#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.

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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?!

EGU 2014 Day 5 – The big presentation, widening participation and communicating global risk

So here we are. The final day at EGU and I’m about to present in my first international conference. To add to all that I actually have a pretty busy day as I have to be in Lyme Regis in Dorset this evening – so packing, catching the flight and driving for 3 hours back to Lyme were all also in my schedule today. Nevertheless I appeared all ready for my talk at 8am this morning – and was welcomed by my name on the board!


The session I was presenting in was called ‘Geoscience Education for Sustainable Development and Widening Participation‘ (EOS7) and was a mix of talks looking at geoscience communication and understanding from how to communicate your science, to using serious games to increase understanding about CO2 storage, to using place-based learning to help students engage with geology. Now I know I’m biased, but I thought the session was great – lots of interesting ideas and new concepts. My talk went pretty well I think – I always worry about speaking to an academic audience, especially when I’m an interdisciplinary. How many terms from cognitive science can I use without it being jargon? This is a highly educated audience after all! So I retreated into my preferred method of assuming some knowledge, but embroidering any terms with an accompanying image or explanation. I hope it worked!! In any case, after the initial terror faded I actually really enjoyed it (despite having to present after the dynamic and accessible presenting style of Sam Illingworth – gulp!). Hooray!


The orals were followed by the poster session of the same name, and I went along to have a look at the posters presented. Again there was a huge variety, but one of my favourites was about ‘A New Protocol in La Spezia for Elementary and Secondary School Students for Monitoring Perception Towards Science and Performance in School Classrooms‘. I had a long talk with Mascha Stroobant and Silvia Merlino about their research and during this talk I couldn’t help thinking how it was really difficult to know what was happening in science perception studies in other countries as all our research is at such an early stage. There seemed to be no advanced or established research in science perception at EGU (that I could find, but I will kick myself if there was and I missed it), which makes it difficult to know what mistakes have been made before, how to avoid those pitfalls and the best methods for ensuring we have valid data.

My final session of Friday (and of EGU) was ‘Global and Continental Scale Risk Assessment for Natural Hazards: Methods and Practice‘ (NH9.13). I could only go to half of this session and I wanted to go to support a friend who was presenting there – the brilliant Joel Gill, PhD student at Kings College London and founder/director of Geology for Global Development. He was presenting his work on ‘Reviewing and Visualising Relationships Between Anthropic Processes and Natural Hazards within a Multi-Hazard Framework‘. The brilliant thing about his research is that he presents risk within a continuum of natural and anthropic causes of hazard, not just in terms of vulnerability.


Unfortunately after Joel’s talk I had to dash off to catch the coach and so that was the end of my first EGU experience. I learned that geoscience is a much broader subject than I ever thought it was, and that people like myself in all varieties of interdisciplinary research are attempting to expand our understanding of the planet to new fronteirs. I learned that communication and public understanding of geology isn’t just important to industry, but to ALL geoscientists and even those working in narrow fields see the value of speaking about their research. I learned that I am part of a vibrant, enthusiastic and welcoming community, and all those things that I think I am alone in worrying about (because they are about interviews, psychology and data representation) are shared in different forms by many other reseracheres. I also learned that there is so much more to learn – and EGU just got me even more fired up to go back into the field and get back into my office – BRING ON THE DATA!!