Geology films on UK Netflix (part one)

Inspired by a twitter conversation a couple of weeks ago started by @GeoSciTweeps and #BadGeologyFilms I wanted to see what geology films were available if you wanted to get a dose of geology viewing. Now this is totally skewed towards … Continue reading

Do job interviews bring out my inner idiot?

I hate job interviews. I always come out of them dejected and frustrated – feeling impotent and unprepared. Which is totally unrealistic. There is absolutely no professional situation that I will not prepare for and although you read as much … Continue reading

PhD status? Completed!!! In other words, I’m back, b!tches.

*cough, cough*

*waves away dust*

Hello? Is anyone here?

Wow. So it’s been a over a year since I last posted and I am very very sorry for neglecting this blog. Partly because I really enjoy writing these posts and they became a great way for me to express my ups and downs over the last few years. But over the last year and half I was absorbed in writing something so massive that I had no words left in me at all at the end of the day – even fun ones.

Yes, I was writing my PhD thesis. Now as anyone else who has done this will know it is all encompassing. A behemoth.


And for a while I couldn’t see anything beyond it. Now it is done: written, submitted, viva’ed and alterations made, my PhD is officially over.


I did it – you can now call me Dr Gibson (squees endlessly in the background).


It was really, really, REALLY difficult to write. I wrestled with just the writing for over a year and I’m still not sure I have the required distance to write about the experience. Maybe later. But for now, yes I am back, I’ll try and get on with regular posting as well as making good on some posts I have been thinking about and have sat in my drafts folder for waaaay too long.


As proof, and in an effort to follow the excellent example of Open Access champion Dr Jon Tennant in making my work as accessible as possible, I have added my thesis onto Figshare, you can read it here if you want (it’s also on my University Open Access page Pearl).

But don’t feel obliged – it’s really long!


And so, on to the future! It’s good to be back.


You can see how happy I was to hand in my thesis – it was the end of a very long year.




#EGU16 Day 2 – perceptions, IODP/ICDP and poetry

Day two is over and it was another great day! The weather was beautiful today, really tempting people out of the conference centre and into the lovely Vienna, but luckily there were also lots of brilliant talks to draw people in, including the ones I attended today!

I started off at the Interdisciplinary approaches in climatic change research and assessment, at a talk presenting work examining the contrasting perceptions of anthropogenic coastal agricultural landscapes in Canada and Italy.

2016-04-19 11.00.23

The presenter, Stefano Targetti, discussed his work about the perceptions of two case study populations (one in Canada and one in Italy) relating to their anthropogenic coastal landscapes. What he found after conducting a series of online surveys, was that the relative age of an anthropogenic landscape plays an important role in their perceptual value. In Canada, the artificial dykes are considered a human masterpiece, but in Italy, similarly industrialised landscapes that are newer are viewed as an alien landscape. At the conclusion of the presentation, Stefano suggested that in order to best manage vulnerable coastal landscapes, the greater effort needs to be made to highlight the value of services above and beyond their monetary value. 

The next session I went to was all about poetry. Science poetry to be specific! In this session called Rhyme-your-research I: Composition, scientists and poets Sam Illingworth, Esther Posner and Tim van Emmerik encouraged the delegates from across the conference to think about how they can communicate their science in poetry form. 

I keep six honest serving-men,
They taught me all I knew
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who.

– The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling

After listening to some poetry, reading some poems aloud to each other and attempting to analyse what poems might mean for us, it was time to have a go a writing our own. We started simply, by trying to write Acrostic poems, where a letter at the beginning of the sentence spells a word – in our case it was obviously E, G and U! A couple of the poems that the participants came up with are included below – what would you do?

After that we learned about rhyming and non-rhyming poems and were challenged to write a proper poem to share at the end of the session. I chose to try and do a Kyrielle poem, which has a strict set of rules, but is really great for science communication as the repeating last line emphasises the key point of the research.

This is my first attempt at a poem that is about my science studies – I couldn’t go so far as to make it rhyme properly – that’s my next task!

Tall chimneys litter the landscape
whilst old men share crystals they found
people who live here are happy
using mines to see underground

Geologists like to use maps
taking clues from the land around
they don’t understand the locals
using mines to see underground

What I learned is that poetry is a fun and interesting way to explore your science and you shouldn’t be afraid to give it a go!! This was only the first of three science poetry sessions that will be spread across the week of EGU.

The session for me today was the IODP/ICDP Townhall meeting. Now IODP stands for International Oceanic Drilling Programme and ICDP stands for the International Continental Drilling Programme. The great thing about these two initaives is that they don’t specify what the resrachers who work with them study – they just go along on the expeditions that they are interested in. This year is the ICDP’s 20th anniversary and as part of the meeting, a colleague of mine Dr Michelle Harris was presenting her experiences of working with both of these groups in a great example of how scientists with different backgrounds can apply their knowledge in a whole range of situations. Michelle’s work is on ocean crust using petrology and geochemistry. Now you may be wondering how an ocean crust researcher gets to work on a continental drilling program, but the answer is something called an ophiolite. Ophiolites are large sections of ocean crust that have been emplaced on top of the continental rocks. Michelle was explaining her role in drilling some ophiolites in Oman to answer a series of questions related to hydrothermal alterations of the rock that have implications for carbon capture and storage, carbon sequestration and a whole series of scientific questions about the alteration of oceanic rocks.

A sketch of how ophiolites are formed (Image credit: volcano world, Oregon State University)

A sketch of how ophiolites are formed (Image credit: volcano world, Oregon State University)

If you are interested in this kind of thing and want to get involved, the application for participants in the Oman drilling project has just opened and can be accessed here. This session finished as many do with geologists – in a celebration of good drinks and good company!

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How was your second day – did you enjoy it as much as I did?!

#EGU16 Day 1 – Ethics, planets and fractals.

We’re here!! Day one of #EGU16 has been and gone and wow was it a cracker! I got to attend lots of interesting sessions today, starting off with the ‘Geoethics: theoretical and practical aspects from research integrity to relationships between geosciences and society‘  session in the morning, which featured some really interesting talks on the place of ethics in geoscience. Its a conversation that I feel is really important – as an interdisciplinary researcher coming from a geoscience background, I had never really considered ethics before I started the psychology side of my studies, but you would perhaps be surprised at how necessary it is to mainstream geoscience. One of the speakers Stefano Tinti discussed the difficulty of providing short term hazard assessments, as unlike long term assessments, they were harder to prove ‘scientifically’. Instead he proposed a cyclical interaction between geohazard assessors and the users.

“Science assessment needs to replace a line with a loop”

Stefano Tinti, University of Bologna

Next we heard from a colleague of mine Johanna Ickert, who is a transdisciplinary visual anthropologist studying seismic risk communication in Istanbul. Ethics is very much at the centre of Johanna’s work, so it comes as no surprise that her work had produced some very interesting results. Key amongst her findings from was the perception that locals judged the scientists to have a moral responsibility as a major player in the approach to seismic risk in Istanbul, but that the scientists expressed a reluctance to go beyond their established role as subject expert.

Johanna Ickert's talk front slide

Later in the day I attended a joint NASA-ESA-EGU Union Session and observed a talk on NASA’s planetary missions, given by Jim Spann. This was a great talk, not only because it gave insights about a whole host of different missions, but also highlighted the truly international remit of space exploration. Often I hear people bemoan the UK’s lack of a space programme, but this talk showed that it doesn’t matter which country you live in, you can still get involved in a space programme! Jim described the two main types of mission, entire (where the whole mission objective is completed in one go) or strategic (where it might take several missions to complete the objective).

Number of NASA missions with an international component

He described how many of the missions have an international component that you might be surprised by – the photo above has circles around all the mission with international collaboration, which although you can’t see any of the detail, really goes to show how much of NASA’s missions rely on the scientific, technical and logistical support of other countries around the world. Also I was surprised to hear about the unexpected durability of some of the spacecraft – the Cassini mission has been extended TWICE, which Jim said is a stamp for the success and longevity of international endeavours. He ended his slide with an image which is so far my favourite of the conference – if anyone knows where it is from, please let me know, as I think it is spectacular!!

girl blowing planet bubbles NASA

One of my final sessions of the day was one that I mentioned in yesterday’s post 5 sessions you may have missed. Yes, of course I mean the session on fractals!! Or to give it the correct name: ‘Multifractals and singularity analysis in mineral exploration and environmental assessment‘. Now maths is not one of my easiest languages – it can be quite a struggle for me sometimes, but a talk combining fractals, singularities and geology?! COME ON!!! So I went to find out about fractals. The talk I saw was presented by Claudia Oleshko, and discussed the use of fractals in geoengineering for hydrocarbon reserves. As far as I understood the talk, she said that you can’t use fractals if you have no idea of the physics of the region you are trying to model, but that if you do, fractals provide a way to combine and integrate heterogeneous data (aka data that is all different types/kinds) at a range of scales. When you do this you get better quality information about how fluid flows inside pores, that can be used by industry  to improve oil and gas extraction. And just to be clear here when I say fractals, I mean fractals like this:


What a day!! I’m looking forward to tomorrow now, what sessions have you got planned?