EGU conference 2018

GeoTalk: Nilay Dogulu, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Nilay Dogulu, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, where we highlight the work and achievements of early career researchers, this month we’ll also introduce one of the Division early career scientist representatives (ECS). They are responsible for ensuring that the voice of EGU ECS membership is heard. From organising short courses during the General Assembly, through to running and attending regular ECS representative meetings, their tasks in this role are varied. Their role 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 Nilay Dogulu, ECS representative for the Hydrological Sciences (HS) Division and past chair of the Young Hydrologic Society.

Before we get stuck in, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself, your involvement with EGU and how you became interested in hydrology?

I am a PhD candidate at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey, researching clustering methods for data-driven hydrology at the Water Resources Laboratory. This year I attended the General Assembly (GA) in Vienna for the fifth time in a row. Since 2014, the Assembly has been the one and only conference that I have persistently and willingly participated in. The Hydrological Sciences (HS) division’s scientific programme at the GA had a special role in shaping my career as a researcher, so I would like to share my journey in the hydrological sciences lightened up by the EGU GA and its HS community.

First, little about me. I am a civil engineer by training. I was a third year (BSc) student at METU (ODTU) when I took the course “Engineering Hydrology.” It was the first time I learned about the terms catchment, basin and hydrograph. In that very semester I had the opportunity to participate in the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul. That was it. I was determined to specialize in water for my future career.

To broaden my understanding of hydrological processes and gain a critical view of the latest hydrology topics, I gathered the courage—as only a BSc student at the time—to attend the 6th National Hydrology Congress and the 2nd National Flood Symposium. Then a three-month internship at the State Hydraulic Works of Turkey introduced me to the wider community of hydrological sciences in the world.

My class notes from the Engineering Hydrology course back in March 2009 (Credit: Nilay Dogulu)

In Fall 2011, I joined the FLOODRisk Master to study floods, from modelling them to understanding their socio-economic effects. This two-years programme enriched my academic background on flood risk management and provided me with different insights into water-related problems.

Could you tell me about your first experience with the EGU General Assembly?

With EGU HS Division president Elena Toth (right) and president-elect Maria-Helena Ramos (left) at EGU 2018

The EGU GA brings together researchers from all around the world. The EGU Hydrological Sciences Division is EGU’s largest division with a diverse and comprehensive scientific programme at the GA, large enough to fill in the whole second (red) floor of the conference venue.

The EGU HS division is a great platform aimed at addressing current research challenges in hydrology. During the GA, one can follow up with the latest research on various topics within these areas and network with members (of all stages) of this great community. At the 2018 EGU GA, hydrological sciences programme had 2350 abstracts submitted to 91 HS-lead sessions (66 oral and poster sessions, 6 poster only sessions, 19 PICO sessions)—equivalent to 13.5% of total EGU GA submissions.

Given this, I was very motivated to experience the General Assembly for the first time! I submitted an abstract summarizing part of my MSc research—on predictive uncertainty estimation for flood forecasting using data-driven modelling techniques; and once it was accepted, I started to get ready for EGU and Vienna! Flight and accommodation booked, poster printed, weekly conference schedule prepared. This was the first poster presentation of my career and I was quite excited. Luckily, all went really well.

EGU Hydrological Sciences Division

I remember having a busy week at EGU 2014: from presenting my first poster, working on a manuscript with my co-authors, as well as attending project meetings, sessions on flood forecasting and flood risk management, and short courses organized by the Young Hydrologic Society (YHS).

There were many interested people visiting my poster and asking questions. There were many posters I visited too—I have to admit, sometimes I asked so many questions that the presenters thought  I was an OSPP Award judge.

Throughout the week I listened presentations, many of which were given by researchers I cited in my master’s thesis. Matching the papers with authors’ faces was amazingly so much fun! Moreover, I arranged a small meeting with my co-authors to discuss the manuscript draft (which has been later published in HESS) that we had only been working on remotely before then.

At the time, I was also working for the EU-FP7 project ASTARTE (Assessment, STrategy And Risk Reduction for Tsunamis in Europe). The EGU GA is an excellent time for research project teams, editorial boards of journals, etc. to schedule meetings.  ASTARTE team (26 partners from 16 countries) also took this opportunity to meet up to discuss the progress following the project’s first 6-months period. During this meeting, I presented one of the very important deliverables of the project which focused on tsunami resilience from a social sciences perspective.

On the Saturday after the conference there was the Vienna Catchment Science Symposium organized by the Vienna University of Technology Centre for Water Resources Systems. It proved to be a very enlightening symposium for a young hydrologist.

Sounds like a great first experience! How has your time at the GA changed over the years?

After enjoying the academic fun of EGU 2014, I wanted to come back to Vienna for EGU 2015. Another reason was that I was very curious why people were heading to the conference venue on the very last hours of the last day (Friday): I left around 5 pm and many people were coming out of metro!

METU Water Resources Lab researchers at EGU 2016

In 2015 I had one PICO presentation and two short course convenerships, How to write (and publish) a scientific paper in hydrology and Hydroinformatics for Hydrology. Both were co-organized with the Young Hydrologic Society and proved to be very successful!

Without any hesitation, I decided to attend EGU 2016 and EGU 2017 in the next years. Although I didn’t have any presentations in 2016, listening to presentations covering my research interests helped me stay updated and synthesise various perspectives on overarching problems in hydrology. The sessions kept me thinking about some questions that had been tingling my mind—which later became the research questions in my PhD thesis proposal.

At EGU 2017, my poster presentation was a literature review on application of clustering methods in hydrology, and actually it attracted more people than I expected. EGU poster sessions provide an excellent way to bring together early career researchers while they stand in front of their posters, paving the way for interesting discussions.

Memories from EGU 2017

My fifth year at the EGU GA last April was great too: including two posters, sessions to co-/convene, YHS events (from short courses to PICO sessions), the EGU ECS Representatives Workshop, YHS Hydrodrinks, the HS division meeting, medal lectures and many other activities. Being an experienced EGU GA participant, I also served as a mentor as part of the EGU mentoring programme designed to help novice conference attendees navigate their first EGU experience.

Almost forgot! On Friday evening, the conveners’ reception (and party, with a different theme every year) takes place at the ACV.

In addition to being an EGU ECS representative, you also are involved with the Young Hydrologic Society (YHS). Could you tell me more about this organisation and your role in YHS?

YHS is a bottom-up initiative that aims to help early career hydrologists interact and actively participate within the hydrological sciences community and beyond. We are a group of motivated PhDs and postdocs who enjoy serving our very own community, considering the needs and interests of young hydrologists.

The YHS is most actively involved with the EGU GA, where we organizing short courses, scientific sessions and social events. The full list of all events that YHS has organized for the EGU GA since 2013 can be found on the YHS webpage. The open call for session proposals for EGU GA 2019 has just closed (deadline 6 September) – there have been quite a number short course submissions (in cooperation with YHS) that will play a significant role in shaping the HS programme for ECSs. YHS Hydrodrinks event held annually at the EGU GA is now a 5-year-old tradition where we meet our new team members. If you are planning to come to EGU 2019, don’t miss the chance to meet fellow hydrologists at the Hydrodrinks (however, please note that this is not a sponsored event). Contributing to the academic and social development of early career hydrologists by organising activities at the EGU GA is a unique and rewarding experience, so get involved!

YHS Hydrodrinks at EGU 2014 (Credit: The waiter)

I joined YHS after meeting the team at EGU 2014. Since then I couldn’t help myself but contribute to the aims of the society in many ways—like organizing short courses at conferences (e.g. Hydroinformatics for Hydrology at the EGU GA), managing and contributing to the YHS Blog (Streams of Thought and Hallway Conversations), and acting as a Board member (secretary 2015-16, chair 2016-17).

Right: EGU 2018 Poster 1—Clustering approaches for analysing similarity in ungauged catchments: input variable selection for hydrological predictions Left: EGU 2018 Poster 2—Input variable selection for hydrological predictions in ungauged catchments: with or without clustering? Bottom Centre: YHS team at EGU 2018 (with only a few missing! It is not east to arrange a common time for everyone, even for a group photo)

I also took over the role of EGU ECS Rep for HS division from Shaun Harrigan at EGU 2017. Being elected as the EGU ECS Rep, I became more enthusiastic about advancing the hydrologic science community equally (and globally) in support of, primarily, the ECS. The ECS Rep is expected to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth of the EGU HS division by fostering the active participation and integration of ECS and the hydrologic science community globally under the umbrella of EGU, keeping in mind the necessity of creating equal opportunities for ECS to enhance their research and communication skills.

EGU ECS Reps at the EGU GA 2018

The ECS Rep for HS division works in close collaboration with YHS to initiate and support inspirational and intelligent ideas in line with the emerging needs of ECS. You also meet with ECS Reps of other EGU divisions and help the EGU community thrive together with its early career members. My term ends in April 2019. So keep your eye on EGU and YHS websites (and twitter) in early 2019—and apply to become the next EGU ECS Representative (April 2019-April 2021) for the HS division!

Do you have any parting words about your time involved with EGU?

It has been a very long post but now here are the last words. The EGU GA means seeing old friends and past professors, meeting fellow hydrologists and listening to presentations from enthusiastic researchers… plus the annual Hydrodrinks event among many other scientific sessions and short courses organized by YHS! I am glad to serve as the EGU ECS Rep for the Hydrological Sciences division – for the wonderful and inspiring people of the red floor:)

Acknowledgements: I would like to express my sincere thanks to Young Hydrologic Society, especially to Wouter Berghuijs, Shaun Harrigan, Hannes Müller and Tim van Emmerik, for their enthusiasm and support over the last five years.

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer


Plate Tectonics and Ocean Drilling – Fifty Years On

Plate Tectonics and Ocean Drilling – Fifty Years On

What does it take to get a scientific theory accepted? Hard facts? A strong personality? Grit and determination? For many Earth Scientists today it can be hard to imagine the academic landscape before the advent of plate tectonics. But it was only fifty years ago that the theory really became cemented as scientific consensus. And the clinching evidence was found in the oceans.

Alfred Wegener had proposed the theory of continental drift back in 1912. The jigsaw-fit of the African and South American continents led him to suppose that they must once have been joined together. But in the middle of the century, the idea fell out of favour; some even referred to it as a “fairy-tale”.

It was not until the discovery of magnetic reversals on the seafloor in the early 1960s that the theory began to sound plausible again. If brand new ocean crust was being formed at the mid-ocean ridges, then the rocks either side of the ridge should show symmetrical patterns of magnetism. Fred Vine and Drummond Matthews, geologists at the University of Cambridge in the UK, were the first to publish on the idea of seafloor spreading in 1963.

But plate tectonics was still not the only theory on the market. The expanding Earth hypothesis held that the positions of the continents could be explained by an overall expansion in the volume of the Earth. Numerous twentieth-century physicists subscribed to such a view. Or, similarly, the shrinking Earth theory proposed that the whole planet had once been molten. Mountain ranges would then be formed as the Earth cooled and the crust crumpled.

Helmut Weissert, President of the EGU Stratigraphy, Sedimentology and Palaeontology Division, remembers the difficult exchanges that took place whilst he was a student at ETH Zürich in the late 1960s. “Earth-science-wise it was a hot time,” he recalls. “In Bern University they did not teach plate tectonics. We did not have a course on plate tectonics either. I probably first heard about plate tectonics in [my] second or third year.”

Weissert especially remembers Rudolf Trümpy, professor of Alpine geology at ETH at the time, saying that plate tectonics sounds interesting, but it does not work for the Alps. Meanwhile, younger voices at ETH, postdocs and lecturers, were becoming increasingly convinced by plate tectonic theory.

Weissert soon found himself in the midst of the controversy as his own research had a direct bearing on the debate. “I had an interesting diploma topic,” says Weissert. “I worked on continental margin successions and associated serpentinites.” Serpentinites are green-coloured rocks that are full of the water-rich mineral serpentine, and therefore must have formed on the ocean floor. The fact that Weissert was finding them in Davos, at the top of the Alps, was a good indication that modern-day Switzerland had once been part of the oceans. As Weissert succinctly puts it, “green rocks were ocean”.

The observed and calculated magnetic profile for the seafloor across the East Pacific Rise, showing symmetrical patterns of magnetism. (Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey. Distributed via Wikimedia Commons)

By 1967, interest in the theory of plate tectonics had snowballed. When the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) was launched the following year, it had its sights firmly set on finding evidence that would definitively either confirm or reject the hypothesis of seafloor spreading.

The DSDP research vessel, the Glomar Challenger, set sail from Texas in March 1968. By its third leg it had drilled 17 holes at 10 sites along the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge and was already producing results that looked like they would confirm Wegener’s theory of continental drift. “After a few legs it was clear that the seafloor spreading hypothesis was tested and proven,” remembers Weissert.

There were only eight scientists on board, but two or three of them were working on the stratigraphy of the seafloor sediments. “The stratigraphy was superb,” explains Weissert. “You have the very young [sediments near the ridge] and then at the edges of the ocean the Jurassic sediments. If you have aging crust then you have aging sediment, so the hypothesis was very clear.” If the sediments got progressively older on moving away from the ridge, then so must the crust, a sure sign that new ocean floor was being created at the ridge.

Karen Heywood, EGU Division President in Ocean Sciences, remembers how her own fascination with the theory of plate tectonics ended up sparking her career in physical oceanography. Heywood began as a physics student at the University of Bristol in the 1980s. “They said we had to write an essay on the historical development of an idea in physics,” she recalls. “I did the development of the theory of plate tectonics and seafloor spreading. I wrote this essay all about Alfred Wegener.”

“This essay inspired me to think about earth sciences,” she says. “The idea that you could apply physics to the real world was amazing. It got me into oceanography.”

Heywood went on to establish her career at the University of East Anglia (UEA), where she became the first female professor of Physical Oceanography in the UK. “I went to the UEA and Fred Vine was there. It brought me back full circle. I could not believe that this was Fred Vine, who had discovered the magnetic stripes. This was the real person and that was amazing… it was the same person that I had read about and written about in my essay as an undergraduate in the 80s.”

There were clearly strong personalities on both sides of the debate about plate tectonics, but Weissert is pragmatic about the progress of science. “You have to accept that you are part of a scientific development. Everybody makes hypotheses… We all make mistakes. We all learn. We all improve.”

Indeed, many years later, in 2001, Trümpy wrote what Weissert calls “a beautiful small article” entitled Why plate tectonics was not invented in the Alps. Trümpy magnanimously writes, “Shamefacedly, I must admit that I was not among the first Alpine geologists to grasp the promise of the new tectonics.”  And yet, he continues, “to the Alps, plate tectonics brought a better understanding”. The humans and the science move on together.

By Tim Middleton, EGU 2018 General Assembly Press Assistant


DSDP Phase: Glomar Challenger, International Ocean Discovery Program

Trümpy, R., Why plate tectonics was not invented in the Alps, International Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 90, Issue 3, pp 477–483, 2001.

General Assembly 2018 – Highlights

General Assembly 2018 – Highlights

It’s been about two weeks since the EGU General Assembly 2018 in Vienna. The conference this year was a great success with 4,776 oral, 11,128 poster, and 1,419 PICO presentations. There were 666 unique scientific sessions, complimented by 68 short courses and 294 side events, making for an interesting and diverse programme.

The conference brought together 15,075 scientists from 106 countries, 53% of which were under the age of 35 years. Keeping abreast of everything that was going on throughout the week was made easier due to the distribution of 15,000 copies of EGU Today, and a keen media presence reporting on scientific sessions. Thousands of visits to the webstreams, as well as GeoLog, meant those at the conference and those who couldn’t make it could stayed tuned to the best of the conference! We thank all of you very much for your attendance and active contribution to the conference.

Help us make the General Assembly next year (7–12 April 2019, Vienna, Austria) even better by filling out the feedback questionnaire. It only takes a few minutes, but hurry, it closes on Sunday June 3rd!

To reminisce about a productive week, why not watch this video of the best bits of the conference?

This year, the General Assembly was for the first time documented by EGU’s very own artists in residence. Sam Illingworth, Science Communication Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), and Matthew Partridge, Senior Research Fellow at Southampton University (UK), produced engaging poems and cartoons to share their conference experiences and communicate science. Why not reflect on the General Assembly through a more artistic lens? You can find all their work on EGU’s GeoLog.

Coffee Haiku by Matthew Partridge and Sam Illingworth