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Help shape the conference programme: Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions at the 2019 General Assembly

Help shape the conference programme: Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions at the 2019 General Assembly

Do you enjoy the EGU’s annual General Assembly but wish you could play a more active role in shaping the scientific programme? Now is your chance! But hurry, the session submission deadline is fast approaching. You’ve got until September 6th to propose changes.

As well as the standard scientific sessions, subdivided by Programme Groups, EGU coordinates Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions (ITS) at the conference.

Now, you may be asking yourself: what exactly are ITS?

  • Interdisciplinarity looks for links between disciplines in a coordinated and coherent effort, with the aim of creating new approaches that would not be possible if handled separately.
  • Transdisciplinarity transcends traditional boundaries of disciplines by reaching out to, for example, social, economic, and political sciences.

The Earth, oceans, space and society are interconnected in many different ways; rarely can one system be perturbed without others being affected too.

The aim of ITS is to foster and facilitate exchange of knowledge both across scientific divisions. These sessions should either link disciplines within the geosciences in a novel way to address specific (and often new) problems (interdisciplinary sessions) or link the geosciences to other disciplines, in particular from the humanities, to address societal challenges (transdisciplinary sessions).

If inter- and transdisciplinarity is important to you and your work, know that you too can co-organise your session as an Inter- and Transdisciplinary Session. Read on to discover how!

The skeleton programme for the 2019 General Assembly currently features three ITS themes and a general open call for ITS sessions:

  • ITS1: History of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences
  • ITS2: Resources and the energy transition
  • ITS3: Contributions of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences to changes in society
  • ITS4: Open call for ITS sessions

Sessions within each of these ITS themes will be scheduled closely together, to foster cross-division links and collaborations.

To propose a session in one of the planned inter- and transdisciplinary themes, follow these simple steps:

  • Visit the ITS pages on the EGU 2019 website
  • Suggest a new session (within one of the four ITS options)
  • Choose a Programme Group that will be the scientific leader. For example, if you choose BG, your session will be listed in the programme as ITS/BG
  • Suggest more Programme Groups for co-organisation in the comment box

Wondering whether your session would fit as an ITS? Just ask ITS Programme Group Chairs, Peter van der Beek (its@egu.eu) or Susanne Buiter (programme.committee@egu.eu).

Peter and Susanne, are looking forward to a strong inter- and transdisciplinary programme at the 2019 General Assembly. But they need your help to achieve this!

You can also find more information about the call for sessions (and the organisation of the scientific programme in general) on the EGU 2019 website.

The EGU’s 2018 General Assembly, takes place in Vienna from 7 to 12 April, 2019. For more news about the upcoming General Assembly, you can also follow the official hashtag, #EGU19, on our social media channels.

GeoTalk: How will large Icelandic eruptions affect us and our environment?

GeoTalk: How will large Icelandic eruptions affect us and our environment?

Geotalk is a regular feature highlighting early career researchers and their work. In this interview we speak to Anja Schmidt, an interdisciplinary researcher at the University of Cambridge who draws from atmospheric science, climate modelling, and volcanology to better understand the environmental impact of volcanic eruptions. She is also the winner of a 2018 Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists. You can find her on twitter at @volcanofile. 

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

I was born and raised in Leipzig, Germany. I started my career completing an apprenticeship as an IT system engineer with the engineering company Siemens. I then decided to combine my interests in geology and IT by studying geology and palaeontology (with minors in Computing/IT and Geophysics) at the University of Leipzig in Germany. As part of my degree programme, I also studied at the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment as an exchange student. I liked studying there so much I ended up returning to Leeds for a PhD.

My PhD on the atmospheric and environmental impacts of tropospheric volcanic aerosol again combined my interests in computing and volcanology, although I had to educate myself in atmospheric physics and chemistry, which wasn’t easy to begin with. However, I was embedded in a diverse,   supportive research group with excellent supervision, which eased the transition from being a geologist to becoming a cross between an atmospheric scientist and a volcanologist.

Initially, being neither one nor the other made me nervous. My supervisors and mentors all had rather straightforward career paths, whereas I was thought of as an atmospheric scientist when I presented my research in front of volcanologists and as a volcanologist when I presented to atmospheric scientists.

After my PhD, I spent just under 2 years at one post-doc before securing an independent research fellowship at the University of Leeds. The first year of total independence and responsibility as principle investigator was very challenging, but after a while I began to appreciate the benefits of the situation. I also really started to embrace the fact that I would always sit between the disciplines. I spent my summers in the United States at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, helping them to build up their capability to simulate volcanic eruptions in their climate model. These research visits had a major impact on my career as they generated a lot of new research ideas, opened up opportunities and strengthened my network of collaborators greatly.

I considered myself settled when, shortly before the end of my fellowship, a lectureship came up. It had the word ‘interdisciplinary’ in its title and I simply couldn’t resist. Since September 2017, I have been an interdisciplinary lecturer at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

At this year’s General Assembly, you will receive an Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists for your work on the environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions. What brought you to study this particular field?

I have always been fascinated by volcanic eruptions, but my first active volcano viewing wasn’t until college, where I had to chance to travel to Stromboli, a volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. While studying at the University of Leipzig, I used every opportunity to join field trips to volcanoes. I ended up spending 10 weeks in Naples, Italy to work with Giovanni Chiodini, a researcher from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, and his team on CO2 degassing from soils at the Solfatara volcano. Later on I was awarded a scholarship from the University of Leeds, which allowed me to delve deeper into the subject, although I ended up learning as much about atmospheric science and computer modelling as about volcanology.

Anja in front of the 2010 Fimmvörðuháls eruption in Iceland. Fimmvörðuháls was the pre-cursor eruption to Eyjafjallajökull. Credit: Anja Schmidt.

My PhD work focused on Icelandic volcanism and its potential effects on the atmosphere as well as society. In 2010, during the 3rd year of my PhD studies, Eyjafjallajökull erupted in Iceland. While an eruption like this and its impacts did not really come as a surprise to a volcanologist, I personally considered it a game-changer for my career. I had an opportunity to witness the pre-cursor eruption in Iceland and present my research. Within a matter of months, interest in my work increased. I even started to advise UK government officials on the risks and hazards of volcanic eruptions in Iceland.

In August 2014, an effusive eruption started at the Holuhraun lava field in Iceland. To this date, analysing field measurements and satellite data of the site and modelling simulations keeps me busy. Many of my senior colleagues told me that there is one event or eruption that defined their careers; for me that’s the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption.

At the General Assembly you also plan to talk about your work on volcanic sulphur emissions and how these emissions can alter our atmosphere as well as potentially affect human health in Europe. Could you tell us a little more about this research?

On average, there is one volcanic eruption every three to five years in Iceland. The geological record in Iceland also reveals that sulphur-rich and long-lasting volcanic eruptions, similar to Iceland’s Laki eruption in 1783-1784, occur once every 200 to 500 years. Sulphur dioxide and sulphate particles produced by volcanic eruptions can have detrimental effects on air quality and human health. Historical records from the 1780s imply that the Laki eruption caused severe environmental stress and contributed to spikes in mortality rates far beyond the shores of Iceland. While these long-lasting eruptions occur much less frequently than more typical short-duration explosive eruptions (like Grímsvötn 2011), they are classified as ‘high-impact’ events.

I was always interested in investigating how a similar magnitude eruption like Laki’s would affect modern society. By combining a global aerosol microphysics model with volcanological datasets and epidemiological evidence, I led a cross-disciplinary study to quantify the impact that a future Laki-type eruption would have on air quality and human health in Europe today.

Our work suggests that such an eruption could significantly degrade air quality over Europe for up to 12 months, effectively doubling the concentrations of small-sized airborne particles in the atmosphere during the first three months of the eruption. Drawing from the epidemiological literature on human response to air pollution, I showed that up to 140,000 cardiopulmonary fatalities could occur across Europe due to such an eruption, a figure that exceeds the annual mortality from seasonal influenza in Europe.

In January 2012, this discovery was used by the UK government as contributing evidence for including large-magnitude effusive Icelandic eruptions to the UK National Risk Register. This will help to mitigate the societal impacts of future eruptions through contingency planning.

Anja and her colleague Evgenia Ilyinskaya from the University of Leeds carrying out measurements during the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption in Iceland. Credit: Njáll Fannar Reynisson.

Since then, we have done more work on smaller-magnitude effusive eruptions such as the 2014-2015 Holuhraun eruption in Iceland, showing that this eruption resulted in short-lived volcanic air pollution episodes across central and northern Europe and longer-lasting and more complex pollution episodes in Iceland itself.

Something that you’ve touched on throughout this interview are the challenges of ‘sitting between the disciplines.’ From your experience, what has helped you address these issues throughout your career?

Indeed, it is often challenging to sit between the disciplines, but it can also be very rewarding. It helps to ignore boundaries between disciplines. I also tend to read a lot and very widely to get an idea of key concepts and issues in specific fields. In addition, I think collaboration and a willingness to challenge yourself are key if you want to make progress and break traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Anja, thank you so much for speaking to us about your research and career path. Before I let you go, what advice do you have for aspiring scientists? 

Be curious and never hesitate to ask a lot questions, no matter how ‘stupid’ or basic they may seem to you. The latter is particularly true when it comes to cross-disciplinary collaboration and work.  I also didn’t always follow the conventional route most people would advise you to take to achieve something. Never be afraid to take a chance or work with some level of risk.

I also have two or three close mentors that I can approach whenever I require some advice or feedback. No matter what career stage you are at, I think it almost always helps to get an outsider’s perspective and insight not only when there are problems.

Finally, never forget to have fun. Some of my best pieces of work were done when I was surrounded by collaborators that are really fun to be with and work with!

Interview by Olivia Trani, EGU Communications Officer.

References: 

Ilyinskaya, E., et al.: Understanding the environmental impacts of large fissure eruptions: Aerosol and gas emissions from the 2014–2015 Holuhraun eruption (Iceland), Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 472, 309-322, 2017

Schmidt, A., et al.: Satellite detection, long-range transport, and air quality impacts of volcanic sulfur dioxide from the 2014–2015 flood lava eruption at Bárðarbunga (Iceland)Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres12097399757, 2015

Schmidt, et al.: Excess mortality in Europe following a future Laki-style Icelandic eruption, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(38), 15710-15715, 2011

New Dimensions for Natural Hazards in Asia: the first AOGS–EGU Joint Conference

New Dimensions for Natural Hazards in Asia: the first AOGS–EGU Joint Conference

Asia is one of the most natural disaster-prone regions on the globe. Overpopulation and limited resources mean that natural hazards hit local populations particularly hard.

“It doesn’t matter which index or evaluation method you use, Asia will always unfortunately come out on top when it comes to fatalities and damage from natural hazard events,” explains Dr. Adam Switzer, a member of the conference’s Executive Organizing Committee.

To provide a global platform, which brings together participants from across the world and addresses the challenges which need to be unraveled, as well as the potential solutions, the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society (AOGS) and EGU have partner to host their very first joint meeting.

With Taal Volcano as the spectacular backdrop, students, early career and established scientists will gather in the Philippines from the 4th to 8th February 2018, to discuss current advances in knowledge and new perspectives relevant to natural hazards in the Asian region.

“We hope that this conference will be a fundamental new step to addressing some of the most pressing hazard problems in the region by bringing together some of the world’s top hazard practitioners in the physical, social and political sciences,” goes on to say Switzer.

The meeting will boast an innovative format, with the organisers actively sidestepping the tradition conference triple Ss: sections, sessions and silos. Instead, the programme is arranged in a series of themes which, through panels, discussion groups, networking and poster introductions, will explore seven overarching topics: from natural hazards in the megacity, to multi-hazard interactions, right through to the transient and long-term effects of catastrophic perturbations.

Niels Hovius, also of the conference’s Executive Organizing Committee, adds: “we strive for a programme that explores the connectivity between processes, cause and effect, a programme that acknowledges the fact that many natural disasters have an important time dynamic, lasting much longer than the initial impact.”

The conference abstract submission is currently open, so if your research falls within one of the conference themes, consider contributing to the meeting. But hurry! Abstract submission closes on 31st August 2017.

As well as discussing and sharing advances in natural hazards science, conference participants will get the opportunity to experience the impacts of natural hazards first hand.

The Philippines is, unfortunately, rich with natural hazards and as such provides a wealth of opportunity to investigate the physical, social and economic aspects of numerous natural hazards through a series of conference field trips.  

“The recent earthquake in Bohol, the 1991 Pinatubo eruption and the devastation and recovery from 2013 Typhoon Haiyan are all part of the field program,” highlights Switzer.

Not only that, the conference takes place in a sought-after location, by tourists and locals alike. The Taal Vista Hotel is deeply rooted in the heritage of Tagaytay City. Overlooking Lake Taal, with views which stretch out over Taal volcano, it is also only a little over an hour away from the bustling city of Manila.

“There are a large range of very affordable to more luxurious accommodations available in Tagatay, although early booking is encouraged as the area is a popular one for tourism due to its environmental beauty,” points out Bruce Malamud, of the conference’s Executive Organizing Committee.

The AOGS-EGU conference is accessible and affordable for both early career and more senior researchers from around the globe. It hopes to bring together the international research community, with the scientific programme, as well as its spectacular setting, suited to natural hazard scholars and practitioners alike.

The Executive Organizing Committee also hopes that its appeal will transcend the geosciences and that the meeting’s themes will attract those dealing with other aspects of natural disasters: medics, planners, managers, educators and more.

“It is important that we have dialogues that reach beyond the confines of our disciplines,” says Hovius, “For me, this conference will be an opportunity to see some iconic sites, but also to make contacts with local researchers who may be interested in joining international projects targeting multi-hazards, transient response and anomalous events.”

Visit the conference website for all the meeting details. Among the website pages you’ll find information about the conference themes, abstract submission requirements and an overview of the meeting programme. Early bird registrations (until 23rd November 2017) receive a heavily discounted rate, as do AOGS and EGU members. Students also benefit from reduced registration fees.

The website is also packed with logistical information, from details about the conference venue, through to what you can expect to eat, see and do in Tagaytay City. You can also find out if you require a visa for travel to the Philippines and what to do if you are a national of a non-visa exempt country.

By Laura Roberts (EGU Communications Officer) in collaboration with the AOGS–EGU Joint Conference Executive Organizing Committee

For inquiries about the conference please contact Meeting Matters International (nathazards@meetmatt.net). Further contact information is available on the Joint Conference website. You can also receive updates about the conference on Facebook.