendees for creating an inclusive and productive atmosphere.

Further resources:

Edited by Matthias Sprenger

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The guest authors Lina Stein (left) and Melike Kiraz (right) are both PhD students in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol, and part of the organization team of the workshop ‘Quality through equality – tackling gender issues in hydrology’.

Featured catchment series: The North is not forgotten!

Featured catchment series: The North is not forgotten!

This is the first post of “Featured Catchment”, a series of posts in the HS Blog that present experimental catchments across Europe and beyond. Here, the authors of the posts will explain the main characteristics (e.g., climate, geology, topography, land use) of their catchments, why hydrologic research is important in their study areas, describe the applied methodologies (field instrumentation and hydrological models), main findings and both current and future challenges.

The North is not forgotten! Ecohydrology at the subarctic Pallas research supersite

A unique insight to Arctic hydrology

A special character of the Pallas catchment comes from its northern location at 68°N, about 130 km north from the Arctic Circle in subarctic Finland. To our knowledge Pallas is the most northern research catchment not influenced by permafrost, which makes it a possible analog to permafrost catchments of the future once they lose their frozen soil base. Recent unprecedented rates of environmental change in the Arctic has alerted the scientific community, but at the same time the number of active high-latitude research catchments has been in persistent decline. To answer the call for hydrological research of the north, we started our ecohydrology work at the Pallas in 2014.

Site introduction aboard a drone; view of the snowy landscape with key hydrologically relevant numbers.

Northern Stable Isotope Monitoring program

Northern lights above the lodging facilities of Parks and Wildlife Finland keep the spirits high between days of cold field work.

We look at northern ecohydrology through a lens of a comprehensive northern stable water isotope monitoring program. Our mission is to get a detailed overview of the full Arctic water cycle, from oceans to rainfall and the subsequent partitioning between vegetation, groundwater and headwater streams, by using stable isotopes of water (2H, 18O).

Specifically, the Northern Stable Isotope Monitoring program at the Pallas catchments consists of:

  • continuous high-frequency in-situ stable water isotope monitoring of atmospheric water vapour and stream water (Academy of Finland funded postdoctoral scientist Hannah Bailey and by UArctic Chairship postdoctoral scientist Dr. Kaisa-Riita Mustonen)
  • extensive snow stable water isotope monitoring program to measure spatial and temporal variability in the isotopic composition of snowpack and snowmelt (PhD project of Kashif Noor)
  • soil water flux isotope measurements using lysimeters, soil coring, and experimental tracer approaches to characterize the water movement in the shallow subsurface (PhD project of Filip Muhic)
  • Water isotope sampling from plants to better understand the role of vegetation in the short growing season of the northern water cycle.

Hydrological collaborations with interdisciplinary environmental science

Example of a monitoring station on a peatland in the valley bottom.

Another special feature of the site is the interdisciplinary environmental research carried out by five Finnish national research institutes (FMI, LUKE, SYKE and GTK) in the Pallas region. Pallas comprises one of the most important climate and ecosystem research station in the circumpolar region. The extremely high-quality atmospheric water and greenhouse gas (GHG) measurements in the area (four Eddy-covariance flux stations within 10km2 and a high-precision atmospheric concentration measurement station both operated by FMI) compliments the hydrological research activities. Ongoing collaborative research projects aim to:

  • Investigate the influence of soil water condition in GHG exchange and carbon balance from boreal forest soils (FMI, Dr. Annalea Lohila)
  • Monitor carbon and GHG emission from headwater streams to study the influence of instream microbiology and hydrological connectivity of the stream and the landscape (University of Oulu, Dr. Jussi Jyväsjärvi)
  • Understand how hydrology and soil microbes are controlling soil GHG production potential in subarctic landscape (FMI, LUKE and University of Helsinki)
  • Monitor snow, vegetation and soil moisture by using drones (PhD project of Leo-Juhani Meriö, University of Eastern Finland and Dr. Timo Kumpula)
  • Determine the atmospheric fallout derived black carbon in snow and melting waters (Dr. Outi Meinander, FMI)

Ongoing work and current challenges

Unravelling the complex relationship of water and carbon in the North
Where can we find the hotspots for hydrology and biogeochemical activity? The usual suspects are the stream and its riparian zone, and groundwater exfiltration areas, such as springs and seepages. We hypothesize that better understanding of hydrological flow path activation in space and in time will help explain the carbon and nitrogen dynamics and GHG emissions from northern landscapes.

Conceptual idea of key processes and fluxes linking the water and carbon cycle in the Pallas study catchment.

Understanding our data through numerical modelling
Our long-term objective is to develop a numerical model to simulate the hydrological (aided by stable isotopes of water) and carbon cycle in the north. We argue that numerical modelling based on extensive and long-term biogeochemistry and hydrometric datasets is the best available tool for data integration across our collaborative disciplines in hydrology, ecology, and atmospheric sciences. For example, the PhD project of Anna Jaros is using integrated hydrological modelling to study the role of groundwater in sustaining peatland ecosystem.

Snow and ice – hydrological and practical challenges

We like to dig a bit deeper – working on pits to measure snow density and sample snow for water isotopes.

We need to keep up the struggle with the harsh cold northern environment. How do instruments survive and how do we get samples taken in the dead of the winter, when temperatures are below -35 °C and amount of daylight is minimal? Winter conditions prevail for more than half of the year, and we need to be able to monitor that half too to understand the system as a whole. We currently lack understanding of key processes during winter, such as hydrological and biogeochemical activity during winter below the snow and ice cover, influence of seasonal frost on hydrological partitioning of snowmelt, and isotope hydrology of snowpack and snowmelt.

Time lapse of spring 2018 snowmelt at stream gauging station. The highest flows in the catchment result from spring snowmelt, and we see how the peak flow occurs at very late stages of snowmelt. What happens in between the snowmelt initiation and the peak flow? Where is water stored, what parts of the catchment contribute to streamflow?

Got interested? Please get in touch to start a collaboration in exploring northern latitudes with Arctic attitudes! www.oulu.fi/water/pallas

Funded research projects:

– Pallas is a key site of Academy of Finland funded Arctic Interactions (ArcI Profi4) strategic research profile of the University of Oulu, led by Prof Björn Klöve
– High-resolution Arctic water isotope (δ18O & δ2H) cycles record and reveal sea ice-atmosphere-hydrologic (SIAH) interactions. Academy of Finland award, Jeffrey Welker.
– Pan-Arctic Precipitation Isotope Network (PAPIN), EU INTERACT award, led by Jeffrey Welker.
– What happens to snow when it melts? Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher grant, Pertti Ala-aho.
– What is the role of other-than-peaty-soils for the catchment-scale methane balance and what are the hydrological linkages to CH4 production-oxidation processes. Academy of Finland project UPFORMET, PI Annalea Lohila
– Supersite for Arctic environmental research – a new study area for ​​Arctic hydrology, Maa- ja Vesitekniikan tuki ry, PI Hannu Marttila
– Surface-groundwater interaction in boreal peatland-esker systems: conceptualization of hydrogeological process, integrated numerical modelling and assessment of climate change. Kvantum institute, Strategic research project of the University of Oulu, PI Prof Bjørn Kløve
– Interactions between groundwaters from bedrock and eskers in Northern areas. K. H. Renlund Foundation, PI Hannu Marttila

Edited by Matthias Sprenger

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Guest author Pertti Ala-aho is a Postdoc at University of Oulu and investigates the environmental importance of snowmelt water in the Arctic and other snow-influenced regions. He gained his PhD in 2014, and has since worked in international collaborations in Alaska, Siberia, Canada, Scotland, and Scandinavia. Ala-aho combines numerical modeling with stable water isotope tracer techniques to track snow along its journey from origin (oceans) to snowmelt and its role as ecosystem water source.

 

Guest author Hannu Marttila is a Senior Research Fellow and leading Northern Hydrology group at Water, Energy and Environmental Research Unit in Oulu. His research focuses on hydrological processes and catchment management issues in northern landscapes with strong cross-disciplinary work across science fields. Marttila has been participating and managed several Academy of Finland, EU and foundation based projects. He is a chairman in Hydrology division at Finnish Water Association and hydrology subject editor for Boreal Environmental Research Journal.