Hydrological Sciences

Goodbye 2021: looking forward to the challenges ahead

Goodbye 2021: looking forward to the challenges ahead

When I started as Division president, at the General Assembly in 2019, I thought: “Well, my predecessors were very nice; people did not complain (at least not too much), so I guess I can do exactly as they did.” I was not expecting a virus pandemic that would change so many things, including moving, with short notice, all activities online!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I cannot hide that the workload for the General Assembly preparation has been more intense than I expected. The positive side of all this is that we have gained experience. Since I firmly believe that gaining experience is nothing if not shared, here below some thoughts about the exciting challenges that lie ahead. Let’s say goodbye to 2021 and look forward to 2022!

Looking forward to the challenges ahead

  • Handling hybrid General Assemblies, while maintaining the huge hydrology network with enthusiasm and innovation – For the Hydrological Sciences Division, EGU General Assembly is “The place to meet”. It is where we expect to see colleagues we have not seen for a while. It is the opportunity to hold proposal or project meetings, or to organize networking dinners. PhD candidates can meet that “big name” that has kept popping up in their reference list. Supervisors can help their students and early career scientists to navigate the field and gain autonomy, knowing that EGU is committed to offer a respectful environment for scientists to expose their work and openly ask their questions. Online and hybrid GAs can quickly be disappointing or tiring to attend. Bringing innovative ways to chat, meet and spend a nice time in a conference under these new formats will be crucial.
  • Supporting inter-/trans-disciplinarity in hydrology – Hydrologists embrace a multitude of disciplines to do their job and research (climatology, atmospheric sciences, soil sciences, biogeosciences, earth system sciences, remote sensing, geomorphology, etc.). The Division on Hydrological Sciences (HS) reflects this rich environment and is intrinsically linked to many of the other EGU Scientific Divisions. Sessions offered in other divisions might partially overlap with our own HS sessions. There is a big question here on how to handle these multi-disciplinarily aspects in an efficient way: avoiding disciplinary silos and bringing the communities together without losing the specificities that might advance hydrological sciences. Basically, we need to balance depth with breadth.
  • Supporting the growth of the hydrology interfaces with society and policy – Hydrologists have always worked with river basin managers and society as a whole, but we were not always taught at university how to do so. We are now increasingly working with social scientists and enhancing our knowledge, techniques and tools to better serve society. At EGU, we can do a lot to support scientists overcoming current barriers. Every local case is particular, but sharing allows us “thinking outside the box”, trying new pathways and adapting solutions to our own work/research context. This and the links to policy are even more crucial when it comes to dealing with uncertainties, multiple water users, more frequent extreme events, climate and global changes. The EGU Science for Policy Working Group provides an opportunity to become more acquainted with the many possible ways to enhnace collaboration with policy-makers and highlight policy-relevant outputs. In 2019, a hydrology-policy interface session emerged in the programme, which we are still experimenting with before establishing it as a regular session at the General Assemblies. Bringing policy-makers to the EGU General Assembly is not easy, as it is not easy either to prompt scientists to highlight the policy aspects of their daily research work. Many of us do interact directly with stakeholders and policy-makers at different levels, but our experience and findings from such interactions are not what we are used to (or trained to) present in scientific conferences. How to change this in the future will be a big challenge!
  • Strengthening the participation of ECS and the synergies with the YHS – The past pandemic years have been particular difficult for Early Career Scientists (ECS). They had to move on with their field experiments and modelling work under new working conditions and for long periods sometimes without the daily contact with other colleagues and supervisors. This has triggered destabilizing questions, such as: “Is this what I want for the rest of my professional life?”, “Is being a scientist rewarding?”, “Am I doing a good research work?” When starting a career, it is very beneficial to be part of a community, to meet people working on the same topic, to have a clear vision of what a scientific career might look like. New forms of meeting online, sharing, learning and building up a career in hydrological sciences will be needed to fight science discouragement and isolation. Our HS ECS community is very large; we have recently established two ECS Representatives who help in preparing activities and guiding ECS during the General Assembly. They are closely related to the Young Hydrologic Society. The online mode has lowered down some activities, but it is expected that it will gain momentum again in 2022.
  • Interacting with other hydrology-related societies and communities of practice – Many of our challenges have also been the challenges of other societies, such as IAHS and AGU Hydrology. Interacting with other societies can be extremely beneficial to avoid useless competition and encourage cooperation worldwide at the level of “community organization”. For members, beyond conference and meeting organizations, it would be interesting to develop some year-round key “hydrological debates”, with current hot topics/emerging issues in hydrology and open opportunities for the members of the many organized hydrologic communities to engage and join reflections/achievements.

How can you support the HS Division?

Challenges and barriers can be more easily overcome if we are a team. We may feel we move slower as a team, but we can certainly go further by benefiting from the diversity of viewpoints. In that sense, I think the HS Division president is very luck! We have a team of members, conveners and HS Officers that strongly contribute to shaping the General Assembly programme, mostly, but also to establishing links with the various EGU Working Groups and communicating hydrological sciences all over the world.

If you are now inspired by the challenges we have ahead of us and want to volunteer to our many activities, you can support the Hydrological Sciences Division in many ways:

  • Join our “Blog Editorial Team” if you like to edit posts, or contact us if you want to write a post, share a video, a podcast, a Sciart piece, etc.: our blog is here and you can contact us here.
  • Contact our ECS Reps (Sina Khatami and Elena Cristiano) if you want to get more involved with ECS activities and short-courses;
  • HS Officers usually change every 2 or 4 years, depending on their role. If you want to be part of the team, get in contact with the HS Officer (or Subdivision chair) related to your area/field of expertise. The list of Subdivisions and chairs is here. Our subdivisions cover many fields: Catchment hydrology, Hydroinformatics, Hydrological forecasting, Water policy, management and control, Remote sensing & data assimilation, Precipitation & climate, Subsurface hydrology (groundwater and vadose zone), Erosion, sedimentation & river processes, Estuaries, wetlands & ecohydrology.

For other activities (you can also propose a new activity), contact me or Alberto Viglione. Alberto will be inaugurated as HS Division vice-president during the EGU22 General Assembly in April May, before becoming HS Division president for 2023 – 2025.

Maria-Helena Ramos is a research scientist in hydrology and hydrometeorology at the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) in France. She is president of the EGU Division on Hydrological Sciences (HS) since April 2019.

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