GeoLog

Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Eleanor Frajka-Williams, the 2017 Ocean Sciences Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Awardee

GeoTalk: Eleanor Frajka-Williams, the 2017 Ocean Sciences Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Awardee

Geotalk is a regular feature highlighting early career researchers and their work. Following the EGU General Assembly, we spoke to Eleanor Frajka-Williams, the 2017 Ocean Sciences Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists awardee. In her work, Eleanor uses real-world measurements – from ships, satellites, sea gliders and moorings – to understand how the world’s oceans work. In today’s interview we talk to her a little more about why the oceans are so fundamental to our planet’s health and some of the lesson’s she’s picked up while her career has developed.

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

Thanks – and it’s great to be able to talk to EGU.  I’m an associate professor of physical oceanography at the University of Southampton.  I started at the University in 2012 after a couple of years as a research fellow at the National Oceanography Centre.  I originally studied applied math at university, but discovered oceanography through an undergraduate research placement and it seemed like a great way to apply math and physics to understanding the natural world.

Your research focuses on the world’s oceans, what attracted you to study the processes which govern them?

I liked the idea of studying something that was important and intense, but which we couldn’t actually see with the naked eye—because except for the sea surface, everything else is hidden.  But by collecting observations—the right set of observations—we can piece together a picture of what is happening, and maybe think about teasing apart cause and effect.  Add to that the chance to use underwater gliders, piloted remotely by satellite communications, and what’s not to like?

Deep in the bowls of the world’s oceans, huge masses of water move: cold, salty water sinks, while warmer water rises. Your work focuses on understanding how and why this happens. Can you tell us a little more about these processes?

The ocean is typically stratified, meaning that light waters overly dense waters.  The global ocean overturning circulation describes how the ocean circulation moves through the warm equatorial regions, towards the northern North Atlantic where waters are progressively cooled and transformed, to the point where they sink.  These deep waters then move south and are upwelled either around Antarctica or in distributed mixing regions around the ocean basins.

While this circulation pattern is sometimes called the ‘great ocean conveyor’, suggesting that there is a single pathway moving at a consistent speed, it’s really a set of interconnected processes including the sinking, upwelling and also interplay with the ocean gyres (wind-driven ocean currents) and between the atmosphere and ocean.

One of the most dramatic of these processes—deep ocean convection—occurs in the northern North Atlantic when cold dry winds originating over the Canadian arctic cool the surface of the ocean to the point where the waters become as dense as, or denser than, the water 1000 m deep.  During this turbulent sinking, carbon and heat are stored in the deep ocean where they may stay for centuries.

And these ocean processes also have an effect on climate too?

We expect that they do.  On long timescales (paleo-timescales), we have extensive evidence that changes in the global overturning circulation coincided with rapid changes in global temperatures.  In some cases, the shutdown of the global overturning circulation resulted from a large input of freshwater (about 100,000 km3) being dumped over the northern North Atlantic from the ice sheet melting over Canada.  This freshwater would then float on the surface of the ocean, and because it’s so buoyant, could reduce or even prevent deep convection and through it, the overturning.

In the present-day climate, we have seen mini-versions of this happening.  In the 1960s, the ‘Great Salinity Anomaly’, which should really be called the ‘Great Freshwater Anomaly’ saw the input of about 20,000 km3 of freshwater to the northern North Atlantic.  Deep convection was suppressed for several years.  Unfortunately, we don’t have any observations of what the overturning was doing at the time though the deep western boundary current (considered to be the southward flowing limb of the overturning) was still active.

It’s still a tricky problem to try to sort out, because there are limited observations and a lot of moving parts to the problem (the sinking, the southward and northward flow, and the role of the gyres or atmosphere).

If freshwater is the culprit, for a reduced overturning, we will need to keep a close eye on Greenland, which is a major reservoir of freshwater in the region.  It has been melting more quickly and some new evidence suggests that it could begin to influence (slow down) the overturning in the next 10 years.

It wasn’t just your scientific work which led to you being named OS Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists, but also your work to promote and support budding scientists. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt transitioning between being a fledgling researcher to an associate professor?

Being able to support young scientists is one of the most rewarding things about my job.  It is refreshing and inspiring to work with people starting to make discoveries of their own.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned are that work-life balance is an ongoing endeavour, and it’s rare to always be ‘in balance’, but aiming for a healthy average is a good start.

I’ve also discovered that with each promotion (or each life transition, e.g. starting a family), time becomes less abundant.  So, I’ve added strategies for efficiency along the way—and of course, with more experience, tasks that took forever the first time, take a lot less time now.  And every now and then, I find it can be useful to ‘drop the ball’ and ignore those pressing administrative or other duties, and just do a bit of science.  It helps to remember what I got into it for.

Interview by Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer

Get involved: become an early career scientist representative

Get involved: become an early career scientist representative

Early career scientists (ECS) make up a significant proportion of the EGU membership and it’s important to us that your voices get heard. To make sure that happens, each division appoints an early career scientists representative: the vital link between the Union and the ECS membership.

After tenure of two or four years, a few of the current ECS Representatives are stepping down from their post at the upcoming General Assembly. That means a handful of divisions are on the hunt for new representatives:

If you are looking for an opportunity to become more involved with the Union, here is your chance! Read on to discover what it takes to be an early career scientists representative.

What is involved?

The ECS representatives gather feedback from students and early career researchers, so that we can take action to improve our early career scientists activities at the EGU General Assembly and maintain our support for early career scientists throughout the year.

ECS Representatives meet virtually (roughly) every quarter and in person at the General Assembly in April. During the meetings issues such as future initiatives, how to get more of the ECS membership involved with the Union and how ECS activities can be improved, are discussed. The representatives are also heavily involved in the running of ECS-specific activities at the General Assembly, such as the icebreaker, ECS Forum and the ECS Lounge.

Within each scientific division, representatives can also take on a variety of tasks, according to their areas of expertise and interest. These can include (but aren’t limited to): organising events for early career scientists at our annual General Assembly, outreach to early career scientists and the wider public through social media or a division blog and much more.

To get more of a feel for what is involved, read this blog post by the outgoing Geodesy Division ECS representative, Roelof Rietbroek, who gives an insight into his experiences while in the role.

As well as giving you the platform to interact with a large network of researchers in your field, being an early career scientists representative is a great opportunity to build on your communications skills, boost your CV and influence the activities of Europe’s largest geoscientific association.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to be the next early career scientists representative for your division, or have any questions about getting involved in the Union, please contact the EGU Communications Officer at networking@egu.eu.

Application deadlines vary from divisions to division, but new representatives will be appointed before or during the upcoming General Assembly in Vienna (08-13 April). We recommend you get in touch with us ASAP if you are interested in applying for any of the vacancies. You can also keep in touch with all ECS-specific news from your division by signing up to the mailing list.  For more details about how ECS representatives are appointed and the internal structure of individual divisions take a look at the website.

EGU 2018 will take place from 08 to 13 April 2017 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2018 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU18 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.

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.

GeoTalk: Maribel García-Ibáñez, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Maribel García-Ibáñez, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, were we highlight the work and achievements of early career researchers, 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 Maribel García-Ibáñez, ECS representative for the Ocean Sciences (OS) Division. Maribel has been in post for over 18 months, but her term comes to an end at the 2018 General Assembly. If our conversation with her inspires you to get involved with EGU and its activities for early career scientists, then check out what vacancies are available.

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

Hi! As you said, I am Maribel and I am the ECS representative for the OS Division. I come from Spain where I studied the degree of Marine Sciences and later I obtained a PhD in Chemical Oceanography. My research interests are water masses and ocean acidification, especially in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions. Nowadays, I am based in Norway, where I work as a Postdoc at Uni Research.

Although we touch upon it in the introduction of this post: what does your role as ECS representative involve?

Well, as you mentioned, our main role is to ensure communication between the EGU and their ECS. The way to approach it varies from one division to another. In the OS division, we try to be as active as possible in social media (you can find us on Facebook and Twitter) and we also organise some short courses during the General Assembly. I also communicate with the OS division President, Karen Heywood, to increase the ECS representation within the division. Finally, I participate in the regular Skype meetings with ECS representatives from the other divisions during which we discuss about how to increase the ECS representation in EGU.

Why did you put yourself forward for the role?

I attended the General Assembly the year before becoming an ECS representative and I loved its networking environment. However, I felt a bit lost in such a big conference and when I saw the vacancy I thought I could help other newcomers feel more comfortable and welcome.

What is your vision for the Ocean Sciences Division ECS community and what do you hope to achieve in the time you hold the position?

I think it is a diamond in the rough. I see a lot of potential in networking, but we still need a push to become a more active division in EGU. I must also say that I have already seen an improvement in this aspect during my years as ECS representative, which I hope will continue. My idea when I started as ECS representative for the OS division was to create an active group of ECS ready to push forward the division. However, it has been harder than I thought, but I am positive about the future.

What can your ECS Division members expect from the Ocean Sciences Division in the 2018 General Assembly?

We have 63 sessions and 3 co-organised short courses: “How to publish in the EGU journal Ocean Science”; “What are the key problems in Climate Science?”; and “Polar science career panel”. I encourage the ECS from the OS Division to attend the Division Meeting during the General Assembly to get to know the division activities and the current division officers. I also recommend participating in the Mentoring Programme to help newcomers to develop new connections (deadline: 31 January 2018) and active participate in the events especially designed for ECS, such as The Early Career Scientists’ Great Debate that next GA will deal with: Should early career scientists use time developing transferrable skills?; and the short course Academia is not the only route: exploring alternative career options for Earth scientists. And, please, stay tuned to the EGU-OS’s official social media (Facebook and Twitter) and the EGU’s official social media and the EGU website, in particular, the pages dedicated to ECSs, and subscribe to the mailing lists so you do not miss any future activities.

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

Simply check the online resources to get to know what is going on in EGU. All divisions have they arms open to new active members! If you are interested in getting involved in the OS Division, you can contact me via email or social media (Facebook and Twitter). You can also contact the President of Division, Karen Heywood. Also, in 2018, our division is searching for a new ECS representative. If you are interested in the position, apply as a candidate for the OS  ECS representative by contacting us through the contact points mentioned above.

Interview by Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer