GeoLog

EGU

How extreme events impact Earth’s surface: reports from the 6th EGU Galileo conference

How extreme events impact Earth’s surface: reports from the 6th EGU Galileo conference

Throughout the year, EGU hosts a number of meetings, workshops, and conferences for the geoscience community. While the EGU’s annual General Assembly brings more than 15,000 scientists together under one roof, the EGU Galileo Conferences allows a smaller number of scientists to discuss and debate issues at the forefront of their discipline. In this blog post, the organisers of the 6th Galileo Conference “Perturbations of earth surface dynamics caused by extreme events” reflect on a week of insightful presentations and discussions on rare and catastrophic events.

“How do extreme events perturb Earth surface dynamics?” This question kept us busy during the entire week of the 6th EGU Galileo Conference “Perturbations of earth surface dynamics caused by extreme events”, which took place in Nepal from 13-19 October 2019. As organisers, we had aimed for a slightly unusual conference venue. We kept the nice hotels to a minimum of two nights and took the participants out to the Bhote Kosi for some camping for the remainder of the week to foster discussions and idea exchange.

The Bhote Kosi valley, about four hours’ drive north east of Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu, was heavily impacted by the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake and a subsequent glacier lake outburst flood event in 2016. This valley still today carries the signs of these earlier events in the form of large landslides, unstable slopes, and reworked river beds. As such, the valley serves as an ideal natural laboratory to better understand and quantify how the Earth’s surface responds to such perturbations. The Bhote Kosi had been a basecamp for a number of us studying natural hazards during the multiple field campaigns organised after the Gorkha earthquake, and this conference was a great opportunity to share what we have learned over the past years while directly illustrating the conference topics.

This conference brought together scientists studying a range of rare/extreme events and their broader impacts on Earth surface processes, biogeochemical cycles and human systems. Credit: Monique Fort

What seemed easy in the early days of planning did not come without inevitable doubts as the conference came closer. How do we make sure we have enough tents for everyone, how do we deal with the frequent power cuts, how do we make sure to cater enough local beer to thirsty geoscientists, and what if everyone contracted food poisoning? Fortunately, 60 participants, including ten Nepali colleagues and many early career scientists, blindly followed us without much afterthought and we were off for a busy and promising week.

The talks and posters covered most extreme event triggers: from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions and from wildfires to storms and tsunamis. These presentations provided food for thought for the geomorphologist, the geochemist, and the seismologist alike. Nepal, with the aftermath of the Gorkha earthquake, was well represented in these presentations, but many other parts of the world were covered as well.

Overall, this conference demonstrated the role of extreme events as geomorphic actors, able to shape landscapes and affect biogeochemical cycles. This conference also highlighted the large range of possible geomorphic responses, both in terms of magnitude and spatial extent, suggesting that the question of how these extreme events should be defined (are they large or are they rare events?) should ultimately be left to the investigators. It is however clear that in terms of geomorphic impact, an extreme event should lead to an observable perturbation above a, to-be defined, background variability, and be followed by a recovery period that leads to an old or new steady-state. As such, extreme events are not created equal and future research is needed to understand why such a range of responses are encountered.

Conference attendees had the opportunity to discuss questions and topics at the forefront of their field, from ethics in science to international cooperation. (Credit: Monique Fort) 

Time for discussion also allowed us to debate on the morality of post-disaster scientific work. We concluded that basic research questions related to these events need to be pursued and frequently require immediate mobilisation of scientific equipment and personal. However, this discussion also highlighted the need for clear and transparent international coordination so as to not interfere with relief efforts and avoid being perceived as greedy ambulance-chasing scientists. This important discussion was backed by input from a large Nepali delegation, providing an insight into how they had perceived these questions directly after the recent earthquake. Further discussions focused on the commonalities of different extreme events and the possibility to define a common framework that would allow us to compare the geomorphic impact of an earthquake to that of a storm or a wildfire.

Finally, this conference allowed us to lay the foundation blocks for future international coordination efforts. While the exact contours remain to be defined, all participants emphasised the need to prioritise research questions and resources in the case of rapid response efforts. These efforts require clear coordination with affected countries and funding bodies, but for instance also encourage scientific actors to agree on common publication strategies upfront.

Conference participants tour the Bhote Kosi valley to learn more about how extreme events can shape landscapes. (Credit: Monique Fort) 

In the middle of this busy schedule, a day of field excursion provided a welcome change. From small to large, the Bhote Kosi has it all: boulders, landslides, debris flows etc… Driving up the valley all the way to the Nepal-China border provides a humbling experience of how these idyllic landscapes can be turned into deadly traps in the blink of an eye. With closer scrutiny it becomes obvious that the whole landscape has been shaped by a myriad of these catastrophic events, directly questioning the notion of extremes.

After six days of presentations, posters, and late night discussions, it was time to close this intense, yet educational week. In the end there weren’t too many power cuts, no one got sick, most of us managed to shower with hot water and only a few reported spiders in their tents. In line with the local Nepali customs, the end of the conference was celebrated by inspired dancing until late at night when the first shuttles back to the airport started to take people back to Kathmandu.

By Maarten Lupker, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

60 scientists from all over the world came together for the opportunity to debate and discuss issues related to rare/extreme events and how they impact Earth system dynamics. Credit: Monique Fort

Acknowledgments

This conference was jointly organised with the Nepal Geological Society (NGS), without which this week would have never existed. While many people were involved, we would like to extend special thanks to Basanta Raj Adhikari and Ananta Prasad Gajurel from Tribhuvan University as well as the former president of NGS, Kabi Raj Paudyal and the present one Ram Prasad Ghimire. Bhairab Sitaula also provided invaluable help in all logistical aspects of this conference.

The conference was also co-sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, which provided overseas travel grants. Support from DiGOS & GFZ Potsdam were also greatly appreciated.

The organiser team: Christoff Andermann, Kristen Cook, Sean Gallen, Maarten Lupker, Christian Mohr, Ananta P. Gajurel, Katherine Schide, Lena Märki

EGU Members: have your say on the direction of the Union

EGU Members: have your say on the direction of the Union

The EGU is a member-led organisation with around 20,000 members from all over the world. To promote the Earth, planetary and space sciences, the EGU conducts many activities ranging from publishing open access journals and hosting geoscientific meetings to organising education and outreach initiatives.

EGU / Keri McNamara

As EGU’s representatives and staff members, we work hard throughout the year to ensure the Union is serving its members, and we need your input to continue to do so. That’s why we’ve designed a short EGU member survey to give you the chance to voice what you value about the EGU and what you would like the Union to accomplish in the future.

If you are an EGU member, we ask that you take 5-10 minutes to give feedback on the EGU and its activities. The deadline to complete this survey is 15 November 2019. We are grateful for the nearly 2,000 members who have already responded with their views.

How to provide your input

You can find our survey online through this link: https://survey.zohopublic.eu/zs/LTBB60

EGU/Foto Pfluegl

The survey first aims to get a better picture of who you are. We’d like to know who comprises the EGU membership, which scientific disciplines and career stages are represented, and where our members are based.

The second part of the survey aims to learn more about what EGU initiatives you are already aware of, what resources you value the most, and what activities you think should be improved or expanded.

Through this survey we also want to know more about why you’re an EGU member, how a Union membership supports your professional career, and what’s the one thing EGU can do to most benefit you—and the geosciences.

This survey is the biggest and best opportunity for you and the greater EGU community to help steer the Union’s course, and the results will help ensure that we remain responsive to what you want. Thank you in advance for helping shape EGU’s future! Please share this survey widely within your own professional network.

 

EGU 2020: Financial support to attend the General Assembly

EGU 2020: Financial support to attend the General Assembly

The EGU is committed to promoting the participation of both early career scientists and established researchers from low and middle-income countries who wish to present their work at the EGU General Assembly. In order to encourage participation of scientists from both these groups, a part of the overall budget of the EGU General Assembly is reserved to provide financial support to those who wish to attend the meeting.

EGU’s Roland Schlich travel support scheme is named in honour of Roland Schlich, a geoscientist who was instrumental in the formation of EGU. Roland was one of the founders of the Union, as well as served as executive secretary (2002–2004) and treasurer (2005–2015).

From 2005 to 2019, the total amount of financial support awarded through the scheme grew from about €50,000 to €120,000, with 310 awards being allocated in 2019 to support attendance to the 2019 General Assembly, representing a 32% application success rate. For the 2020 General Assembly, the EGU has allocated €130,000 for financial support. About 80-90% of the funds are reserved to assist early career scientists in attending the conference. The remaining funds will be allocated to established scientists.

Financial support includes a waiver of the registration fee and a refund of the Abstract Processing Charge (relating to the abstract for which support was requested). Additionally, the grant may include support for travel expenditures, at the discretion of the support selection committee, to a maximum of €300.

Eligibility

The EGU currently runs two different Roland Schlich travel support schemes: Early Career Scientist’s Travel Support (ECSTS) and Established Scientist’s Travel Support (ESTS); you will be able to find more details about each of these awards on the About & Support section on the EGU 2020 website. You will also find details on who is eligible for the awards on the website.

Scientists who wish to apply for financial support should submit an abstract, on which they are the contact author, as well as the first and presenting author, by 1 December 2019. Late applications, or applications where the scientist is not the main author, will not be considered.

The EGU support selection committee will make its decision to support individual contributions by 20 December 2019. All applicants will be informed after the decision via email in late December or January. Only the granted amount mentioned in the financial support email will be paid out to the supported contact author.

Please note that, as of 2017, a participant can receive a maximum of two ECSTS and two ESTS during their career. In other words, applicants who have received two travel supports in a category in the past are not eligible to apply for that category again.

How to apply

The abstract submission page (click for larger). If you wish to apply for financial support, please select the relevant support box.

You start your application for the travel support scheme, by first submitting the abstract of your oral, poster or PICO presentation. To do so, please enter the call-for-abstracts page on the EGU 2020 website, select the part of the programme you would like to submit an abstract to, and study the respective session list. Each session shows the link to Abstract Submission that you should use. More information on how to submit an abstract is available from the EGU 2020 website.

Applying for financial support is then easier than ever! As soon as you make your choice of session you will be prompted to select whether you wish to apply for financial support. If you do, be sure you tick the appropriate box when submitting your abstract. Bear in mind that, even if you are applying for support, you will still need to pay the Abstract Processing Charge. A screenshot of the abstract submission process is shown above.

Evaluation Criteria

As of 2015 there is an improved selection process for the allocation of the awards. Abstracts are evaluated on the basis of the criteria outlined below.

If you have any questions about applying for financial support for the 2020 General Assembly, please contact Didier Roche (programme committee officer for travel support) or Olivia Trani (EGU Communications Officer).

EGU announces 2020 awards and medals

EGU announces 2020 awards and medals

This week, the EGU announced the 49 recipients of next year’s Union Medals and Awards, Division Medals and Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Awards. The aim of the awards is to recognise the efforts of the awardees in furthering our understanding of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. The prizes will be handed out during the EGU 2020 General Assembly in Vienna on 3-8 May. Head over to the EGU website for the full list of awardees.

Nineteen out of the total 49 awards went to early career scientists who are recognised for the excellence of their work at the beginning of their academic career. Fifteen of the awards were given at division level but four early career scientists were recognised at Union level, highlighting the quality of the research being carried out by the early stage researcher community within the EGU.

Out of the 160 eligible nominations received by the the EGU Awards Committee, 34% of them were female scientists, and about 39% of this year’s 49 awardees are female. These numbers represent an increase from last year, when 31% of nominations and 36% of awards went to female scientists.

As a student (be it at undergraduate, masters, or PhD level), at the EGU 2019 General Assembly, you might have entered the Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) Awards. A total of 59 poster and PICO contributions by early career researchers were bestowed with a OSPP award this year recognising the valuable and important work carried out by budding geoscientists. Judges took into account not only the quality of the research presented in the posters, but also how the findings were communicated both on paper and by the presenters. Follow this link for a full list of awardees.

Further information regarding how to nominate a candidate for a medal and details on the selection of candidates can be found on the EGU webpages. For details of how to enter the OSPP Awards see the procedure for application, all of which takes place during the General Assembly, so it really couldn’t be easier to put yourself forward!

EGU 2020 will take place from 3 to 8 May 2020 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2020 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU20 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.