woensdag 15 april 2015

EGU 2015 Mid Week Update: A Young Scientist among Giants

With the European Geophysical Union General Assembly halfway there, it is time for me to sit and write down all my experiences as a young scientist. From sitting behind your desk, interacting with max 3 living beings (one of them is my office plant), to literally meeting thousands of scientists from around the world can be a little bit exhausting. Therefore, I have my mid week moment-of-zen, which I use to write this blog.

Pre-EGU2015 adventures:
Due to a tight-scheduled revision of one of my papers, I had little time to design and print my poster, forcing me to drop by the print office on my way to the airplane. After a provocatively slow printer, I hurried to the airplane and got my flight to Vienna.

After extra long minutes my poster was ready to go!
Arriving at Vienna, I checked in my hotel, after a short train ride from the airport. During the waiting on the platform and the train ride, you could spot them already: other scientists, still a little weary from the flight and carrying to much luggage, but above all the characteristic poster holder. I forgot mine, so they all looked back at me with empathy, the first crease awls on my poster were visible. 

After a good night sleep I set the alarm early, I needed to get my entrance badge. At 08:00 o'clock registration would open, but at 07:30 lines of scientists started to form. Luckily, I was there at 07:29, so in front and got my badge after waiting half an hour.

Let the learning begin!
Day 1: Monday 13 April 2015
With my notebook as equipment I charged inside, took a quick look and went to my first session. The first presentation was about a new theory in plate generation. It neatly explained why Earth has plate tectonics and Venus does not! This speaker linked his theory to the tiniest elements in Geosciences, crystal structures. Wow, this would become a very nice week.

During the day, I learned about how crystal structures could have an effect on long-term behaviour of crust and mantle and advancements in seismic imaging. Not bad for a gravity scientist. The most interesting talk was about melt distributions in a convecting mantle. The speaker spoke about his theory that explained why geophysical data sometimes show a sharp LAB boundary and sometimes they do not. This intrigued me, because I run across this problem in my own studies. Using a theory called redox melting of CO2 in the mantle, the asthenosphere can have extra melting (Oxygen somehow lowers melting point) regimes above areas with a lot of diamonds (C). This results in a sharp signal in geophysical observations, like seismic tomography. This concept only works when there is convection in the mantle. Could it be that where no clear LAB signal is present, we have stagnant convection areas? Back home, I need to read up on this. 

During transfer between talks and posters, I met a lot of old friends and colleagues and in the evening, I ended up with some of them in a cool restaurant designed like a library. I slept like a baby.

Day 2: Tuesday 14 April 2015
After a warm, but good night sleep (broken airco), I was ready to fill my brains with knowledge. I decided to see what the cryosphere people were doing. One of the speakers talked about his life work, mapping snow coverage on the Northern Hemisphere, using satellite photography and many other techniques. One of the interesting (and maybe a little bit troubling) things was that he saw a decline in snow cover in the spring months during the 50 years of satellite data coverage. Could this be a climate change signal or do the seasons change a little bit with respect to our calendar?

During the same session, one of my (young) Giants was presenting his results on ice melting of the Northern ice sheets (Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya and other Russian islands). He combined GRACE gravity measurements and ICESat/Cryosat altimetry measurements to observe this ice mass changes with extreme spatial accuracy. You could see ice mass changes of individual ice sheets. Very cool! All three satellite observations fitted perfectly on top of each other. Hooray for the satellites and remote sensing.

After an interesting session about seismic anisotropy, I had a quick lunch with some colleagues of mine. Quick, because I did not want to miss the medal lecture of one of my other Giants. I have been reading papers of this medalist from the start of my PhD. They quickly helped me to get accustomed in geophysical modelling (my background was satellite orbit determination). I briefly met him on a field trip in the Italian Apennines and discussed topics like elastic strength of the lithosphere and mantle rheology. His talk was incredible and an inspiration to continue my work with more motivation and energy.

After the medal lecture, I went together with a friend, which I met on my first conference as starting-PhD and now coincidently sat next to me, to listen to a speaker that boldly stated that the Indian collision with Asia could not have been initiated before 20 Ma. All the geologist in the room silently (or less silently) struggled with this concept, but his geophysical modelling was very good and they could not break his theory.

I finished the day with presentations and posters about how to use gravity in geosciences, more common ground for me. Interesting results, especially the fact that satellite-based gravity gradients are not sensitive to deep mantle effects, which could help in constraining crustal masses much better. Again a good day!

I now have to run to the poster session of today, because I want to know more about the core-mantle boundary and its effects on the Earth system...or I could sit in the sun in front of the entrance...

Scientists in the Sun

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