Hydrological Sciences


Science as Type II Fun

Science as Type II Fun

Autumn had finally arrived – the weather had cooled down enough to start rock climbing outside again in southern Arizona. I was working on scaling a mountain’s cliff face tall enough to be a skyscraper with nearly 15 fellow scientists climbing routes around me. My palms were sweaty with nerves and my muscles were starting to get tired. I questioned what possessed me to climb this huge rock. And I wasn’t alone! There were over a dozen scientists around me complaining about how gravity felt particularly heavy that day. When I finally reached the top and rappel down, it’s all worth it. It’s Type II fun – challenging, but fun in retrospect. After some reflection, I realized that, like endurance sports, sometimes doing science is also Type II fun.

This comparison didn’t quite set in until I started training for another endurance sport – ultrarunning. When I told non-scientist friends and family that I would be running a 5 km race, they would respond, “That’s great! Have fun!” Then, I caught the bug of running long distances. When I said I was training for a 60 km race, they’d ask in a mix of disbelief and mild revulsion, “Why? We’re proud, but that seems hard.” But, really, when I decided to go my Ph.D., the conversation was similar.

My non-scientist friends were right about rock climbing and ultrarunning – it’s hard. I’ve collided with the ground and the rock wall more times than I want to admit to anyone. While, I only needed to get stitches once, I have finished every run and climb more energized than when I started.

They were also right about working in science. At times, it has been hard – but incredibly rewarding. I spent 3 months trying to make a set of sensors that could send and receive compression waves in soil and withstand being spun at 80 m/s2 for an experiment. One day, I finally got them to work and was able to run my 8-hour experiment. The research team cheered and celebrated the success. Long hours of problem solving had finally paid off and, with the benefit of hindsight, I’d probably do it again.

While thinking about this writing this article, I realized that a significant fraction of my colleagues does endurance sports. I asked why they run, climb, swim, cycle…

One said that she jokes that we’re all masochistic, but that the harder the climbing route, the stronger the feeling of accomplishment. It keeps her going back. In her research, she’s developing a complex biochemical numerical model. This work requires a challenging and mundane debugging effort but knows that it is worth it when it all works.

Another enjoys the challenge and sees each individual physical move in sport as working towards a problem. He compared this to every step of conducting research – each requiring focus and control.

Another endurance athlete scientist appreciates their sport because it gives them the opportunity to focus inward. Their success is dependent on their own performance and revel in the control and reward when they succeed. This diverges from the best science – which requires collaboration and a team. Also, science is sometimes Type I fun – or, enjoyable while it’s happening. Some of the best collaborations start at coffee breaks or out for drinks after the official conference programming has ended.

Sure, my sample size is small (n = 10), but I’m not the first to make the comparison between science and endurance sports. Both take perseverance, focus, and tenacity, but it’s all worth it and (Type II) fun in the end.

Caitlyn Hall (she/her) is a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University. Her current research focus is promoting sustainability and natural hazard resilience using bacteria to reduce damage from earthquake-induced liquefaction. She works with industry, community, and government leaders to develop best-fit technical and policy solutions to best-address a community’s challenges and values. Her other research focuses include controlled environment agriculture, sustainable use of resources for urban farming, and using biochemical methods to remediate oil-contaminated soil. For fun, Caitlyn spends her time rock climbing and trail running.

Hydrologists Join Youth-Led #GlobalClimateStrike

Hydrologists Join Youth-Led #GlobalClimateStrike

In a powerful sign of solidarity, adults from across an estimated 185 countries took to the streets to join last Friday’s youth-led Global Climate Strike, the largest climate protest in history. Among those in attendance were hydrologists from around the world, who stood shoulder to shoulder with young people to support their calls for immediate climate action.

As a hydrologist who participated in the Global Climate Strike, I was interested in exploring my colleagues’ motivations for attending in hopes of learning more about how I — along with the broader scientific community — can continue to support youth-led efforts for climate justice. So I reached out to hydrologists from across the globe and at different career stages. This is what they had to say. All statements presented reflect the views of the individual contributors.

James Bennett is a Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO, Australia.

James Bennett (Melbourne, Australia): “I support the climate strike for my kids. I mean this both in the immediate sense – both my children wanted to go to the strike, and they are too young to go unsupervised – and also in the broader sense, in that their generation and beyond will wear the worst consequences of inaction. Children are clear-eyed about it: they are outraged by the damage we are doing to our natural world and the risks we are taking with the health and happiness of millions of people. And of course they are right.
I also think scientists can provide important support to activists, even if our research isn’t directly addressing climate science (my research doesn’t). We know how hard it is get our work through peer review. And if you work in the earth sciences, chances are you personally know colleagues researching climate, and you know that they are highly trained and dedicated. So our confidence in climate science doesn’t draw only from theory or reading papers, but also from knowing first-hand how rigorous it is. Nothing shows our confidence in the science better than standing shoulder to shoulder with activists. I think it’s our moral obligation to support them.”

Upper right: (Credit: @fff_ankara), Bottom: (Credit: @fff_ankara), Upper left: Nilay, a hydrologist from Middle East Technical University, Turkey, with Buse, a 16-yrs old climate activist.

Nilay Dogulu (Ankara, Turkey): “Planet Earth is wonderful with its ALL habitants regardless of any differences. It is time to raise the consciousness of humans to bring back equity for all, starting with Nature. Earth needs to recover from a sickness (#ClimateCrisis), and each and every cell of Earth (#You, yes you!) must act together to its highest will and strength possible to help this massive cleaning & healing.
Buse is only 16 years old, half of my age (Oddly enough I look very young next to her). She has a very strong sense of courage and perseverance for uniting against climate crisis.
As a women in science, I value the power of youth striking against climate crisis. What’s happening today all around the world is just the beginning. We are moving towards a golden age and it is being led by youth. Now is the time to blend in!”

Dr. Luis Samaniego, Deputy Head of Department of Computational Hydrosystems Helmholtz-Zentrum for Environmental Research – UFZ with colleagues on the Climate Strike in Leipzig, Germany.

Luis Samaniego (Leipzig, Germany): “Available hydro-metereological observations show that the Earth climate is changing fast and may reach a point-of-no-return in the coming decades. Recent research shows that “extreme temperature records will be set in approximately 58% of the world every year” (Power & Delage, 2019). These dramatic changes will have negative consequences for the ecosystems and will be decisive for the fate of humanity in this planet, the only one we have. In Europe, for example, state-of-the-art climate and hydrological projections show that the mean area under extrem heatwaves will increase from 5% under a +1.5 C world (w.r.t. preindustrial times) to 18% under a +3 C world. Similarly, drought area will increase by 40% (± 24%) and will affect 42% (± 22%) more people (Samaniego et. al., 2018). Dry periods will become hotter! According to the IPCC, the chance to stay below the +1.5 C world is around 50%. This means that we don’t have much time left to take actions…For these reasons, I urge every concerned citizen to do as much as possible to reduce of their CO2 footprint now. Similarly, I demand our elected officials to take immediately actions leading to come to an end the age of fossil fuels. As as scientist, I also urge my colleagues to raise their voices and help to illustrate those fellow citizens that are not aware of these hard scientific facts or that have been misled by ignorant politicians.”

Dr. Katerina Michaelides, Senior Lecturer at the School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, UK.

Katerina Michaelides (Bristol, UK): “I think we owe it to today’s youth to support them in their fight for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing down the rate of climate change. I work on the impacts of climate change on the water security in East Africa. From our research, it is clear to me that this region is suffering more frequent and more intense droughts as a result of climate change over the last three decades. The implications for millions of people are immense – loss of livelihoods, mass human migration, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity and food insecurity, disease, conflict… I don’t want climate change concerns and impacts to dominate the future of my daughter’s generation.”

Prof. Werner Aeschbach from the Inst. of Environmental Physics, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Werner Aeschbach (Heidelberg, Germany): “I support the climate strike movement because the young protesters explicitly refer to climate science. As environmental scientist aware of the severity of the climate crisis I feel obliged to confirm that the protesters’ concerns are justified, thus I signed the corresponding statement issued by the “Scientists for Future” (Hagedorn et al., 2019, GAIA 28: 79-87). The climate strikers need our backing and we scientists need their societal impact if we want that our warnings about climate change, biodiversity loss, or water crises are heard by the public and by political leaders.”

Kelly Hondula (Annapolis, USA): “I support the climate strike because I’m inspired by the organizers and want to amplify their voices, passion, and vision. Research in journal articles can only go so far towards informing public consciousness and policy decisions that affect our planet. Aside from calling for action from governments and corporations on climate policy, participating motivates an urgency for me to conduct rigorous science that is relevant for figuring out how to create a just and livable future — especially for the generations that are still counting down the days until they can vote.”

Kelly Hondula, a PhD Student in Water Resources at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, University of Maryland, USA.


Ryan Emanuel (Raleigh, USA): “Young people need to know they are acting not only with the support of scientific consensus, but also with the support of actual scientists. As their teachers, parents, elders, and mentors, we should stand alongside youth who speak out for the future they want instead of the future they see being prepared for them. With that in mind, I fully support the youth climate strike and other actions that bring attention to the climate crisis.”

Prof. Ryan Emanuel from the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA.

Guillaume Thirel (Paris, France): “As a scientist working on climate change, and a human being sensitive to environmental issues, I felt that joining the climate strike was compulsory. We have to help and support this youth that seems to be our best option to evolve towards a sustainable future.”

Protesters on the climate strike in Paris, that Guillaume Thirel, a researcher at Irstea, France, attended.

Hannes Müller-Thomy, postdoc at the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management, TU Vienna, Austria.

Hannes Müller-Thomy (Vienna, Austria): “I strongly support these kind of demonstrations to raise the awareness for the biggest challenge in humankind. Only if we all face it together, we will have a chance to deal with it. The demonstrations are a perfect starting point to show this union spirit.”

Dr. Gökçen Uysal, Asst. Prof. at the Department of Civil Engineering, Eskisehir Technical University, Turkey.

Gökçen Uysal (Eskisehir, Turkey): “We are uncontrollably changing the climate and disturbing the natural life in this wonderful Earth. This is happening right now and in every moment, it is real! One of the biggest exam of humankind of this era is that whether we will be still ignoring the damage we have done or not. More terrifying is, most of the people are not yet aware of this destruction or they are pretending as if it does not exist. We do not have too much time to take an action. This global climate strike brings awareness for us, for all, for every life in the world, and I believe we as scientists should be shouldering responsibility more than anyone else.”

Prof. Michael Stewardson, Department of Infrastructure Engineering | Melbourne School of Engineering, Discipline leader Environmental Hydrology and Water Resources

Michael Stewardson (Melbourn, Australia): “I’m supporting the Climate Strike because I am worried about the future. It is apparent that good science and evidence-based communication is not enough to drive the necessary transformations.”

Sina Khatami (Melbourn, Australia) (no photo): “I support climate strike because climate change is an existential threat to our species, one that has never arisen in human history. If we want organized human life to survive in any decent form, we need to pressure politicians and other decision makers to take meaningful actions NOW.”




Unfortunately, I have not yet received contributions from South America and Africa.

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.

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


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’.