GeoLog

EGU GA 2015

Imaggeo on Mondays: The Grand Canyon and celebrating Earth Science Week

Imaggeo on Mondays: The Grand Canyon and celebrating Earth Science Week

Today marks the start of Earth Science Week – a yearly international event which aims to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the Earth Sciences. The event is promoted by the American Geosciences Institute and the Geological Society of London, amongst others, so be sure to head to their websites to find out more.

Our Imaggeo on Monday’s image celebrates Earth Science Week too, as well as the General Assembly 2015 conference theme, A Voyage Through Scales! This stunning image of the Grand Canyon was taken by Paulina Cwik.

The awe inspiring Grand Canyon is “446 km long, up to 29 km wide and attains a depth of over a mile 1,800 meters. Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. Visiting Grand Canyon is like a voyage through time scale”, explains Paulina.

To learn more about the geology of this geological landmark, take a look at the information available from the National Parks Service webpages, which also includes an informative video.

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 http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

GeoTalk: Talking about ‘ocean burps’ with James Rae

GeoTalk: Talking about ‘ocean burps’ with James Rae

Trying to understand the reasons behind the global warming of our climate is a never ending quest for scientists across the geosciences. Scientists often rely on deciphering past change to help us understand, and perhaps predict, what might happen in the future. Many will be familiar with the common saying ‘the past is the key to the future’. This is exactly what James Rae, a research fellow at the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department at the Universty of St. Andrews and this year’s recipient of the Biogeosciences Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award, has been focusing his efforts on. James’ research interest lies in understanding past climate change and he was recognised by the Biogeosciences Division after the publication of his research into ocean ‘burps’ – he and his colleagues found that changes in ocean circulation in the North Pacific caused a massive ‘burp’ of CO2 to be released from the deep ocean into the atmosphere, helping to warm the planet sufficiently to trigger the end of the ice age.

Before we get stuck into the details of your work, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and your career?

My name’s James Rae and I’m a geoscientist at the University of St Andrews. I actually grew up just down the road – in Edinburgh – but only just moved back to Scotland last year, after studies in Oxford, Bristol, and California. The locals tell me that the transition from LA to St Andrews shouldn’t be too tough – apparently St Andrews is “one of the sunniest places in the whole of Scotland”!

I got into geosciences through a love of the outdoors and outdoor sports – mountain biking, surfing, snowboarding, climbing – and though most of my work is now in a super clean lab, I still try to get out in the Scottish Highlands whenever possible.

My career to date has focussed on using geochemistry to reconstruct past environmental change. This means I make measurements of the chemistry of things like shells, fossils, rocks, and ice, which often reflect aspects of the environment they formed in. So by making a series of these measurements on fossil shells back through time we can see how the environment changed in the past. My specialty is using boron in tiny fossil shells, called foraminifera, to reconstruct past CO2 change.

So, ocean ‘burps’? During EGU 2015, you received the Biogeosciences Division Outstanding Young Scientists Award for your study of this unusual phenomenon. Can you tell us more about those?

One of the most interesting things about the ice ages of the last few million years is that they seem to be punctuated with really dramatic rapid climate change. The most recent examples of this are at the end of the last ice age – between about 20 and 10 thousand years ago – where we see intervals of rapid CO2 rise recorded in ice cores. The only place where you can quickly get enough carbon to drive these CO2 changes is the deep ocean. During ice ages we think CO2 gets hidden away beneath the waves, at water depths of 2000 – 5000m, and because the Pacific is so big it’s likely that a lot of this CO2 is stored down there. Other scientists had suggested that this CO2 remerged at the end of the last ice age in the ocean round Antarctica. However my research shows that it could also “burp” out in the North Pacific.

Schematic of how James use boron isotope measurements in foraminifera to reconstruct pH and CO2. Credit: James Rae

Schematic of how James use boron isotope measurements in foraminifera to reconstruct pH and CO2. Credit: James Rae

And how exactly did the release of CO2 in these ‘burps’ affect the climate of the ice age?

Our Pacific “burp” happens right at the beginning of the end of the last ice age – it coincides with the first CO2 rise that heralds the start of the deglaciation. It’s possible that the warming associated with the CO2 “burp” helped push the earth out of it’s ice age, though we need to do more work to test this. But even aside from the CO2, the change in circulation that drove this event had a big influence on local climate. Although most of the Northern Hemisphere is really cold at this time the North Pacific is actually quite warm, which I think is a result of this unusual circulation state.

So, the Northern Hemisphere was very cold at this time; can you describe a little more what the Earth might have looked at during this time and how the local climate of the North Pacific might have been different?

At the end of the last ice age massive ice sheets still covered much of North America and Northern Europe. Over St Andrews the ice was around a kilometre thick. Then, at the beginning of the last deglaciation, in an interval called Heinrich Stadial 1, the ice sheets round the North Atlantic start collapsing. This flooded the North Atlantic Ocean with fresh water and reduced the Atlantic overturning circulation that currently provides heat to this region. As a result much of the Northern Hemisphere got colder. However the climate in the North Pacific does something very different. Likely in response to the big cooling in the North Atlantic, there was a large change in the position of major rain belts, like the Westerly storm track and East Asian Monsoon, and we think this acted to make the North Pacific more salty. This led to a more vigorous overturning circulation in the Pacific, a regional warming, and a burp of CO2 release from the deep sea.

What is the next step, if you like, in order to better understand ocean ‘burps’?

At the moment our key evidence for the North Pacific burp comes from a single sediment core. To test the idea we really need to make more measurements from other cores in this region. Our main evidence for ocean CO2 change also currently comes from records from the deep ocean. One of my PhD students is currently making new records to test how much CO2 made it up from the deep to the surface ocean, and from there to the atmosphere. Finally, with collaborators in Switzerland and the US we’re also testing the physical driving mechanisms of this circulation change using state of the art climate models.

(L) An ocean cruise on which the sediment cores used in the study are collected. (R) Benthic foraminifera - James uses these to make measurements of the chemistry of these to reconstruct past climate change. Credit: James Rae

(L) An ocean cruise on which the sediment cores used in the study are collected. (R) Benthic foraminifera – James uses these to make measurements of the chemistry of these to reconstruct past climate change. Credit: James Rae

You’ve enjoyed success as a researcher, not least your 2015 EGU Award. As an early career researcher, do you have any words of advice for masters and PhD students who are hoping to pursue a career as a scientist in the Earth sciences?

Do what you really enjoy. This feeds in to everything else you do; it means you’ll work hard and carefully in lab, find the reading interesting, and be able to present your work effectively to your colleagues. We do science because we love it, so it’s really important to find topics within your field that you love working on. I think it’s also helpful to find skills to be a specialist in and be known for, but then to try to apply these broadly to big picture questions in geosciences.

GeoTalk: Wouter Berghuijs, Union Level Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Wouter Berghuijs, Union Level Early Career Scientist Representative

The EGU offers a platform for early career scientists (ECS) to become involved in interdisciplinary research in the Earth, planetary and space sciences, through sessions, social events and short courses at the annual General Assembly in April. One of the ways of ensuring that the voice of the Union’s ECS membership is heard is via the division early career scientist representatives.

Feedback gathered by the division representatives is collected by the Union level representative, who takes it to the EGU’s Programme Committee (PC) – the group responsible for organising the EGU’s annual General Assembly and the EGU Council – which is in charge of the overall management of the Union.  At the 2015 General Assembly (GA), Wouter Berghuijs, took on the role of union level Early Career Scientist Representative; a post he will hold until April 2016. In this instalment of GeoTalk, Wouter will tell us more about the ECS membership and how he hopes to make a difference to the community during his one-year term.

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

My name is Wouter Berghuijs. I am a PhD student in Hydrology at the University of Bristol (UK). Prior to moving to Bristol, I gained an MSc and BSc in Civil Engineering at Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands). During my MSc, I spent three months at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA) for a research stay, and a further three months at the University of Bristol. I have been involved with the EGU since 2013, first as the Young Scientist Representative for the Hydrology Division, and since the GA in 2015 as the Union-wide Early Career Scientist Representative (editors note – Council approved having the newly elected representative to have a Union-wide role, rather than just represent the ECS membership at the Programme Committee level).

In my day-to-day research I am interested in what factors drive hydrological differences between places. Instead of studying one place in detail, I compare several hundred catchments (surface area that drains rainfall into a river, lake or reservoir) located in different landscapes and climatic regions. The aspects of hydrologic behaviour I look at can range from floods to droughts, and from short-term dynamics to multi-decadal averages. With a large part of hydrological science consisting of case-studies at individual locations, findings are difficult to transfers to other places. The comparative approach brings in opportunities to develop generalisations and expose patterns that would not be observed when a single catchment is studied in isolation.

For those readers who might not be so familiar with the Union’s ECS membership, could you explain the main idea behind it and your role as Union Level Early Career Scientist Representative?

Approximately one quarter of the Unions’ membership consists of scientists in the early stages of their career. EGU wants to provide support to this group, which has different needs compared to more established scientists. Therefore EGU supports these members by providing reduced conference fees, recognising outstanding students, awarding travel grants, organising short-courses, arranging networking possibilities and more.

Instead of going for a top-down (senior members decide all) approach, EGU decided to appoint Early Career Scientists Representatives for all their scientific divisions. These representatives serve as the link between the ECS members and the board of the different divisions. It is their task to ensure ECS needs are met, both at the Assembly and throughout the year. Other ECS members with questions, comments and thoughts can get in touch with them to ensure their opinion is represented within their division.

In my position of Union level Early Career Scientist Representative, I gather information from each of the division representatives and bring it to the EGU’s Programme Committee – the group responsible for organising the EGU’s annual General Assembly, and the Union’s Council – the board responsible for the overall management and control of the Union.

Some of the ECS Representatives at the most recent General Assembly in Vienna. From left to right, top to bottom: Matthew Agius (SM), Shaun Harrigan (HS),

Some of the ECS Representatives at the 2014 General Assembly in Vienna. Top, from left to right, (in brackets, the Division they represent) : Matthew Agius (SM), Shaun Harrigan (HS), Wouter Berghuijs (ECS Representative), Roelof Rietbroek (G), Matthias Vanmaercke (SSS), Auguste Gires (NP), Nanna B. Karlsson (CR), Bottom (left to right): Ina Plesa (GD), Lena Noack (PS and Deputy Union Level ECS PC Representative), Sam Illingworth (ECS PC Representative , 2013- 2015), Guilhem Douillet (SSP), Anne Pluymakers (TS), Jone Peter (stand-in for Beate Krøvel Humberset, ST).

Why do you feel passionately about the ECS community?

The nice part of working for the ECS community is that relatively small contributions can make huge difference to people’s research career. For example, the ability to attend a conference due to an awarded travel grant can be really important to meet other people in your field and create exposure for your research. It sounds somewhat cliché, but the ECS members are the future of geoscience. An investment now in one of these members can be important for the next 40 years.

Additionally, with the recent appointment of ECS representatives it is an interesting task to start shaping how these representatives can best contribute to the Union, and can make sure they voice the opinion of a broad group of ECS members. With a significant part of the members being ECS it is a nice challenge to change this group from being mostly consumers of activities, to explicitly having them contributing at an organisation level.

What is your vision for the EGU ECS community and how do you hope to drive change during your year long position?

Sam Illingworth (on the left) handing over the batton of the ECS Community over to Wouter at EGU 2014. Image Credit: Roelof Rietbroek, ECS Representative for the EGU Geodesy Division.

Sam Illingworth (on the left) handing over the batton of the ECS Community over to Wouter at the EGU General Assembly, 2014. Image Credit: Roelof Rietbroek, ECS Representative for the EGU Geodesy Division.

Last year Sam Illingworth was the PC Early Career Scientist Representative and made a great start to bringing all ECS together and voice their opinion to Council. My first task is to continue this work. The relative short appointment (1-year) makes it difficult to ensure both short-term and long-term improvements to the Union are made. Short-term improvements involve, for example, dealing with the feedback that provided suggestion for improvement of next years’s GA. During the year I have regular Skype meetings with all ECS representatives, and it is then my task to make sure the outcomes are discussed during e.g. the programme committee meeting (where the plans for the upcoming GA are usually set out), and council meeting later this year.

Recently, the name used to refer to early researchers across EGU was changed from Young Scientist to Early Career Scientists. Could you tell us a little more about what brought about that change and its significance?

One of the findings of the 2014 Young Scientist Survey and Forum at the GA was that early career scientist did not identify with the term young scientists due to the age connotations associated with the name. ECS benefits were considered important during the onset of academic career, independent of the age of the person. The ECS Representatives put together a proposal promoting for the name change which was brought to the EGU Council; who voted in favour of the renaming. It highlights the bottom-up nature of the organisation and how early stage scientists can make a difference in the Union.

The past General Assembly, saw a record number of short courses take place and the growth of networking opportunities and ECS specific activities. What further changes can the ECS look forward to for the 2016 conference?

The young scientists' lounge at EGU 2014. Credit: Stephanie McClellan/EGU

The young scientists’ lounge at EGU 2014. Credit: Stephanie McClellan/EGU

The short courses and ECS specific activities have been very popular at this year’s EGU, and they are definitely a keeper. I don’t think these activities should increase in number, as it is not the intention to lure away the ECS from the regular parts of the scientific meeting; it is important that they also integrated as best as possible with the more established members of their divisions.

The goal for next year is mostly to maintain the activities that were a success, try a few new concepts for those sessions that didn’t work so well. There are also several improvements that can be made such as the capacity of the rooms of short courses and their timing compared to the rest of the programme.

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

EGU is a versatile organisation; besides organising their Annual General Assembly and running 17 peer-reviewed open access journals, EGU is busy with Topical meetings, education, and various forms of outreach. Because all these aspects are run by members there is always need for motivated people with refreshing ideas. If the ideas you have (or you want to develop) relate to your division, you should contact the respective ECS representative. If the ideas are broader ranging than your division, a good start is to contact me as the Union Level ECS representative.

You can also check the EGU volunteering pages, where you’ll find information on the helping out the EGU in their activities year round. Additionally, the EGU Blogs, from the EGU offical blog GeoLog, through to the Network and Division Blogs, welcome guest contributions; so if you’d like to report from an Earth science event, conference or fieldwork, or comment on the latest geoscientific developments and write about recently published findings in peer-reviewed journals you might consider sharing your thoughts on the Blogs. For more information or to submit a post, click here or get in touch with the EGU Communications Officer, Laura Roberts Artal.

GeoEd: EGU General Assembly and GIFT 2015

GeoEd: EGU General Assembly and GIFT 2015

The most recent issue (Winter/Spring 2015) of the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter includes a piece, by Earth Science Correspondent, Michael J. Passow, on the 2015 General Assembly and the GIFT (Geosciences Information For Teachers) Workshop. Passow gives an account of this year’s workshop, on the topic of mineral resources, and outlines the participating teacher’s experience.

Each spring, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly brings geoscientists from all over the world to Vienna for a conference covering all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. EGU 2015, convening 12-17 April, provided a forum where scientists, especially early career researchers, could present their work and discuss their ideas with experts in all fields of geoscience. Concurrently, nearly 80 educators from around the world gathered for the 11th Geophysical Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshop of the EGU. They included, for the first time, your correspondent.

This year’s GIFT workshop welcomed 76 teachers from 21 different countries. GIFT 2015 centered on the theme “Mineral Resources.” Driving this selection was growing awareness that expansion of the world population from 6 to 9.6 billion in 2050 and rapid industrialization of highly populated countries, combined with an overall higher standard of living, are expected to intensify global competition for natural resources and place additional pressure on the environment, both terrestrial and marine. We recognize that mineral reserves are being depleted, and concerns are growing about access to new raw materials, especially basic and strategic minerals. Rise in the price of several essential metals, for example copper, has prompted some industrialized countries to initiate concerted activities to ensure access to strategic minerals.

Participants of the GIFT workshop at the 2015 General Assembly. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Participants of the GIFT workshop at the 2015 General Assembly. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Europe has recently begun initiatives that attempt to solve the issue. Europe depends greatly on imports for many materials needed for construction and heavy and high-tech industries. Recycling, resource efficiency, and searching for alternative materials are essential, but probably not sufficient to meet demands. There is a need to find new primary deposits. But politicians and business leaders are concerned because deposits, when identified, occur in areas difficult to access, barring modern exploration technology, and requiring huge investment costs. Exploration requires substantial capital, rare expertise, and leading edge technologies in order to secure the lowest extraction costs. GIFT 2015 matched teachers with experts of exploration, extraction, policy making in the field of future mineral resources, including the deep-sea frontier.

The EGU welcomed the teachers and started to bond them with a special guided visit to the Vienna Museum of Natural Sciences on Sunday, 12 April. They then joined all conference participants in the “Ice Breaker Party” at the Austria Center, where the scientific programs took place. Find out more information about EGU 2015 here.

Many of the participating teachers also contributed to the program through hands-on workshops, poster sessions, and other activities. Your correspondent presented in one of the hands-on workshop sessions classroom-based activities about minerals. Participants made models of the silicon-oxygen tetrahedron and other molecules using raisins and toothpicks. They shared strategies to teach important minerals properties, such as cleavage and magnetism, in their countries. An anticipated highlight was distributing samples of fluorescent minerals donated by the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in Ogdensburg, NJ, and watching them glow under ultraviolet energy.

Hands-on workshops at the GIFT workshop during the 2015 conference. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Hands-on workshops at the GIFT workshop during the 2015 conference. Credit: Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent for the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter.

Many of the teachers received partial conference expenses through professional societies and other sources. When participants return to their home countries, they are expected to complete an evaluation form to assess this year’s program and provide guidance for next year’s. Each will also make presentations about their EGU experience to teaching colleagues, submit reports and photographs about how GIFT information and resources have been used, and, contribute articles about the GIFT workshop to professional publications aimed at geosciences teachers.

You can learn about past GIFT workshops through the EGU website. Beginning in 2009, EGU has created web-TV presentations, which may be freely downloaded and used in classrooms. To expand the impact and outreach of the programs, the EGU Committee on Education began in 2012 a series of GIFT Distinguished Lectures in several European countries. Leading scientists who have participated as speakers in GIFT workshops during the EGU General Assemblies are supported to provide organized educational event for high school science teachers.

Similar GIFT Workshops are offered at the annual American Geoscience Union meetings held each fall in San Francisco. These are organized by the National Earth Science Teachers Association and the AGU Education Program. Resources from the previous four AGU GIFT workshops are available online.

by Michael J. Passow, Earth Science Correspondent

This article originally appeared in the Newsletter of the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education.

For an electronic subscription to the Teachers Clearinghouse for Science and Society Education Newsletter please e-mail a request to JLRoeder@aol.com. You can also access the Newlsetter via the website of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

The GIFT Workshops are organised by the EGU’s Committee on Education. You can learn more about the GIFT programme and the other educational activities fostered by the Committee on the EGU website.