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At the Assembly 2018: Wednesday Highlights

At the Assembly 2018: Wednesday Highlights

We’re halfway through the General Assembly already! Once again there is lots on offer at EGU 2018 and this is just a taster – be sure to complement this information with EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly, available both in paper and for download here.

Union-wide Sessions

Today’s Union-wide session reflects on fifty years of international ocean drilling (US4: 08:30–12:00 in room E1). At the session you can listen to invited speakers provide an overview on exciting research made possible with past ocean drilling projects as well as the recent international marine research collaboration, the International Ocean Discovery Program. You can also follow the session on Twitter (#EGU18US) and catch up with the EGU 2018 webstream.

Medal Lectures and Awards

Grace E. Shephard, winner of a 2016 Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists, at the 2016 EGU Award Ceremony (Credit: EGU/Foto Pfluegl)

Another promising event set for today is the EGU Award Ceremony (PCN3), where the achievements of many outstanding scientists will be recognised in an excellent evening event from 17:30–19:00 in Room E1. Here are some of the lectures being given by these award-winning scientists:

Scientific Sessions

There are a host of interdisciplinary events taking place today. If you are interested in learning more about the climatic impacts of major volcanic eruptions head to room N2 at 10:30 for orals, or poster hall X5 at 17:30 for further discussion later in day. There’s also a PICO session on Citizen Science for Earth Systems in the Era of Big Data (13:30–15:00 in PICO spot 4), that will explore questions over citizen science data, challenges in handling Big Data, and ensuring transparency in projects. Check the conference programme or EGU Today for details on the rest of Wednesday’s interdisciplinary sessions.

And be sure check out some of today’s stimulating scientific sessions:

Short Courses

Now on to short courses! One session today offers the opportunity to learn some tips and recommendations for how to apply for Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants.

Ever go back to your desk after a conference and wonder ‘where did I leave the last working version of…’? The workshop Git for science is one way to help organise your life. It will show some methods for using git, a revision control tool developed for programming, as a tool for science. If interested, don’t forget to bring your laptop with git installed!

Interested in learning how to peer-review? Many scientists never receive formal training, yet peer-reviews are the cornerstone of scientific legitimacy. In this short course, we will hear from peer-review experts about how they go about the process.

Perhaps you are looking for something fun and informal? Geoscience Game Night is a bring, show and share session to play some games that have a geoscience theme. Feel free to bring a game or just come along to have some fun. This short course follows the Games for Geoscience oral and poster sessions happening earlier today.

Finally, remember to take the opportunity to meet the people behind EGU in the day’s Meet EGU sessions.

Have an excellent day!

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 8 to 13 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website and follow the Assembly’s online conversation on Twitter at #EGU18.

At the Assembly 2018: Tuesday Highlights

At the Assembly 2018: Tuesday Highlights

Welcome back to the second day of the 2018 General Assembly! Today is packed full of excellent sessions, and this list of highlights is by no means comprehensive! Make sure you complement this information with EGU Today, the General Assembly newsletter, to get the most out of the conference – grab a copy on your way in or download it here.

Union-wide Events

Today’s Union-wide session highlights past achievements and future challenges for the Geosciences (US1). This session will look back at past achievements in the geosciences, how they have shaped the modern world and civilisation and consider the opportunities and challenges that the discipline will face in the future. With a panel of six international leaders across the discipline: Katrien Maes, John Ludden CBE, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Barbara Romanowicz, Susan Trumbore, Mike Freilich, and EGU President Jonathan Bamber as convener, the session promises to be one of the conference highlights. Join the discussion from 9:00 to 12:00 in room E1.

Great Debates

This year’s Great Debates will hit the ground running today with not one, but two sessions! The first will address one of the most debated topics in the Earth sciences: Are safe geo-engineering techniques available now? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, meeting the Paris agreement objectives would not only require reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also removing much of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This session will discuss both the potential benefits and risks of recent geoengineering techniques. Join in the debate from 13:30–15:00 in E1. You can follow the session on Twitter with #EGU18GDB, and, if you’re not attending, tune in with the conference live stream.

The following great debate is particularly geared towards early career scientists (ECS). Head to room G1 from 19:00 to 20:30 to discuss, in a series of small group debates, whether ECS should use time developing transferrable skills. Seating is limited for both debates so make sure to arrive early to guarantee a spot!

Scientific Sessions

The day is full of fantastic scientific sessions, from understanding the global phosphorus cycle to ice-ocean interactions. Below are just some of the sessions worth checking out today:

The day also has many interdisciplinary sessions to choose from. If your research involves the atmospheric or cryospheric sciences, consider attending a session on atmosphere – cryosphere interactions with focus on transport, deposition and effects of dust, black carbon, and other aerosols. Or perhaps you can explore methods and applications of high resolution topography in the geosciences.

Don’t forget to take a quick tea/coffee break while at the assembly (Credit: EGU/Foto Pfluegl)

Short Courses

If you want to hone your transferable skills and dedicate a bit of time to developing your career, then today’s short courses are for you. Here’s just a sample of what’s on offer:

There is also a great selection of short courses on how to communicate your science to the general public in a fun and effective way:

Learn how to cartoon your science with Matthew Partridge, the EGU’s Cartoonist in Residence (@ErrantScience)

Medal Lectures

Today is also a big day for Medal Lectures, there are twelve taking place throughout the day covering various areas of the geosciences. Make sure you check the programme so that you don’t miss them. The Arthur Holmes Medal Lecture by A. M. Celâl Şengör (ML3/GD/TS: 12:15-13:15 / Room E1) is being streamed live.

Townhall Meetings

There is also a treat of Townhall Meetings on this evening. These meetings allow for a lot more open discussion than many of the Assembly’s other sessions and take place outside the usual time blocks. Here are some of the highlights:

Have a lovely day!

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 8 to 13 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website and follow the Assembly’s online conversation on Twitter at #EGU18.

Union-wide events at EGU 2018

Union-wide events at EGU 2018

Wondering what to expect at the General Assembly this year? Here are some of the highlights:

Union Symposia (US)

For events which will have general appeal, regardless of your field of research, look no further than the Union Symposia. The very first session, organized in collaboration with the European and American space agencies (ESA and NASA) will highlight observation missions focused on Earth and other planetary bodies, as well as discuss the challenges of organising future missions in an international framework.

Following this session will be Union Symposia 1: Past achievements and future challenges for the Geosciences, co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union. The Union Symposia on Wednesday will reflect on the fifty years of international ocean drilling. Thursday’s session will then feature reports on the Cassini mission and future perspectives for the exploration of the outer solar system.

And finally, Union Symposia 5 on Friday will cover Scientific research in a changing European Union: where we stand and what we aim for. Panelists will explore some of the challenges and potential threats to academics in the EU and how these issues can be addressed and overcome. The session will also outline some of the advantages of the EU, funding programmes that are currently provided and how the European Union can continue to develop and nurture its researchers.

Great Debates (GDB)
This year we’re holding four Great Debates! The topics covered this year are varied, from Natural versus anthropogenic threats for life on Earth to Low-risk geo-engineering: are techniques available now? The role of scientists in policy-making is another hot topic on the Great Debate agenda, with one debate dedicated to the subject on whether to be hands on or hands off in the political sphere. Continuing with the success of last year’s Early Career Scientist (ECS) Great Debate, the 2018 General Assembly invites participants to join a round-table discussion where everyone will be given the opportunity to discuss this year’s chosen topic: “Should early career scientists use time developing transferrable skills?” Whether you are in Vienna or elsewhere, be sure to follow and join in the debates using #EGU18GDB on twitter.

Educational & Outreach Symposia (EOS)
Educational and Outreach Symposia are sessions dedicated to all things education and outreach, and include the Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshop, a long-running event for high school teachers that helps shorten the time between discovery and textbook.

Medal Lectures and Lectures organized by related scientific societies (ML, LRS)
There will be 3 lectures organized by related scientific societies as well as a grand total of 46 Medal Lectures this year!

Meet EGU (EGU)
Meet EGU does exactly what it says on the tin – these sessions are a great opportunity to get to know your division president and early career representative, put faces to names and find out what’s going on in the Union.

Townhall and Splinter Meetings (TSM)
Townhall Meetings allow participants to take part in a lot of open discussion. This year’s meetings cover a huge variety of topics, from a general discussion of the use of preprints and preprint servers like EarthArXiv, through to a talk on how geoscientists should address urbanisation. Like Townhall Meetings, Splinter Meetings are organised by participants, but they are typically smaller and can be either public or by invitation only.

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 8 to 13 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website.

GeoTalk: How will large Icelandic eruptions affect us and our environment?

GeoTalk: How will large Icelandic eruptions affect us and our environment?

Geotalk is a regular feature highlighting early career researchers and their work. In this interview we speak to Anja Schmidt, an interdisciplinary researcher at the University of Cambridge who draws from atmospheric science, climate modelling, and volcanology to better understand the environmental impact of volcanic eruptions. She is also the winner of a 2018 Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists. You can find her on twitter at @volcanofile. 

Thank you for talking to us today! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about your career path so far?

I was born and raised in Leipzig, Germany. I started my career completing an apprenticeship as an IT system engineer with the engineering company Siemens. I then decided to combine my interests in geology and IT by studying geology and palaeontology (with minors in Computing/IT and Geophysics) at the University of Leipzig in Germany. As part of my degree programme, I also studied at the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment as an exchange student. I liked studying there so much I ended up returning to Leeds for a PhD.

My PhD on the atmospheric and environmental impacts of tropospheric volcanic aerosol again combined my interests in computing and volcanology, although I had to educate myself in atmospheric physics and chemistry, which wasn’t easy to begin with. However, I was embedded in a diverse,   supportive research group with excellent supervision, which eased the transition from being a geologist to becoming a cross between an atmospheric scientist and a volcanologist.

Initially, being neither one nor the other made me nervous. My supervisors and mentors all had rather straightforward career paths, whereas I was thought of as an atmospheric scientist when I presented my research in front of volcanologists and as a volcanologist when I presented to atmospheric scientists.

After my PhD, I spent just under 2 years at one post-doc before securing an independent research fellowship at the University of Leeds. The first year of total independence and responsibility as principle investigator was very challenging, but after a while I began to appreciate the benefits of the situation. I also really started to embrace the fact that I would always sit between the disciplines. I spent my summers in the United States at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, helping them to build up their capability to simulate volcanic eruptions in their climate model. These research visits had a major impact on my career as they generated a lot of new research ideas, opened up opportunities and strengthened my network of collaborators greatly.

I considered myself settled when, shortly before the end of my fellowship, a lectureship came up. It had the word ‘interdisciplinary’ in its title and I simply couldn’t resist. Since September 2017, I have been an interdisciplinary lecturer at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

At this year’s General Assembly, you will receive an Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists for your work on the environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions. What brought you to study this particular field?

I have always been fascinated by volcanic eruptions, but my first active volcano viewing wasn’t until college, where I had to chance to travel to Stromboli, a volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. While studying at the University of Leipzig, I used every opportunity to join field trips to volcanoes. I ended up spending 10 weeks in Naples, Italy to work with Giovanni Chiodini, a researcher from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, and his team on CO2 degassing from soils at the Solfatara volcano. Later on I was awarded a scholarship from the University of Leeds, which allowed me to delve deeper into the subject, although I ended up learning as much about atmospheric science and computer modelling as about volcanology.

Anja in front of the 2010 Fimmvörðuháls eruption in Iceland. Fimmvörðuháls was the pre-cursor eruption to Eyjafjallajökull. Credit: Anja Schmidt.

My PhD work focused on Icelandic volcanism and its potential effects on the atmosphere as well as society. In 2010, during the 3rd year of my PhD studies, Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland. While an eruption like this and its impacts did not really come as a surprise to a volcanologist, I personally considered it a game-changer for my career. I had an opportunity to witness the pre-cursor eruption in Iceland and present my research. Within a matter of months, interest in my work increased. I even started to advise UK government officials on the risks and hazards of volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

In August 2014, an effusive eruption started at the Holuhraun lava field in Iceland. To this date, analysing field measurements and satellite data of the site and modelling simulations keeps me busy. Many of my senior colleagues told me that there is one event or eruption that defined their careers; for me that’s the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption.

At the General Assembly you also plan to talk about your work on volcanic sulphur emissions and how these emissions can alter our atmosphere as well as potentially affect human health in Europe. Could you tell us a little more about this research?

On average, there is one volcanic eruption every three to five years in Iceland. The geological record in Iceland also reveals that sulphur-rich and long-lasting volcanic eruptions, similar to Iceland’s Laki eruption in 1783-1784, occur once every 200 to 500 years. Sulphur dioxide and sulphate particles produced by volcanic eruptions can have detrimental effects on air quality and human health. Historical records from the 1780s imply that the Laki eruption caused severe environmental stress and contributed to spikes in mortality rates far beyond the shores of Iceland. While these long-lasting eruptions occur much less frequently than more typical short-duration explosive eruptions (like Grímsvötn 2011), they are classified as ‘high-impact’ events.

I was always interested in investigating how a similar magnitude eruption like Laki’s would affect modern society. By combining a global aerosol microphysics model with volcanological datasets and epidemiological evidence, I led a cross-disciplinary study to quantify the impact that a future Laki-type eruption would have on air quality and human health in Europe today.

Our work suggests that such an eruption could significantly degrade air quality over Europe for up to 12 months, effectively doubling the concentrations of small-sized airborne particles in the atmosphere during the first three months of the eruption. Drawing from the epidemiological literature on human response to air pollution, I showed that up to 140,000 cardiopulmonary fatalities could occur across Europe due to such an eruption, a figure that exceeds the annual mortality from seasonal influenza in Europe.

In January 2012, this discovery was used by the UK government as contributing evidence for including large-magnitude effusive Icelandic eruptions to the UK National Risk Register. This will help to mitigate the societal impacts of future eruptions through contingency planning.

Anja and her colleague Evgenia Ilyinskaya from the University of Leeds carrying out measurements during the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption in Iceland. Credit: Njáll Fannar Reynisson.

Since then, we have done more work on smaller-magnitude effusive eruptions such as the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption in Iceland, showing that this eruption resulted in short-lived volcanic air pollution episodes across central and northern Europe and longer-lasting and more complex pollution episodes in Iceland itself.

Something that you’ve touched on throughout this interview are the challenges of ‘sitting between the disciplines.’ From your experience, what has helped you address these issues throughout your career?

Indeed, it is often challenging to sit between the disciplines, but it can also be very rewarding. It helps to ignore boundaries between disciplines. I also tend to read a lot and very widely to get an idea of key concepts and issues in specific fields. In addition, I think collaboration and a willingness to challenge yourself are key if you want to make progress and break traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Anja, thank you so much for speaking to us about your research and career path. Before I let you go, what advice do you have for aspiring scientists? 

Be curious and never hesitate to ask a lot questions, no matter how ‘stupid’ or basic they may seem to you. The latter is particularly true when it comes to cross-disciplinary collaboration and work.  I also didn’t always follow the conventional route most people would advise you to take to achieve something. Never be afraid to take a chance or work with some level of risk.

I also have two or three close mentors that I can approach whenever I require some advice or feedback. No matter what career stage you are at, I think it almost always helps to get an outsider’s perspective and insight not only when there are problems.

Finally, never forget to have fun. Some of my best pieces of work were done when I was surrounded by collaborators that are really fun to be with and work with!

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer.

References: 

Ilyinskaya, E., et al.: Understanding the environmental impacts of large fissure eruptions: Aerosol and gas emissions from the 2014–2015 Holuhraun eruption (Iceland), Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 472, 309-322, 2017

Schmidt, A., et al.: Satellite detection, long-range transport, and air quality impacts of volcanic sulfur dioxide from the 2014–2015 flood lava eruption at Bárðarbunga (Iceland)Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres12097399757, 2015

Schmidt, et al.: Excess mortality in Europe following a future Laki-style Icelandic eruption, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(38), 15710-15715, 2011