From May 29 to June 3, the International Association of Hydrological Sciences (IAHS) held its 11th Scientific Assembly in Montpellier, France. Over 600 hydrologists from 65 countries attended the conference, which also celebrated the IAHS’ 100 year anniversary.
The day after the closing of the EGU General Assembly in Vienna on May 27, hundreds of hydrologists packed their bags and set out on a journey south. The destination of this mass migration: Montpellier, a university town in the Herault region in the South of France.
Nestled between the Cevennes mountains and the Mediterranean coast of the Golfe du Lion, Montpellier is home to numerous research institutes and several universities, including the Université de Montpellier, founded in 1289. It was in the Palais de Congres Corum that hydrologists converged for five days to discuss advances in their fields and debate topics from floods and droughts to new satellite missions and socio-hydrological advances. After being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference took place in a fully in-person format.
In addition to numerous oral talks during 33 scientific sessions and six special sessions, the main floor of the Corum hosted poster presentations. Some of them, prepared by Prof. Christophe Cudennec, illustrated the IAHS’ journey: from a small association of hydrologists founded in 1922 to a sprawling international association with over 9000 members.
Scientific highlights of the week
Scientific highlights of the week included the advances on the book to wrap up the Panta Rhei scientific decade as well as the special sessions on Unsolved Problems in Hydrology (UPH).
Every ten years, the IAHS designates an overarching research topic in order to motivate scientists and inspire advances. 2003–2012 was the PUB decade, focusing on Predictions in Ungauged Basins. Since then, Panta Rhei – Everything Flows has been the order of the day, shining a spotlight on the rapidly shifting dynamics of the processes governing the water cycle. Officially, the Panta Rhei decade will end at the IUGG conference in Berlin next year. For the moment, a book and several synthesis publications are being prepared which will highlight scientific advances inspired by Panta Rhei. In addition, an effort was launched to find a topic for the next scientific decade, which will be decided at IUGG 2023.
The UPH initiative focuses on 23 unsolved problems in hydrology, reminiscent of the famous 23 unsolved problems in mathematics. It draws hydrologists’ focus to conundrums like the temporal dynamics between flood- and drought-rich periods and hillslope-riparian-stream-groundwater interactions. Participants were invited to focus their research efforts in search of solutions to these issues, and recent advances were presented in a session chaired by initiator Prof. Günter Blöschl.
ECS activities and networking
Especially for early career scientists, the conference offered extensive opportunities to network, find inspiration, and get to know their communities. The IAHS ECS committee offered a number of ECS workshops, including sessions on how to write a proposal and how to promote research.
Other community-wide efforts included the formulation and open review of keystone IAHS documents. These included a new mission statement, and a first draft of a diversity, equity, and inclusion statement.
Apart from scientific stimulation, the conference also offered attendees a number of additional events – from a public debate with Eric Orsenna from the Academie Française to the traditional frisbee match held on the banks of the Lez river. A particular highlight was the gala dinner, held buffet-style in Montpellier’s Jardin Botanique – one of Europe’s oldest botanical gardens, founded in 1593. The night culminated in the IAHS’ traditional impromptu song contest, with scientists banding together by nation to win over the crowd with country-specific tunes. Between passionate renditions of La Vie en Rose, Yellow Submarine, and Azurro, the joy of the hydrologic community at coming together again was palpable.
EGU HS Division and IAHS working together
Panta Rhei and UPH are IAHS initiatives that were largely shared within the EGU Division on Hydrological Sciences (HS), in particular through co-sponsored sessions during the EGU General Assemblies (see, for instance, here in 2021).
The early career scientists of the HS Division also share a lot with the Young Hydrologic Society (YHS), as recently spotted in this blog post, where we can read that the YHS held its kick-off meeting at the 2013 General Assembly.
Many links that foster the hydrological sciences and that, hopefully, will contribute to co-build the next IAHS decade.