GeoLog

EGU General Assembly

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

What’s new for the 2019 General Assembly?

What’s new for the 2019 General Assembly?

Along with our conference organisers, Copernicus, we aim to improve the experience of General Assembly attendees with each passing year. Over the last few months we’ve introduced some changes that we hope will make the 2019 edition of our meeting even better! This post highlights the new rules for submitting an abstract and some changes that returning participants will notice at next year’s conference.

Abstract submission rules

An ever-growing number of participants means making sure that all participants at the EGU annual General Assembly are able to present their work in a comfortable manner in the years to come. One of the measures adopted to ensure all presentations (orals, posters and PICOs) find a place is the introduction of the one-abstract rule.

Authors are allowed as first author to submit either one regular abstract plus one abstract solicited by a convener, or two solicited abstracts. A second regular abstract can be submitted to the Educational and Outreach Sessions (EOS) programme group (maximum number of abstracts, including solicited abstracts, remains two). Possible submissions for first authors are: 1 regular + 1 solicited abstract; or 2 solicited abstracts; or 1 regular or solicited abstract + 1 EOSabstract (regular or solicited). Note that authors will need to provide a transaction number (TAN) when submitting their additional solicited abstract. This TAN has to be provided by the convener. Participants can be co-authors on additional abstracts in which they are not first author.

Another change for the EGU General Assembly 2019 is that only 2019 EGU members will be able to submit an abstract as first authors (co-authors are not required to have a membership). You can become a member or renew your membership online on the EGU website (www.egu.eu/membership/) or while registering for the General Assembly. Students receive a 50% discount in their EGU membership rates, and all EGU members benefit from substantially reduced registration rates to the meeting, amongst other benefits. More information on these new abstract submission rules are available on EGU’s call-for-abstracts announcement.

The new changes to the conference programme schedule will provide a more comfortable meeting experience for all! (Credit: EGU/Keri McNamara)

Conference programme schedule

The scheduling of the conference programme will also see some changes at the upcoming General Assembly. The new schedule features posters, orals and PICOs throughout the day, uses time blocks of 105 minutes, and includes a dedicated networking slot. Note that posters and orals of the same session will not be scheduled at the same time. This schedule change will allow us to fit more oral presentations in the meeting, give more viewing time for posters and PICOs, and provide a more comfortable meeting experience for all. A dedicated networking slot will give attendees additional time to discuss and interact with colleagues, to view posters and to visit the exhibition.

As in the past, each day of the EGU General Assembly in 2019 will begin at 08:30 and end at 20:00, will be organised in time blocks (TBs), and have a number of breaks. However, most TBs will now be 15 minutes longer and will feature all presentations types, as follows:

  • 08:30–10:15 TB1: Posters, orals, PICOs
  • 10:15–10:45 Coffee break
  • 10:45–12:30 TB2: Posters, orals, PICOs
  • 12:30–14:00 Lunch break
  • 14:00–15:45 TB3: Posters, orals, PICOs
  • 15:45–16:15 Coffee break
  • 16:15–18:00 TB4: Posters, orals, PICOs
  • 18:00–19:00 TB5: Networking, meet EGU, exhibition, and extra poster viewing
  • 19:00–20:00 TB6: Townhalls, some medal lectures, some short courses, special events

More information and a detailed time schedule are in the EGU news item.

Offset your travel carbon footprint when registering

Finally, we are taking steps to make the General Assembly greener. Last year we implemented a number of initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of the meeting, including giving participants the opportunity to offset the CO2 emissions resulting from their travel to and from Vienna. People who used this option while registering contributed to a project to reduce deforestation in Brazil. As a result of this initiative we raised nearly €17,000 for the carbon offsetting scheme!

In 2019, conference registrants will be able to donate to one of three different carbon-offset projects by choosing the carbon-offsetting option when registering to the meeting. The money collected from you will then be forwarded to carbonfootprint.com to be invested in your selected project:

1) Wayang Windu Phase 2 Geothermal Power Project
Type: Geothermal
Location: Indonesia, Asia

2) Borehole Rehabilitation Project in Uganda
Type: Clean Drinking Water
Location: Uganda, Africa

3) Efficient Cookstove Programme
Type: Household Cookstoves
Location: Kenya, Africa

We’re striving to add further measures for 2019, so stay tuned to the EGU blog and website for further details on new green initiatives. We look forward to seeing you in Vienna!

EGU 2019 will take place from 07 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.

GeoTalk: the climate communication between Earth’s polar regions

GeoTalk: the climate communication between Earth’s polar regions

Geotalk is a regular feature highlighting early career researchers and their work. In this interview, we caught up with Christo Buizert, an assistant professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who works to reconstruct and understand climate change events from the past. Christo’s analysis of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica helped reveal links between climate change events from the last ice age that occurred on opposite ends of the Earth. At this year’s General Assembly, the Climate: Past, Present & Future Division recognized his innovative contributions to palaeoclimatology by presenting him with the 2018 Division Outstanding Early Career Scientists Award.

Christo, thank you for talking to us today! Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your career path so far?

Thanks for having me on GeoTalk! I’m a palaeoclimate scientist working on polar ice cores (long sticks of ancient ice drilled in Greenland and Antarctica), combining data, modeling and fieldwork. My background is in physics, and I did a MSc thesis project on quantum electronics. As you can see, I ended up in quite a different field. After teaching high school for a year in my home country the Netherlands, I pursued a PhD at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, working on ice cores. I must say, doing a PhD is a lot easier than teaching high school! I have gained a lot of respect for teachers.

After obtaining my PhD I moved to the US for reasons of both work and love (not necessarily in that order). I got a NOAA Climate & Global Change Postdoctoral Fellowship at Oregon State University (OSU). OSU has a great palaeoclimate research group and Oregon is one of the prettiest places on Earth, so the decision to stick around was an easy one.

What inspired you to pursue palaeoclimatology after getting your MSc degree in quantum electronics?

I wish I had a better answer to this question, but the truth is that I was drawn by the possibility of doing fieldwork in Greenland, mainly.

At the General Assembly, you received a Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award for your work on understanding the bi-polar phasing of climate change. For those of us who aren’t familiar, could you elaborate on this particular field of study?

The final drill run of the WAIS Divide ice core, with ice from 3,405 m (11,171 ft) depth that has been buried for 68,000 years. (Credit: Kristina Slawny/University of Bern)

During the last ice age (120,000 to 12,000 years ago), the world experienced some of the most extreme and abrupt climate events that we know of, the so-called Dansgaard-Oeschger (D-O) events. About 25 of these D-O events happened in the ice age, and during each of them Greenland warmed by 8 to 15oC within a few decades. Each of the warm phases (called interstadials) lasted several hundreds to thousands of years. Greenland ice cores provide clear evidence for these events.

The abrupt D-O events are thought to be linked to changes in ocean circulation. Heat is transported to the Atlantic Ocean by the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. The AMOC keeps the Nordic Seas free of sea ice and effectively warms Greenland, particularly during the winter months. However, the strength of this heat circulation went through abrupt changes during the last ice age. Marine sediment data and model studies show that changes to the AMOC strength caused the extreme temperature swings associated with the D-O events.

During weak phases of the AMOC, less heat and salt are brought to the North Atlantic, leading to expansive (winter) sea ice cover and cold conditions in Greenland. These are the D-O cycle’s cold phases, the so-called stadials. And vice versa, during the AMOC’s strong phases, the ocean transports more heat northwards, reducing sea ice cover and warming Greenland. These are the warm (interstadial) phases of the D-O cycle.

When the AMOC is strong, it warms the northern hemisphere at the expense of the southern hemisphere. This inter-hemispheric heat exchange is sometimes referred to as ‘heat piracy,’ since the North Atlantic is ‘stealing’ heat from the southern hemisphere. So when Greenland is warm, we see Antarctica cool, and when Greenland is cold, Antarctica is warming. These opposite hemispheric temperature patterns are called the bipolar seesaw, after the playground toy. Using a new ice core from the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (the WAIS Divide ice core), we were able to study the relative timing of the bipolar seesaw at a precision of a few decades – which is extremely precise by the standards of palaeoclimate research.

An infographic explaining the opposite hemispheric temperature patterns, also known as the bipolar seesaw (Illustration by David Reinert/Oregon State University).

We found that the temperature response to the northern hemisphere’s abrupt D-O events was delayed by about two centuries at WAIS Divide. This finding shows that the effects of these D-O events start in the north, and then are transmitted to the southern high-latitudes via changes in the ocean circulation. If the atmosphere were responsible, transmission would have been much faster (typically within a year or so). State-of-the-art climate models actually fail to simulate this 200-year delay in the Antarctic response, suggesting they are missing (or overly simplifying) some of the relevant physics of how temperature anomalies are propagated and mixed in the global ocean. The timescale of two centuries is unmistakably the signature of the ocean, in my view, and so it is an interesting target for testing models.

At the meeting you also gave a talk about the climatic connections between the northern and southern hemispheres during the last ice age. Could you tell us a little more about your findings and their implications? 

A volcanic ash layer in an Antarctic ice core. Volcanic markers like these were used in the new study to synchronize ice cores from across Antarctica. (Credit: Heidi Roop/Oregon State University)

I presented some recently published work that elaborates on this 200-year delay mentioned earlier. Together with European colleagues, we synchronized five Antarctic ice cores using volcanic eruptions as time markers. This makes it possible to study the timing of the seesaw across the entire Antarctic continent with the same great precision as at WAIS Divide. It turns out that the 200-year delayed oceanic response to the northern hemisphere’s abrupt climate change is visible all over Antarctica, not just in West Antarctica.

But the exciting thing is that by looking at the spatial picture, we detect a second mode of climatic teleconnection, superimposed on the bipolar seesaw we talked about earlier. This second mode has zero-time lag behind the northern hemisphere, suggesting that this mode is an atmospheric teleconnection pattern. In my talk I used postcards and text messages as an analogy for these two modes. The oceanic mode is like a postcard, that takes a long time to arrive in Antarctica (200 years). The atmospheric mode is like a text message that arrives right away.

The atmospheric circulation change (the “text message”) causes a particular temperature pattern over Antarctica, with cooling in some places and warming in others. Think of this as the “fingerprint” of the atmospheric circulation. We then compared the ice-core fingerprint to the fingerprints of several wind patterns seen in modern observations. We found that the so-called Southern Annular Mode, a natural mode describing the variability of the westerly winds circling Antarctica, is the best modern analog for what we see in the ice cores.

An infographic explaining how Earth’s polar regions communicate with each other (Illustration by Oliver Day/Oregon State University)

Another piece of the puzzle is that atmospheric moisture pathways to Antarctica change simultaneously with the atmospheric mode. All this supports the idea that the southern hemisphere’s westerly winds respond immediately to abrupt climate change in the North Atlantic. When D-O warming happens in Greenland the SH westerlies shift to the north, and vice versa, during D-O cooling they shift to the south.

This had been predicted in models, and some limited evidence was available from the WAIS Divide ice core, but the new results provide the strongest observational evidence for this effect. This movement of the westerlies has important consequences for sea ice, ocean circulation, and perhaps even CO2 levels and ice sheet stability. So it really urges us to look at these D-O cycle in a global perspective.

You’ve enjoyed success as a researcher, not least your 2018 EGU Award. As an early career scientist, do you have any words of advice for graduate students who are hoping to pursue a career as a scientist in the Earth sciences?

I’m sure there are many different routes to becoming a successful researcher. Developing your own ideas and insights is key, and the secret to having good ideas is having many ideas, because most of them end up being wrong! So be creative and go out on a limb. I am lucky to have had supervisors who gave me a lot of freedom to explore my own ideas. I would also encourage everybody to develop skills in programming and numerical data analysis, for example in Matlab or python.

Christo Buizert (right) and Didier Roche, President of the Climate: Past, Present & Future Division, (left) at the EGU 2018 General Assembly (Credit: EGU/Foto Pflugel).

Frustrating and unfair as it may be, luck plays an important role in getting your research career started. My main PhD project did not work out, but I had a very productive postdoc that grew out of a side project. I ended up in the right place at the right time, because the WAIS Divide ice core had just been drilled, and I got the privilege to work with some of the best ice core data ever measured.

Research is fundamentally a collaborative enterprise, and so developing a good network of collaborators is maybe the most important thing you can do for yourself. Be generous and helpful to your colleagues, and it will be rewarded.

A career in science sometimes feels like a game of musical chairs, with fewer and fewer positions available as you go along. But if you can hang in there it’s definitely worth it; we have the privilege of thinking about interesting problems, traveling to beautiful places, all while interacting with a global network of fantastic colleagues. Could it get much better?

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer

EGU 2019: Registration open & townhall and splinter meeting requests

EGU 2019: Registration open & townhall and splinter meeting requests

The EGU General Assembly brings together geoscientists from all over the world to one meeting that covers all disciplines of the Earth, planetary and space sciences. The conference is taking place in Vienna on 7–12 April 2019, providing an opportunity for both established scientists and early career researchers to present their work and discuss their ideas with experts in all fields of the geosciences.

Registration and abstract submission

Early registration for the conference is open until 28 February 2019. You can register online on the Register and Venue section of the General Assembly website.

Note that EGU members benefit from reduced registration rates! If you register to attend the conference before 28 February 2019 and you are an EGU member, your weekly ticket will cost €390. A similar early-bird discount is available to non-members, but weekly ticket costs are significantly higher: €530. Students and emeritus attendees enjoy reduced rates as well, and they face even lower ticket costs when registering both before the early-bird deadline as and EGU members.

Those registering after 28 February will no longer enjoy early registration discounts, regardless of their membership and career status. To become a member, or renew your EGU membership, go to www.egu.eu/membership/.

You can get a feel for the great geoscience that will be discussed at the meeting by browsing through the EGU 2019 sessions. Clicking on ‘please select’ allows you to search for sessions by Programme Group. You’ll then be able to view the sessions in more detail and submit an abstract to its relevant session.

As announced a few weeks ago, only one abstract as first author will be permitted, with a few exceptions. Authors are allowed as first author to submit either one regular abstract plus one abstract solicited by a convener, or two solicited abstracts. A second regular abstract can be submitted to the Educational and Outreach Sessions (EOS) programme group.

In addition, only EGU members will be able to submit abstracts to the meeting. You can become a member or renew your membership online on the EGU website or while registering for the EGU General Assembly.

The deadline for abstract submission is 10 January 2019, 13:00 CET. The full meeting programme will be made available in late February 2019.

Submit your townhall and splinter meeting requests

Also available on the conference website are the request forms for townhall and splinter meetings.

Townhall meetings are meetings open to all conference participants. At townhall meetings, new initiatives or decisions are announced to a larger audience, followed by an open discussion on the matter raised. If you’d like to organise a townhall, be sure to submit your request before 18 January 2019.

During the conference, side meetings on non-commercial matters organized by participants can be reserved for two successive time blocks free of charge in the rooms mentioned below. Commercial meetings are subject to a charge dependent on the meeting size – for details check the website. Be sure to submit your splinter-meeting request before 22 March 2019.

More details about the short courses, splinter and townhall meetings at the conference will be given in an upcoming blog post.

For more information about the General Assembly, please see the EGU 2019 website.

EGU 2019 will take place from 07 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.