EGU General Assembly 2016

GeoTalk: Beatriz Gaite on why videos are a great tool for communicating your research to a broad audience

GeoTalk: Beatriz Gaite on why videos are a great tool for communicating your research to a broad audience

If you’ve not heard about our Communicate Your Science Video Competition before it gives early career scientists the chance to produce a video up-to-three-minutes long to share their research with the general public. The winning entry receives a free registration to the General Assembly the following year.

In this GeoTalk interview, Laura Roberts talks to Beatriz Gaite an early career scientist whose video on how recycling the noisy part of recordings made by seismometers can tells us important information about the Earth’s interior structure was voted as the winning entry of the 2016 Communicate Your Science Video Competition. Read on to hear about their top tips for filming a science video and what inspired them to use video to communicate their science in the first place.

Before we get started, could you introduce yourself and tell our readers a little more about your research?

I am a seismologist mainly studying the Earth structure. I did my PhD on Mexico and its vicinity using a novel approach developed in the last decade. Before, seismologists used to study earthquake signals to infer the inner structure, but now we can also study seismic ambient noise, which is everything on a seismic record… except the earthquake signals! This means we now analyse what  used to be thrown away, once considered useless. In this sense, it is like recycling. This has revolutionised the field and opened multiple applications, not only for imaging the Earth interior, but also for monitoring landslides, volcanoes or climate change effects.

Some of our readers may yet not be familiar with the competition, can you tell us a little more about it and what made you decide to take part in the competition?

Yes, the EGU video competition consists on explaining your research to a general audience through a three minute video. Once ready, you submit your video to EGU and disseminate it as much as possible to get people to vote for it . I decided to take part  because I was fascinated with the bunch of applications developed from seismic ambient noise and aware of the importance of communicating science to society. This cocktail of thoughts inspired me to create the video.

Watch Beatriz’s winning film, Subtle Whisper of the Earth

Had you filmed any science videos prior to producing ‘Subtle Whisper of the Earth’?

No, never. Only as a teenager I recorded some short, home-made videos for outdoor activities, but nothing related with science. However, in the production of Shubtle Whisper of the Earth I was helped by two professionals: Jordi Cortés, the journalist in charge of the communication at the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera, ICTJA-CSIC, who filmed and edited the video, and Daniel García (@rocambloguesco), an Earth Sciences communicator who helped me with the script.

What inspired you to make a film about your research and submit the entry to the competition?

Since I finished my PhD I was thinking about making a documentary to show how seismic ambient noise was such a big evolution for seismology. Indeed, I already had some script ideas bubbling in my mind. Then, I found out  about the competition through the recently created communication department of my center and, after thinking about it I went for it. I thought it [the video competition} was a great opportunity to make my ideas real.

We can’t go into too much detail here, but how did you go about collecting the footage and turning it into a film?

First, I adapted my original ideas to the length of the video competition specifications. After several iterations, I got the main idea. In parallel, I thought on the story: I needed something common to people, like recycling. I made a script, then Daniel helped me to simplify it from the research realm to society, and I organised it in sequences, duration and film resources. All these steps were the most time-consuming part. Jordi and I organized the “field work” dividing the filming on indoor and outdoor. Since we organized the sequence planning in advance, it took us only one morning shooting indoors and one afternoon outdoors. Jordi’s experience behind the camera and in  production helped a lot to get the final video, but we only used user-level material and software for producing and editing.

What’s your top tip for aspiring science filmmakers?

Have a clear idea of the message you want to communicate. Also, you need a story to catch the attention of the audience. Once you have the idea and the story, the next step, how to visually express them, comes easily.

Beatriz preparing materials to be used in the making of her film. Credit: Jordi Cortés

Which part of the filming process did you enjoy the most?

I enjoyed the whole process, but especially two parts: first, the beginning of the creative process, thinking what, why, and how I wanted to communicate the story, imagining the screenshots in my mind. And second, shooting with Jordi was really fun, I enjoyed it a lot, it was like a game.

Would you recommend filmmaking as a way for scientist to reach out to a broad audience?

Sure! When I started I did not think that the video would reach as many people as it did. I was really happy when some friends told me ‘now we know what you do’. Even some colleagues told me that now they understood pretty well what we get from the seismic ambient noise. It is worth it. A short video is a good way to reach a broad audience globally. Being short, specific and visual are good ingredients to grab attention.

Would you recommend others taking part in the Communicate your Science Video Competition?

Yes, of course. It is an enjoyable exercise to communicate your research. The hardest part of the competition is the self-promotion to get votes, but that’s a different story 😉

Has this interview inspired you to go forth and produce a science video? The Communicate Your Science Video Competition is currently open for submissions.

If you are pre-registered to attend the General Assembly in April, go ahead and produce a video with scenes of you out in the field, or at the lab bench showing how to work out water chemistry; entries can also include cartoons, animations (including stop motion), or music videos, – you name it! To submit your video simply email it to Laura Roberts ( by 26 February 2017.

For more information about the competition take a look at this blog post. For inspiration, why not take a look at the finalist videos from the 2015 and 2016 editions? For more tips and tricks on how to make a video to communicate your research read an interview with vlogger extraordinaire Simon Clark. We also spoke to Zakaria Ghazoui, winner of the 2015 video competition to as his thoughts on how to make a great video.

GeoTalk: Using satellites to unravel the secrets of our planet’s polar regions

GeoTalk: Using satellites to unravel the secrets of our planet’s polar regions

Geotalk is a regular feature highlighting early career researchers and their work. In this interview we speak to Bert Wouters, a polar scientist at the University of Utrecht, and winner of one of the 2016 Arne Richter Awards for Outstanding Young Scientists. At a time when the polar regions are facing increasing challenges resulting from climate change, understanding how they might respond to them is crucial. Bert’s PhD research using satellite data (from the GRACE mission) set a benchmark for the analysis and interpretation of data like it. As his career has advanced, Bert has made contributions to a number of fields within the polar sciences, from ice-sheet research, glacier and ice-cap mass-balance studies, through to ocean modeling and climate prediction. It is this notable breadth of knowledge, accompanied by an impressive publication record which makes Bert a worthy awardee.

First, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about your career path so far?

I was born and raised in Belgium, but moved to the Netherlands to study aerospace enginieering at the TU Delft when I was eightteen. During my PhD there, I focused on the use of satellite gravity data for climate science. Back then, the GRACE satellites had been in orbit for only a couple of years, and people were still learning how to handle and interpret this completely new set of data. The observations contained a lot more noise than expected before launch and one of the first things I did was to develop a method to remove this noise. Once we managed to do so, it opened up a whole new world. For the first time, we could track the movement of water mass on the Earth surface from month to month. These were certainly exciting times! My supervisor gave me the freedom to do pursue my own interests and I used the GRACE data to study many different topics, ranging from hydrology to oceanography and solid earth science. In the last year of my PhD, I focused on the cryosphere, which is still my main field of research.

After graduating, I did have the opportunity to continue in geodesy, but I felt it might be better for my overall development to step out of my comfort zone and move to a different field. I started a post-doc at the Dutch meteorological office (KNMI), with the aim of improving predictions of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. This is part of the global ocean conveyor belt and transports heat around the Earth. It has an important impact on the climate in the Atlantic region (think The day after tomorrow, minus the Hollywood drama) and my job was to predict its behaviour on decadal time scales using a global climate model. The first year was pretty though, but I learned a lot about the complexity of climate physics and numerical modeling, and I still profit from this experience today.

Meet Bert!

In 2012, I was awarded an ERC Marie Curie-Skłodowska fellowship and moved the University of Colorado in Boulder for 2 years to work with John Wahr. He was one of the founding fathers of the GRACE mission and a true giant in the field of geodesy. I had not met him before I started my fellowship, but he turned out to be not only a great scientist, but also one of the kindest and friendly persons I have ever met. I continued to refine my GRACE methods for monitoring of the cryosphere, but also started looking at different types of remote sensing data, in particular height measurements made by the Cryosat-2 altimetry mission.

This satellite had only been launched 2 years before and data was being released bit by bit.It gave me a great drive to be among a select group of people having a first look at these new observations. In the last year of my fellowship, I worked at the University of Bristol with Jonathan Bamber (the  EGU’s current  vice-president) to further refine the Cryosat-2 processing and combine it with the GRACE data. The combination of two independent measurements provides a powerful tool to map the ongoing changes in the cryosphere and yielded in some very exciting results.

Since November 2015, I’m a post-doc at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU, Utrecht University), renowned for their modelling of the regional processes (snowfall, melt, etcetera) on ice sheets and glaciers. Such models, together with in-situ observations, are indispensible to understand the changes we are seeing in the satellite data.

During EGU 2016, you gave a talk which focused on melting of glaciers and ice-caps in the North Atlantic. During the talk you spoke about the implication such melting might have on global sea level rise. Could you tell us a little more about your findings?

It’s a well known fact that the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice. Studies about these regions usually receive a lot of attention from the media and general public, and rightly so: they contain a huge reservoir of ice and will be one of the major contributors to sea level rise in the coming centuries.

But we shouldn’t forget about the smaller ice caps and glaciers in other parts of the world. Many of them are located in regions which are experiencing rapid warming and because of their small size and the delicate balance between snowfall and melt that shapes them, they are extremely vulnerable to changes in the local climate. The GRACE and Cryosat-2 data show that glaciers in the North-Atlantic region currently contribute as much to sea-level rise as the Antarctic ice sheet and will continue to do so in the future. In fact, models indicate that some of the ice caps are already beyond a point of no return and that glaciers and ice caps will be one of the major sources of sea level rise in the coming decades.

Why have the glaciers and ice-caps of the North  Atlantic region received such little attention, at least until now, considering the potentially large impact their melting can have on global sea levels?

Tthe Devon Ice Cap, located in eastern Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada is one of the North Atlantic region ice-caps which have received little attention.

Well, of course I’m not the first to study these glaciers and ice caps. In fact, some individual glaciers have been monitored for over a hundred years. These records are extremely valuable and vital for validating and interpreting satellite observations, and already showed that many glaciers are retreating.

However, taking in-situ measurements on a glacier is a challenging job, and often expensive, so these observations are generally made on small glaciers, which tend to be located in easily accessible locations with a maritime climate.  This means that the few hundreds of glaciers that are monitored on a regular basis are not necessarily representative for the roughly 200 000 glaciers world wide. We really need satellite observations for that. So maybe one of the reasons that they have received little attention is because we just didn’t know how bad things are until recently.

Another reason is that their big brothers, Antarctica and Greenland, pose a huge threat, too, especially when considering longer, millenial, time scales. There’s only so much research funding out there, so in a way it makes sense that the scientific community focused on this first when global warming came into the picture.

A common theme throughout your research has been using satellite data and geodesy to unravel the secrets of our planet’s polar regions and oceans. What attracted you to this particular branch of the Earth sciences?

To be honest, I ended up in this field more or less haphazardly, it wasn’t part of a grand master plan I had when I started university. Back then, my main interest lay in aerodynamics, but by the time I had to choose a topic for my master thesis, I couldn’t imagine myself working on that for the rest of my life. When one of my supervisors suggested I work on remote sensing of sea level rise, it felt as if it was the right thing to do and that’s how it all started.
Having said that, as a kid, I was fascinated by two things: science, inspired by a nutty professor in my favorite comic books, and nature (around the age of six, I started a club together with a friend to save the planet) and in a way I’m combining these two things in my present job. So maybe I was just destined for this after all…

Also, at a time where travel has almost become a commodity to most people, I find it fascinating that there are still places on Earth where no one has ever set foot and which we can only study using remote sensing. Its very intriguing and almost a privilige to be able to map these places at an ever increasing level of detail, especially with all the dramatic changes that are now going on in the polar regions.

Quoting the late Gordon Hamilton: “Every time I open up a satellite image the potential is there for something astonishing to have happened since the last time I looked.” That sums up pretty well what makes this job so exciting, I think.

The Grace satellites in action. Credit: NASA JPL.

It’s clear that satellite data is invaluable when it comes to understanding changes on our planet. How do the GRACE and Cyosat satellites help in that effort?

GRACE is the only mission that can directly weigh the ice caps and glaciers, but it has a very coarse resolution, typically a few hundreds of kilometres. It helps to track the changes in ice mass on a regional scale, but that’s far too low to identify individual ice caps or glaciers. Cryosat-2 allows us to do so, but it measures height changes, and certain assumptions need to be made to translate this to mass changes, which can be verified against the GRACE observations. So these two missions nicely compliment each other.

Thank you for talking to us Bert. We’ll round-off this interview with a final question about careers. As a researcher who has made huge advances in this field, what advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue research in the field of geodesy and remote sensing, particularly when it comes to focusing on the planet’s polar regions?

Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to stray outside your  own research field! Everything is connected in climate science, the polar regions aren’t an isolated system and to understand what’s going on and how to optimally use the satellite data, a basic knowledge of climate physics helps a lot.

Many problems we’re facing in geodesy and remote sensing also pop up in other fields, in a slightly different way and often other people have already found a solution to your problem. For example, to filter out the noise in the GRACE data, I used a method that’s commonly applied in atmospheric science. My second advice would be: collaborate! The problems we’re facing are so complex that it’s impossible to solve everything on your own. Interact with other scientists, within and outside your own field, it pays off.

And don’t be afraid to share your data and preliminary results with others. There’s a lot of pressure, especially on starting scientists, to publish as much as possible which sometimes makes it tempting to keep your data to yourself. But many times, other people have that piece of data that would make your study so much more interesting. And if someone else publishes a paper on something you’re working on, don’t hold any grudges, but try to find a different angle to it and do better. There’s some much to study, and science shouldn’t be about competition, but about collaboration.

Geotalk is a regular feature highlighting early career researchers and their work.

GeoTalk: REcycle textile posters into useful products

GeoTalk: REcycle textile posters into useful products

Conference posters: Most scientists spend tens (if not hundreds) of working hours perfecting their conference poster. There’s not just the science to think about, but also the design, the flow, the images, the language… The list is endless. Once complete, you print it, roll it up and feed it into the protective poster tube. Then you travel to the conference venue, whereupon you ‘compete’ with other scientist trying to stand-out from the crowd and entice fellow attendees to stop by your presentation, if only for a few minutes.

And then it is over, almost as quickly as it started. You pack up your poster to take back to your institution, to languish amongst the pile of other posters in a corner of your office. Best case scenario, you’ll revisit the electronic version when presenting on the same subject again and rework some elements. In all likelihood, the few hours of glory in the poster hall will be the climax of hours of hard work!

What if you could breathe a longer life into your poster? One which would mean you’ll reach audiences you never expected, while transforming your work into a brand new, useful product?

Today we speak to Sandra de Vries, a former master student, who also crafts posters into wearable garments, breathing a new lease of life into your scientific findings.

It all starts with a textile poster – where your presentation is printed on fabric as opposed to paper – which Sandra then turns into anything from a tie, to a tote bag, through to a skirt! The designs come complete with QR Codes, which people can scan to access the original presentation.

First, could you introduce yourself and tell our readers a little more about your background.

Hi, everybody! As a water ambassador during my studies, and currently working as project developer for the Valorisation Program Deltatechnology and Water, my interest for the water sector has been growing for a couple of years now. That brought me to my new job, where I just started working as IHP-HWRP Committee Secretary.

I take special interest in supporting and increasing innovative solutions in the water sector and creating awareness for the importance of water (on a national as well as international level) for which I helped set up the initiative Team Helder Water. I like to tackle challenges by being creative and enthusiastic about the solutions possible.

During my Water Management master at the Delft University of Technology I conducted research in the Mara River Basin – Kenia, Jakarta – Indonesia, and Ostional – Nicaragua. I conducted this research in cooperation with UNESCO-IHE, Deltares, and the research institute CIRA in Managua – Nicaragua, respectively. Living, travelling, and working abroad has created an interest of discovering other cultures and working together with them on challenging and global issues.

Repost is your initiative to turn textile posters into useable items. How did you come up with this original idea?

What if your poster could become a handy tote bag? Credit: REpost/Sandra de Vries

What if your poster could become a handy tote bag? Credit: REpost/Sandra de Vries

It actually all comes back to my time as an EGU conference assistant, during EGU2014 and 2015. For my work in the poster areas we were asked to remove all left-behind posters every evening. These are quite a few, and surprisingly, some posters turned out to be printed on textile instead of paper. After the first evening of throwing away perfectly nice posters that were only used for two effective hours, I discussed with a friend the waste of material, time, but especially effort. As I had been designing and making  clothes of my own for a couple of years, I started joking about keeping some of the textile versions. “I could make a dress out of it and perhaps a beach bag for you!”, I exclaimed to my friend. So at the end of the next day, instead of throwing away the textile posters, I started collecting them. Beautiful pieces of research, all of them!

In the year after EGU2014 I did what I promised my friend, and chose two posters to become a beach bag and a dress. Again, in 2015 I joined as an assistant, and this time it was even better, I was working at the hydrology poster area. This gave me an even better possibility to collect textile posters, which often showed topics of my own interest! And during the Delft hydrology dinner in Vienna (every year organised by the division), I wore the dress made out of a poster from EGU2014. This resulted in really enthusiastic reactions, which only increased my own enthusiasm for the idea. After EGU2015 I created a couple of aprons which were used during the hydrology fieldwork of my master, and a pencil skirt for my own thesis defence. Of course with all topics matching that of my own thesis. And finally, I created the tie, a present for my supervisor Prof. Hubert Savenije.

Is the process of turning the posters into clothing items difficult? What does the process involve?

As you might imagine, posters are printed on a textile that is best compared to canvas. This is pretty stiff fabric, and for sure not everything can be made out of it. The first dress I made is actually the best example for this. I was not incredibly satisfied because the inflexible fabric did not allow for a nice fit. I also broke many a needle in my sewing machine, since the fabric is often thicker than normal fabric. So the product-possibilities depend on the type of fabric, and the thickness of the textile posters have thus far influenced my product choices.

The next step is like designing any other piece of clothes or accessories. You need to design a 2D-pattern that shows you which pieces of fabric you need to create a 3D product. In case of clothing, which naturally should also fit a person, one needs to take into account different clothing sizes.

You include QR codes in all the items you make, why is it such a unique feature?

The extra highlight of our product, especially interesting for researchers, is indeed the QR-code attached to the product. This QR-code redirects to the original poster of the author. Imagine the extra publicity you can create for your work in this manner!

Cutting up the poster in order to REmake it, can create a loss of the information contained in the poster. By including the QR-code we ensure to REpost the work to anybody who might be interested by what is shown on the clothing or accessories.

Which items have you enjoyed creating the most and why?

I still remember the first time people saw the beach bag I made for my friend. Everybody was enthusiastic, envying her for her new bag. This was very surprising for me, I had not expected that others would like the idea as much as I enjoyed it.

Sandra models her pencil skirt. Credit: REpost/ Sandra de Vries

Sandra models her pencil skirt. Credit: REpost/ Sandra de Vries

I am most proud of the pencil skirt I made. When I started creating it, I was not even sure if it would work out, and I wanted it to be perfect to use it for my own thesis defence. Eventually, it turned out to be great, and so original that I was asked by people where I bought it!

What next for REpost? Do you plan on pursuing this as a business where anyone can purchase items you’ve made?

Yes, definitely! It started out as a nice fun hobby and project. Now, after having talked to many people, I believe this has more potential than just keeping it for myself. Together with my sister Maria, we are finding ways to increase production, incorporate the QR-code and bring this to a higher level. To make it easier for you in the future, we’re actually in contact with conference organizers  to incorporate this choice into the digital registration procedure.

If this sounds interesting to you as a poster-author and you’re planning to print on textile, contact us via our email address or check our facebook page repost poster!

My film is ready, now what?

My film is ready, now what?

It’s no secret that at EGU we believe using film as a medium to communicate science and engage the public with research is a great tool! So much so that we organise an annual competition for early career scientists (ECS) to produce a three-minute video to share their research with the general public, as well as publishing film how-to-guides on our blog and organising film-making workshops at our General Assembly (GA).

The film-making workshops of 2014 and 2015 focused on how to make a film: from producing the script right through to aspects of editing and post-production. This year, the workshop was delivered by Stefan Ruissen, an online & cross media specialist, and centred on how scientists can raise the profile of their film work. In today’s post, we highlight some of the main points from the workshop and share Stefan’s slides with you too.

The fact that rich-media and video has grown to form an integral part of conveying a message, be it a news story, a funny meme, or capturing moments of our everyday life should not be underestimated. Harnessing the growing popularity of video when it comes to helping you tell the narrative of your research is crucial!

Video and social media

Social media channels mean that the possibilities to communicate and share the film you invested so much time in creating have multiplied. An important take-home message from the 2014 workshop was knowing your audience: whom are you producing the film for and what message do you want them to take away from it?

Knowing your audience is vitally important when getting your work out there too– where is the most likely place you’ll find your audience: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, via a blog? Spend some time trying to work this out, both in the planning stages of film-making and once your video is ready.

Social media generates opportunities to share your film with a broad audience. Identify which channels are the best ones to reach your audience and tap into your existing networks for maximum impact.

Social media generates opportunities to share your film with a broad audience. Identify which channels are the best ones to reach your audience and tap into your existing networks for maximum impact.

And while social media generates so many opportunities to share your film, how people are consuming content online is also changing. In the past users would actively search for content they wanted to read about or watch; now a day, most content arrives at people’s doorsteps through algorithms curated by social media channels. This means that, not only is it important to get your film ‘out there’, you’ve also got to get it noticed.

So, once you’ve identified the best platforms to use, post the content and don’t forget to engage with your audience! Be sure to start a conversation and be part of it. You will most passionately tell your story, so use every opportunity to drum up further interest in your film.


  • Get noticed in on-line searches: When planning your film, think carefully about the title and once it is finished, invest time in preparing a description text and key words
  • Be prepared: Have a set of promotional materials to hand, inc. a film summary, stills from your video and a short trailer
  • YouTube: simply uploading your video is not enough. Social media 101 says your film should come complete with description, a link to further information/the film page (if available) and don’t forget a catchy preview image to hook viewers
  • Twitter: exploit your existing network, or spend time building links with relevant peers and organisations who can further your work. The same is true for hashtags – reach a bigger audience by tapping into # and using mentions
  • Facebook: Combine all your posts with stills or a trailer of your film (that’s where that preparation of promo materials comes in handy!)
  • Ask your audience: Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, how would you find new science related content? If you aren’t sure, speak to your audience, they’ll likely give you a few pointers!

Making your video isn’t the half of it: while there is no doubt that you should concentrate your efforts on planning, shooting and editing your video, save some energy to develop a strategy which will allow you to disseminate your film work effectively. For more details on how to best achieve this, why not take a look at Stefan’s presentation?

By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer

This blog post is based on the presentation by Stefan Ruissen at the Short Course: Scientists must film! (SC47) which took place at the 2016 EGU General Assembly in Vienna. The full presentation can be accessed here.