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Imaggeo on Mondays: Glacier-fed rivers

Imaggeo on Mondays: Glacier-fed rivers

A view of the southern edge of the Ladebakte mountain in the Sarek national park in north Sweden.

At this place the rivers Rahpajaka and Sarvesjaka meet to form the biggest river of the Sarek national park, the Rahpaädno. The rivers are fed by glaciers and carry a lot of rock material which lead to a distinct sedimentation and a fascinating river delta for which the Sarek park laying west of the Kungsleden hiking trail is famous.

As the borders of this picture are not straight (due to lens-correction in GIMP) an edited version has been uploaded.

Description by Jakob Keck, as it first appeared on imaggeo.egu.eu.

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/.

I want you to stop being an early career scientist

I want you to stop being an early career scientist

In this guest post Roelof Rietbroek, EGU’s Union-wide Early Career Scientist Representative (2017-2018), speaks about the importance of reseachers getting involved with the Union’s early career activities to really reap the benefits of being part of the network.

With over half of the participants of EGU’s general assembly qualifying as an Early Career Scientist (ECS), chances are you are one too. But frankly, simply classifying as an ECS doesn’t provide much advantage. If you really want to reap the benefits of being part of this community you should act and engage. Contribute and help shape the scientific program, show your face and get known in your community while establishing personal connections beyond your ECS peers. Allow yourself to step out of your ECS niche and become part of the scientific community as a whole. The ultimate goal of EGU’s ECS framework and its representatives should be to facilitate this transition rather than merely forming a group of scientists at the beginning of their career, but it’s only going to happen if you step up.

So, when do you stop being an Early Career Scientist?

According to the official definition of the EGU it is clear that you stop being an Early Career Scientist (ECS) after 7* years since your last degree, but the truth is, this is a much more gradual process. Over the course of years, you aim to gain experience, establish a network, and become recognised in your field.

Although that feeling of being an ECS should slowly wear out over the years, it nevertheless makes sense to try to identify early career scientists within the EGU and support them in pursuing their careers in science or industry, establishing their networks, and sharing their scientific work. There is indeed a difference between someone at the beginning of their career and someone who has been working in the field for a while: experience. It should be stressed that although age often correlates with experience, it should not be considered as the criteria to determine whether someone qualifies as an ECS. For this reason, my predecessors worked hard to drive change within EGU by pushing for the renaming of young scientist to early career scientist, and updated the definition of an ECS to reflect experience rather than age.

Contribute to the General Assembly

In last year’s survey, well over half (58%) of the respondents indicated that they qualify as an early career scientists (ECS). It can therefore be expected that they also play a similar role in contributing to the programme of the General Assembly. So do ECS actually have their fair share of oral, poster and PICO presentations?

Compared to poster and PICO presentations, the amount oral presentation by ECS authors often fall below their participation rate. Possibly, ECS’s are signing up for fewer oral abstracts, but it’s also justified to ask whether unconscious biases are at play in the convener teams when finalising the programme? If you think of it, EGU’s presentation formats are not tuned to presenters with certain levels of experience, and all types are considered to be equally important. So there is no reason why the presenters of a specific type of presentation shouldn’t reflect the diversity of EGU’s participants. But let’s be honest, as conveners, maybe we do sometimes hear that little voice who tells us that the way of the least resistance is to grant that oral request to that well-respected colleague at the cost of an oral request of a lesser known PhD student.

But apart from raising awareness among session conveners, I think it’s equally important to tell ECS to be bold and engage with the session conveners. If you prefer an oral presentation, why not send the conveners an additional email on that paper which is about to be published and underline your willingness to give a talk?

There are plenty of ways early career scientists can contribute to the EGU’s annual General Assembly. Credit: Roelof Rietbroek.

Shape the programme

Understandably, first time attendees are unlikely to submit and convene sessions during the general assembly. But after a few years, you are actually in a good position to spot influential and emerging fields, which are the ideal session topics. The good thing about the bottom-up approach of the EGU is that every member can propose sessions and short courses for the General Assembly. And I would stress that the programme of the General Assembly crucially depends on input from the community.

Many short courses are already proposed and organised by ECS, and they’ve become increasingly popular over the years. But what about session convening?  Unfortunately, many ECS I spoke to were not aware of the possibility of proposing sessions, or felt it is not up to them to do so. Again, I would hope that ECS members  step up  and start to actively help in shaping the programme as they progress in their careers.

Ideally, convener teams should reflect the diversity of the EGU community. This means that a set of aging white male conveners is frowned upon, but a bunch of ECS from the same institute may also not be the best choice for a convener team.

Connect to researchers outside the ECS community

It might be tempting to surround yourself with ECS peers, with who you identify most strongly and with who you can share your common struggles. Growing a healthy ECS community certainly has it’s benefits and should be encouraged. But from a career and research perspective it definitely pays off to connect with more experienced scientists as well.

In many cases this will lead to win-win situations. Scientists who have proposals funded may be on the lookout for qualified PhD’s and Postdocs, or some researchers may be able to put that method you’ve developed to good use with their data resulting in a joint publication. And quite often, you’ll find they know a lot of other people in your field, which they are happy to introduce to you.

During the GA, there are several events and programmes which encourage such exchanges. The “Early Career Scientists Networking & Careers Reception brings together early career researchers and award winning researchers. Furthermore, in 2018, the EGU is again organising a mentoring scheme. Within that programme, ECS’s are matched with established scientists,  and during the GA the mentee and mentor will meet up regularly.

Growing pains

All in all, I see the role of the EGU’s Early Career Scientist Representatives not to simply give a voice to you as an early career scientist , but rather to encourage you to move on.  This involves listening to you and identifying the growing pains of becoming a respected scientist or industry professional.  But also to promote your active engagement as early as possible, which is ultimately what the EGU thrives on.

By Roelof Rietbroek, EGU’s Union-wide Early Career Scientist Representative (2017-2018)

 

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post that expresses the opinion of its author, whose views may differ from those of the European Geosciences Union. We hope the post can serve to generate discussion and a civilised debate amongst our readers.

MinCup: Elevating humble minerals to new heights

MinCup: Elevating humble minerals to new heights

Throughout October and November, the world of (Earth science) Twitter was taken by storm: Day after day, Eddie Dempsey (a lecturer at the University of Hull, and @Tectonictweets for those of you more familair with his Twitter handle) pitted minerals against each other, in a knock out style popular contest. The aim? To see which mineral would eventually be crowned the best of 2017.

Who knew fiery (but good natured) rows could explode among colleagues who felt, strongly, that magnetite is far superior to quartz or plagioclase? The Mineral Cup hashtag (#MinCup) was trending, it was in everyone’s mouth. Who would you vote for today?

What started as a little fun, became a true example of great science communication and how to bring a community of researchers, scattered across the globe, together.

And then Hazel Gibson (former EGU Press Assistant, @iamhazelgibson) came along. She was an active participant in the competition, but also contributed beautiful sketches of every mineral featured, and shared them for all to see by tagging them with the #MinCup hashtag. We all know that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, so when Hazel’s hand drawn sketches where paired with an already rocking contest, it’s impact and reach was truly cemented.

Between them, Eddie and Hazel had managed to elevate the humble mineral to new heights.

Why do minerals matter?

Minerals are hugely underrated. They are often upstaged by the heavy-weights of the geosciences: volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, fossils and melting glaciers (to name but a few).

But they shouldn’t be.

Minerals are the building blocks of all rocks, which in turn, are the foundation of all geology.

Whether you study the processes which govern how rivers form, or ancient magnetic fields, or fossils, chances are your work will, at some stage, involve looking at, studying, or at the very least understanding (some) minerals. Mineralogy 101 (or whatever it’s precise name was at your university) is a rite of passage for any aspiring Earth scientist. I still remember hours spent painstakingly looking down a microscope, drawing and annotating sketches trying to decipher the secrets of the Earth’s ancient past, locked in minerals.

And that’s just the beginning.

Minerals are of huge economic and, therefore societal importance, too. Many minerals are vital ingredients in house-hold products and contribute to the manufacturing processes of many others. Yet, they fail to make headlines and their true significance, often, goes unnoticed.

So, in hopes to further highlight the relevance and importance of minerals, I’ve picked a few of the #MinCup minerals and explained why they (should) matter (to you).

Gypsum

Gypsum will form in lagoons, where ocean waters are high in calcium and sulfate content, and where the water evaporates slowly overtime. In rocks, it is associated with sedimentary beds which can be mined to extract the mineral, but it can also be produced by evaporating water with the right chemical composition.

Gypsum has been used in construction and decoration (in the form of alabaster) since 9000 B.C.  Today, it has a wide variety of common uses. Did you know that many fruit juice companies use gypsum to aid the extraction of the liquid? It is also used in bread and dough mixes as a raising agent. And it’s uses aren’t limited to just the food and drink industry. It is also commonly used as a modelling material for tooth restorations and helps keeps us safe when added to plastic products where it acts as a fire retardant.

Magnetite

Geologically speaking, magnetite holds the clues to understand the Earth’s ancient magnetic field. Credit: Hazel Gibson

Typically, greyish black or black, magnetite is an important iron ore mineral. It occurs in many igneous and volcanic rocks and is the most magnetic of all minerals. For it to form, magma has to cool, slowly, so that the minerals can form and settle out of the magma.

Due to its magnetic nature, it has fascinated human-kind for centuries: it paved the way for the invention of the modern compass.  The iron content in magnetite is higher than its more common cousin haematite, making it very sought after. Iron ore is the source of steel, which is used universally throughout modern infrastructure.

Geologically speaking, magnetite holds the clues to understand the Earth’s ancient magnetic field. As magnetite-bearing rocks form, the magnetite within them aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field. Since this rock magnetism does not change after the rock forms, it provides a record of what the Earth’s magnetic field was like at the time the rock formed.

Diamond

Arguably, one of the most well-known of the minerals, diamond is unique, not only for its beauty and the high prices it reaches, but also for its properties. Not only is it the hardest known mineral, it is also a great conductor of heat and has the highest refractive index of any mineral.

Though mostly sought after by the jewellery industry, only 20% of all diamonds are suitable for use as a gem. Due to it’s hardness, diamond is mined for use in industrial processes, to be used as an abrasive and in diamond tipped saws and drills. Its optical properties mean it is used in electronics and optics; while it’s conductive properties mean it is often used as an insulator too.

Diamond: perhaps the most sought after mineral of them all? Credit: Hazel Gibson

Olivine

Last, but absolutely not least, let’s talk about Olivine – the winner of #MinCup 2017.

Olivine is a pretty, commonly green mineral. Because it forms at very high temperatures, it is one of the first minerals to take shape as magma cools, and given enough time, can form specimens which are easily seen with the naked eye. Changes in the behaviour of seismic waves as they traverse the Earth indicate that Olivine is an important component of the Earth’s inner layer – the Mantle.

It’s a relatively hard mineral, but overall hasn’t got highly sought-after properties and, as result, has been used rather sparingly in industrial processes. In the past it has been used in blast furnaces to remove impurities from steel and to form a slag, as well as a refractory material, but both those uses are in decline as cheaper materials come to the market.

Perhaps better known is its gemstone counterpart: peridot, a magnesium rich form of Olivine. It has been coveted for centuries, with some arguing that Cleopatra’s famous ‘emeralds’, where in fact peridote. Until the mid-90s the US was the major exporter of the gem stones, but deposits in Pakistan and China now challenge the claim.

So, do you think Olivine was the rightful winner of #MinCup 2017? With a new edition of the popular contest set to return in 2018, perhaps it’s time to shout about the properties and uses of your favourite mineral from the roof tops? Not only might it ensure it is crowned winner next year, but you’ll also be contributing to making the value of minerals known to the wider public. Heck! If you’d like to tell us all about the mineral you think should be the next champion, why not submit a guest post to GeoLog?

In the meantime, if you haven’t already got your hands on one, Hazel tells me there are a few of her charity #MinCup 2017 calendars up for grabs, so make sure to secure your copy – and contribute to a good cause at the same time.

By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer

GeoPolicy: Reaching out on Twitter – casually engage with policymakers!

GeoPolicy: Reaching out on Twitter – casually engage with policymakers!

Reaching out to policymakers and sharing your research with them can seem like a daunting task! While there are many formal outlets for engaging with policymakers (such as completing questionnaires, contributing to workshops and participating in paring schemes), there are also more casual methods that can be done sporadically and with less effort. One example of this is engaging with policymakers on Twitter.

In a 2016 social media analysis, Twitter was found to be the primary social network used by world leaders. For policymakers, social media has gone from being an afterthought, to being a primary method of stimulating citizen engagement and managing their public image. In 2011, just 34% of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were on Twitter. As of December 2017, that number is 81%. Members of the EU Commission are also largely on Twitter, including all of the EU Commissioners. Furthermore, each of the EU Commission’s Directorate Generals has its own official Twitter account.

 

So, policymakers are online… but why should you follow them?

  1. There are thousands of policymakers on Twitter within the EU alone. Following all of these policymakers would be an information overload and counterproductive. However, selecting some key policymakers working within your area of expertise is a fantastic way of keeping up with what information and research is needed.
  2. Following official EU Twitter accounts and key policymakers may give you inspiration for new research ideas, while also helping you understand how you can make your next research project more useful for policymakers.
  3. Funding! EU funding is extensive and new projects and funding opportunities are often advertised on Twitter. In addition, openings for traineeships and workshops are promoted heavily on the official EU Commission Twitter accounts.

 

Actively engaging

Following various policymakers and official accounts allows you to gain a better understanding of the policy landscape, but actively engaging will help you build or maintain relationships and ideally be seen as an expert in your field.

Communicating with policymakers through Twitter might be easier than some more formal engagement outlets, but it still requires time, perseverance and communication skills that generally aren’t used in everyday life. The rules for communicating with policymakers still apply – common language (rather than scientific jargon) should be used at all times, graphics should be simple and clear and you should be able to summarise your idea or argument in 3 sentences or less. Some more tips for actively engaging with policymakers are outlined below.

  1. Don’t just mention the official EU accounts in your tweet. While your tweet may reach a number of other people who manage the account, it is unlikely to reach individual policymakers. Instead, focus on specific people who are working on a project or policy that relates to your research. This may include high-level policymakers (such as an MEP or Commissioner), legislative assistants and policy officers. You can create different Twitter lists for policymakers working on particular issues or projects. This allows you to keep track of those policymakers you should be following more closely and those who you can include in tweets on particular topics.
  2. If you’re responding to a policymaker’s tweet on a topic relevant to your area of expertise, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and your research. This will highlight your knowledge on the issue and hopefully leave a lasting impression.
  3. When you’re tweeting about your own research, try to connect it to relevant policy issues and tag specific policy institutions and people. This enables those working in the policy-realm to see your research’s application to their own work, without having to do additional thinking!
  4. Be unique. Make your posts stand out by using infographics, pictures, short videos or links.
  5. Don’t switch off over Christmas! While some policymakers have assistants managing their Twitter profiles, many formulate their own tweets or manage their account during the weekend and holidays! So, if you want to try engaging with policymakers on Twitter, the upcoming holiday period could be a great place to start. And if you want to take a break from technology over Christmas but also want to engage with policymakers, don’t worry… You can have your Christmas pudding and eat it too! By using a content management tool such as tweetdeck, you can compose tweets and release them at predetermined times.

 

Twitter has the potential to help you share your research for policy impact but understand your limits! Most of the researchers I know already work long hours and definitely don’t have time to spend two hours per day tweeting… and that’s okay! Do what you can, try to be consistent with the amount you post and have fun!

 

Further reading