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early career researchers

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

Mentoring programme at EGU 2019

Mentoring programme at EGU 2019

With more than 15,000 participants, 4,700 oral presentations, 11,000 posters and 1,400 PICO presentations, all under one roof, the EGU General Assembly can be an overwhelming experience. There is a network of corridors to navigate, as well as a wide range of workshops, splinter and townhall meetings to choose from. With that in mind, we’ve put in place some initiatives to make the experience of those joining us in Vienna for the 1st time a rewarding one.

Especially designed with novice conference attendees, students, and early career scientists in mind, our mentoring programme 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 senior scientist (mentor) to help them navigate the conference, network with conference attendees, and exchange feedback and ideas on professional activities and career development.

The EGU will match mentors and mentees prior to the conference, and is also organising meeting opportunities for those taking part in the mentoring programme.

In addition, mentoring pairs are encouraged to meet regularly throughout the week, and again at the end of the week, to make the most of the experience, as well as introduce each other to 3 to 5 fellow colleagues to facilitate the growth of each other’s network.

“Mentoring is an indispensable requirement for growth. Through the mentoring programme I was introduced to Dr Niels Hovius who was a generous mentor during EGU’17. His guidance during the conference enabled my interactions with prominent scientists and to navigate the conference to my maximum potential. I am grateful for this programme and hope it be fruitful for students in this coming year.”

Rheane da Silva (National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India), mentee

Mentoring an EGU novice student was the highlight of my 2017 General Assembly week. To see our elaborate and overwhelmingly large meeting through the eyes of a rookie makes you actively aware of many aspects that you have always taken for granted. To see the excitement in the eyes of a rookie when you take them deep into our organization and show them paths they had not expected to be open to them makes you appreciate all the General Assembly has to offer.

Niels Hovius (GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Germany), mentor

We anticipate the programme to be a rewarding experience for both mentees and mentors, so we encourage you to sign up by following the link to a short registration form. The details given in the questionnaire will enable us to match suitable pairs of mentors and mentees. The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2019.

You’ll find more details about the mentoring programme (including the requirements of the scheme) over on our website.

EGU 2019 will take place from 7 to 12 April 2019 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2019 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU19 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.

Give us the foundation to build our transferrable skills!

Give us the foundation to build our transferrable skills!

The EGU Early Career Scientists’ (ECS) Great Debates offer early career scientists at the EGU General Assembly the chance to network and voice their opinions on important topics in the format of round-table discussions. At the end of the debate, each table delivers a statement that summarises the discussion and recommendations. By publishing the results, we hope to highlight some of the needs of the EGU ECS community and how these matters should be addressed.

At this year’s ECS Great Debate, the topic was transferrable skills in science. The main question was “should early career scientists use time developing transferrable skills?” You may say this is a simple question to answer. Indeed, all the resulting statements indicated that the EGU ECS answer is YES. However, the simple statements hide a much more complex situation; a situation that varies considerably for each individual researcher. Different countries have different standards, different universities set different curricula, and different supervisors have different priorities. Some early career scientists are lucky to have many opportunities to develop transferrable skills, whereas others strive to gain these skills.

Groups defined transferrable skills as ones that could be used in other scientific disciplines and not least, in industry. Indeed, many scientific skills are transferrable. For example, data analysis and statistics were noted as valuable tools across various scientific fields and industry careers. Some groups gave extensive lists of transferrable expertise, and most were not strictly science-based. These included writing, presenting, social media, teaching, team working, project management, networking and critical thinking, to name a few. However, developing these skills do not traditionally fall into the curricula of the geosciences.

Early career scientists having round-table discussions on the importance of developing transferrable skills. (Credit: Olivia Trani)

It was evident that ECS in the EGU consider transferrable skills as extremely important to their careers and their science. They furthermore suggest that researchers should be given time and appropriate credit to develop these skills.

At the same time, many of the ECS debate participants believe in striking a balance between establishing these skills and the scientific skills that their PhDs and publications depend on.

Below you will find a list of the summary statements from the ECS that were present at the Great Debate. These reports, based on the discussions from more than 100 early career scientists, show solid support for transferrable skill training. These results are a clear indication that EGU must continue to work towards offering short courses at the General Assembly on a variety of transferrable skills. Additionally, these statements can help ECS persuade their universities to invest in opportunities to develop these skills if they do not already do so. It is clear that the EGU early career scientist community believes these skills not only help ECS develop their careers, but that they also benefit science and society!

Here are the table’s conclusions:

“Instead of currently developing random skills ourselves, on an ad-hoc basis, we need an environment to support more organized, collaborative, efficient, and recognized skill sets”

“We need transferrable skills to communicate knowledge and help society, therefore learn them, when you need them or want them, others will thank you”

“We should focus on developing these [transferrable] skills but we need to manage our time in order to go deeper into [our] own science”

“Yes, because whether you decide to stay in academia or in industry, these skills will help you be better in your field, help you work on interdisciplinary topics and communicate your work, thus increasing your success. The pros outweigh the cons!”

“Yes, to be a good scientist, researcher, or general human being, it takes more than one skill or field. It takes being open and brave to pursue new experiences to change both yourself and those around you.”

“Scientific careers are not just about getting specific knowledge in your field specialty but being able to adapt yourself to different disciplines.”

“Yes, because you get more job opportunities, it gives you flexibility, it’s fun, it makes you happy, it helps define you and strengthens your personality.”

“Yes, it is important for improving our possibilities after a PhD. We should take these opportunities as early career scientists [and] have more chances to learn these skills.”

“All scientists should be required to take time to develop useful skills for professional and personal development. These developments should not be exclusive to certain groups, should be obligatory with freedom to choose topics, should be offered to supervisors and managers, should include more courses at conferences and there should be more money for travel funding.”

“We need to find a good balance during PhD between doing science and attending courses about transferrable skills.”

“Yes, but plan which relevant transferrable skills you need to develop in the short term in relation to your project, and then update your long-term plan.”

“Transferrable skills will always be useful in your current and future situation. They should be learnt at university. It should be acceptable to spend time learning these skills in courses in tandem with your research.”

By Mathew Stiller-Reeve, co-founder of ClimateSnack and researcher at Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post that expresses the opinion of its author and those who participated at the Great Debate during the General Assembly, 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.