Being a mentor at the General Assembly

Being a mentor at the General Assembly

With more than 15,000 participants, 4,700 oral presentations, 11,000 posters and 1,400 PICO presentations, the EGU General Assembly can be an overwhelming experience for any scientist, whether it’s your first time or 10th time attending. However, you can make conference networking a bit easier by signing up for the EGU 2019 Mentoring Programme!

This mentoring scheme aims to facilitate new connections that may lead to long-term professional relationships within the Earth, planetary and space science communities.

Mentees are matched with a scientist who has attended the General Assembly at least two times (mentor). Through this programme, mentees can receive insight on how to navigate the conference, network with conference attendees, and exchange feedback on professional activities and career development.

On the other hand, there are several benefits of being a mentor, including getting to expand your network, trade ideas and share your experience with novice conference attendees, students, and early career scientists.

We’ve asked a few former General Assembly mentors to talk about their experience with the programme and share their highlights. If these interviews inspire you to get involved with our mentoring programme, you can learn more about this initiative, and how to register, here. The deadline to sign up is 31 January 2019.

Stefan Haun, researcher at the Institute of Water and Environmental Systems Modeling, University of Stuttgart, Germany

Stefan Haun’s personal highlight of the programme was his mentee’s motivation to learn and discuss new things every time they met.

What motivated you to take part in this programme as be a mentor?

I remembered my first time in Vienna, with so many impressions, a tough schedule for the week in my pocket and finally I almost missed the important things, such as making new contacts and friends. So I wanted to take the opportunity to get in contact with young people, who are for the first time at the General Assembly and to talk with them about possibilities, not only regarding the conference but also regarding their career and share with them my experiences.

What were some of the highlights of your experience as a mentor?

I have to say right from the start my mentee, Prima, was for the first time at the General Assembly in Vienna. She told me also that this was her first large conference and that she was very excited about it. We met a couple of times during the General Assembly and discussed several topics regarding science, networking and of course also on how to navigate through the Assembly. But my personal highlight was her motivation to learn and discuss new things every time we met.

Did you learn something or benefit from being a mentor in this programme? If so, what?

It was nice to meet Prima, a young and very ambitious person. During the year, there is a lot of workload on our desks and sometimes we almost forget about how exciting research is. And suddenly you meet such a young researcher and this motivates you again and you are reminded what a great job we have.

Nilay Dogulu, PhD candidate at Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

“It will be my third time as a mentor. I really enjoy this experience as it also helps widen my knowledge and insights personally,” says Nilay Dogulu.

What motivated you to take part in this programme as a mentor?

Encouragement and guidance are highly essential to academic learning and development of early career scientists (ECS). Even though the value of these is recognized, opportunities offered to ECS remain limited in many places. Being an ECS can be emotionally challenging due to lack of such opportunities on top of extreme pace of learning as well as high levels of uncertainty about the future. Conferences give ECS the opportunity to interact with their colleagues, including peers. However, it usually takes courage to go beyond our limits and explore new insights. Then a little push to make things easier becomes inevitable. Especially if it is the first time attending a very big conference.

The EGU Mentoring Programme at the General Assembly is a beautiful example of how simple actions can lead to yet effective results for many ECS. I decided to take part in it (first as a mentee, then as a mentor) because I was aware of the lack of opportunities in my university and wanted to help other ECS who can benefit from that little push in the best way. It is all about learning, regardless of age, position, experience, nationality, gender. Being open to learning is a wonderful trait, and the EGU Mentoring Programme gives just the perfect opportunity to support this.

What were some of the highlights of your experience as a mentor?

It is amazing how the algorithm that works behind for matching the mentors and mentees. The matches I was involved with so far were just to the point.

Sometimes mentees can feel unconfident and tend to maintain the distance that arise due to differences (age, position, etc.), eventually making them hesitant to actively participate in the mentor-mentee interaction. I see this as a great loss of opportunity. There is no point in choosing to be alone. A small conversation can spark unexpected yet fruitful ideas having the potential to shape our mindset and bringing in new perspectives!

Did you learn something or benefit from being a mentor in this programme? If so, what?

Learning is the most precious experience. Senior scientists, early career scientists… it doesn’t matter how big the difference between is. EGU attendees are all very friendly and happy to support ECS in their learning journey for one week every spring in Vienna.

I look forward to participating in EGU Mentoring Programme for EGU 2019! It will be my third time as a mentor. I really enjoy this experience as it also helps widen my knowledge and insights personally.

Interviews by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

Imaggeo on Mondays: The calm before the storm

Imaggeo on Mondays: The calm before the storm

The picture was taken during the 2015 research cruise HE441 in the southern German Bight, North Sea. It features the research vessel Heincke, on a remarkably calm and warm spring day, forming a seemingly steady wake.

The roughly 55 metre long FS Heincke, owned by the German federal government and operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, provides a great platform for local studies of the North Sea shelf. Eleven scientists and students from the University of Bremen, MARUM Research Faculty, University of Kiel, and Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute, along with the ship’s crew formed a great team under the supervision of chief scientist Christian Winter.

On deck, different autonomous underwater observatories were waiting to be deployed. Their purpose was to measure the seabed- and hydrodynamics in a targeted area of the German Bight. The investigation of the interaction between geomorphology, sedimentology and biogeochemistry is crucial to understand the processes acting on this unique and dynamic environment. In the German Bight various stakeholders with diverse interests come together. Profound knowledge, backed by cutting edge research, helps to resolve future conflicts between use and protection of the environment.

While this photo features a tranquil day at sea, some days later the weather and wave conditions got so bad that the cruise had to be abandoned. Storm Niklas, causing wave heights of more than three metres, made deployment and recovery of the observatories too dangerous for the crew, scientists, and delicate instruments.

Despite the severe weather, the research cruise was still able to gather important data with the time made available. Schedules on research vessels are tight and optimized to fit as much high-quality measurements as possible into time slots that are depending on convenient sea (tide) and weather conditions. State-of-the-art research equipment were prepared, deployed, recovered and assessed several times during the then only 8-day long cruise. Measurements were supported by ship based seabed mapping and water column profiling. Transit times, like the one depicted, were used to prepare the different sensors and instruments for the upcoming deployment.

The rare occasion of good weather combined with idle time was utilized to take this long exposure photo. A calm sea, a stable clamp temporarily attached to a handrail, and a neutral density filter were additionally required to increase the exposure time of the camera to 13 seconds, in order to capture this picture. The long exposure time smooths all movement relative to the ship, enhancing the effect of the wake behind the Heincke vessel.

Over the course of several years, regular Heincke research cruises and the collaboration between the different institutions has led to the successful completion of research projects, with findings being published in various journals, listed below.

By Markus Benninghoff, MARUM, University of Bremen, Germany

Further reading

Ahmerkamp, S, Winter, C, Janssen, F, Kuypers, MMM and Holtappels, M (2015) The impact of bedform migration on benthic oxygen fluxes. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 120(11). 2229-2242. doi:10.1002/2015JG003106

Ahmerkamp, S, Winter, C, Krämer, K, de Beer, D, Janssen, F, Friedrich, J, Kuypers, MMM and Holtappels, M (2017) Regulation of benthic oxygen fluxes in permeable sediments of the coastal ocean. Limnology and Oceanography. doi:10.1002/lno.10544

Amirshahi, SM, Kwoll, E and Winter, C (2018) Near bed suspended sediment flux by single turbulent events. Continental Shelf Research, 152. 76-86. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2017.11.005

Krämer, K and Winter, C (2016) Predicted ripple dimensions in relation to the precision of in situ measurements in the southern North Sea. Ocean Science, 12(6). 1221-1235. doi:10.5194/os-12-1221-2016

Krämer, K, Holler, P, Herbst, G, Bratek, A, Ahmerkamp, S, Neumann, A, Bartholomä, A, van Beusekom, JEE, Holtappels, M and Winter, C (2017) Abrupt emergence of a large pockmark field in the German Bight, southeastern North Sea. Scientific Reports, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-05536-1

Oehler, T, Martinez, R, Schückel, U, Winter, C, Kröncke, I and Schlüter, M (2015) Seasonal and spatial variations of benthic oxygen and nitrogen fluxes in the Helgoland Mud Area (southern North Sea). Continental Shelf Research, 106. 118-129. doi:10.1016/j.csr.2015.06.009

If you pre-register for the 2019 General Assembly (Vienna, 07–12 April), you can take part in our annual photo competition! From 15 January until 15 February, every participant pre-registered for the General Assembly can submit up three original photos and one moving image related to the Earth, planetary, and space sciences in competition for free registration to next year’s General Assembly!  These can include fantastic field photos, a stunning shot of your favourite thin section, what you’ve captured out on holiday or under the electron microscope – if it’s geoscientific, it fits the bill. Find out more about how to take part at

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at

GeoTalk: Alena Ebinghaus, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Alena Ebinghaus, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, were we highlight the work and achievements of early career scientists, this month we’ll also introduce one of the (outgoing) Division early career scientist representatives (ECS). The representatives are responsible for ensuring that the voice of EGU ECS membership is heard. From organising short courses during the General Assembly, through to running division blogs and attending regular ECS representative meetings, their tasks in this role are varied. Their work is entirely voluntary and they are all active members of their research community, so we’ll also be touching on their scientific work during the interview.

Today we are talking to Alena Ebinghaus, ECS representative for the Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology (SSP) Division. Alena has been in post for more than 20 months, but her term comes to an end at the 2019 General Assembly. Interested in getting involved with EGU and its activities for early career scientists? Consider applying for one of the vacant representative positions

Before we get stuck in, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and your career?

I was fascinated by geology long before I started studying, and it was volcanoes that got me hooked initially. Being originally from Hagen in Germany, I went to study geology and palaeontology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität in Bonn, from which I obtained a Diploma (=MSc) degree in 2010. I continued with a PhD at the University of Aberdeen, in the UK, where I focused my research to inter-lava drainage and plant ecosystems in the Columbia River Flood Basalt Province (USA). I haven’t settled my studies in volcanology after all, but sedimentological and palynological (largely pollen and spores) studies set in a volcanic environment was the perfect balance for me.

I am still based in Aberdeen, and since 2014 employed as a postdoctoral researcher. Now my main research projects are the assessment of sedimentary and plant ecological response patterns to rapid climate change of the past. I look at sedimentary rock records from the Cretaceous–Paleogene  Boltysh meteorite impact crater (Ukraine) and the Palaeocene–Eocene Bighorn Basin (Wyoming). These two locations were witness to rapid warming events and hold geological clues to how the environment responded to these changes.

Alena at the Palouse Falls, Washington State. (Credit: Lucas Rossetti)

Although we touch upon it in the introduction of this post: what does your role as ECS representative involve?

The ECS representative is the anchor point between the early career researchers and later career researchers. Within the SSP community I communicate the matters and interests of the ECS to the SSP division and the wider EGU community, and help to connect the work and engagements of early stage scientists with those of a later career stage. With the help of a small group of other ECS, I coordinate and take care of the SSP social media Facebook and Twitter accounts. I also try to set up social events and help organize short courses during the annual General Assembly (GA). In the particular case of the SSP division, I have coordinated the set-up of the division’s weblog.

Why did you put yourself forward for the role?

I was keen to get involved and integrate with the SSP community and the EGU in order to widen my academic network and to become a more interactive GA participant. The GA is a large conference – I wanted to have the opportunity to meet a lot of people and help organize events rather than being a somewhat passive attendant.

What is your vision for the Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology Division ECS community and what do you hope to achieve in the time you hold the position?

I see the SSP growing further and particularly the ECS community becoming more inter-active with organizing SSP-specific scientific and social events similar to some of the larger divisions within the EGU. The first couple of times I joined the GA I felt rather lost, and was not quite aware of ECS work, nor did I meet other SSP ECS. Bringing the SSP ECS community together and making their engagements more visible so to better approach other ECS is one of main objectives.

What can your ECS Division members expect from the Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology Division in the 2019 General Assembly?

First of all, the SSP division again offers again a great range of scientific sessions, but I am also planning a couple of social get-togethers which shall be particularly interesting for those attending the GA for the first time. As every year, there will be the opportunity to meet the SSP president and to join the division’s meeting which is open to all SSP members. With a group of other academics, I will be convening a short course to discuss the balance of work and personal life in science – a topic addressed to researchers of all career stages within SSP and naturally beyond.

How can those wanting to, get involved with the EGU?

For everyone being interested in SSP work, it would be best to either get in touch with myself, via email or Facebook or the SSP president. We will be more than happy to assist and answer any questions.

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

Geosciences Column: Using volcanoes to study carbon emissions’ long-term environmental effect

Geosciences Column: Using volcanoes to study carbon emissions’ long-term environmental effect

In a world where carbon dioxide levels are rapidly rising, how do you study the long-term effect of carbon emissions?

To answer this question, some scientists have turned to Mammoth Mountain, a volcano in California that’s been releasing carbon dioxide for years. Recently, a team of researchers found that this volcanic ecosystem could give clues to how plants respond to elevated levels of carbon dioxide over long periods of time. The scientists suggest that studying carbon-emitting volcanoes could give us a deeper understanding on how climate change will influence terrestrial ecosystems through the decades. The results of their study were published last month in EGU’s open access journal Biogeosciences.

Carbon emissions reached a record high in 2018, as fossil-fuel use contributed roughly 37.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Emissions are expected to increase globally if left unabated, and ecologists have been trying to better understand how this trend will impact plant ecology. One popular technique, which involves exposing environments to increased levels of carbon dioxide, has been used since the 1990s to study climate change’s impact.

The method, also known as the Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) experiment, has offered valuable insight into this matter, but can only give a short-term perspective. As a result, it’s been more challenging for scientists to study the long-term impact that emissions have on plant communities and ecosystems, according to the new study.

FACE facilities, such as the Nevada Desert FACE Facility, creates 21st century atmospheric conditions in an otherwise natural environment. Credit: National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office via Wikimedia Commons

Carbon-emitting volcanoes, on the other hand, are often well-studied systems and have been known to emit carbon dioxide for decades to even centuries. For example, experts have been collecting data on gas emissions from Mammoth Mountain, a lava dome complex in eastern California, for almost twenty years. The volcano releases carbon dioxide at high concentrations through faults and fissures on the mountainside, subsequently leaving its forest environment exposed to the emissions. In short, the volcanic ecosystem essentially acts like a natural FACE experiment site.

“This is where long-term localized emissions from volcanic [carbon dioxide] can play a game-changing role in how to assess the long-term [carbon dioxide] effect on ecosystems,” wrote the authors in their published study. Research with longer study periods would also allow scientists to assess climate change’s effect on long-term ecosystem dynamics, including plant acclimation and species dominance shifts.

Through this exploratory study, the researchers involved sought to better understand whether the long-term ecological response to carbon-emitting volcanoes is actually representative to the ecological impact of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Remotely sensed imagery acquired over Mammoth Mountain, showing (a) maps of soil CO2 flux simulated based on accumulation chamber measurements, shown overlaid on aerial RGB image, (b) above-ground biomass (c) evapotranspiration, and (d) normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Credit: K. Cawse-Nicholson et al.

To do so, the scientists analysed characteristics of the forest ecosystem situated on the Mammoth Mountain volcano. With the help of airborne remote-sensing tools, the team measured several ecological variables, including the forest’s canopy greenness, height and nitrogen concentrations, evapotranspiration, and biomass. Additionally they examined the carbon dioxide fluxes within actively degassing areas on Mammoth Mountain.

They used all this data to model the structure, composition, and function of the volcano’s forest, as well as model how the ecosystem changes when exposed to increased carbon emissions. Their results revealed that the carbon dioxide fluxes from Mammoth Mountain’s soil were correlated to many of the ecological variables analysed. Additionally, the researchers discovered that parts of the observed environmental impact of the volcano’s emissions were consistent with outcomes from past FACE experiments.  

Given the results, the study suggests that these kind of volcanic systems could work as natural test environments for long-term climate research. “This methodology can be applied to any site that is exposed to elevated [carbon dioxide],” the researchers wrote. Given that some plant communities have been exposed to volcanic emissions for hundreds of years, this method could help paint a more comprehensive picture of our future environment as Earth’s climate changes.

By Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer


Cawse-Nicholson, K., Fisher, J. B., Famiglietti, C. A., Braverman, A., Schwandner, F. M., Lewicki, J. L., Townsend, P. A., Schimel, D. S., Pavlick, R., Bormann, K. J., Ferraz, A., Kang, E. L., Ma, P., Bogue, R. R., Youmans, T., and Pieri, D. C.: Ecosystem responses to elevated CO2 using airborne remote sensing at Mammoth Mountain, California, Biogeosciences, 15, 7403-7418,, 2018.