The European Geophysical Union General Assembly is one of the largest gatherings of geoscientists in the world, with over 12000 participants descending on Vienna, Austria. Attending conferences and driving knowledge exchange is a major part of the transition from being a student to a full research scientist. As a self-funded PhD student in my 3rd year, I had yet to attend a major conference either in the UK or overseas and attending the European Geophysical Union General Assembly had always been an ambition. This was only made possible through the help of a BSSS student travel grant.
Presentation of Research Posters
I presented two research posters at the conference. The first, ‘Pollutant swapping: greenhouse gas emissions from wetland systems constructed to mitigate agricultural pollution’, summarised the main field based component of my PhD project. Results from a lab microcosm experiment were also presented in a second poster ‘The effect of water oxygen content on the production of greenhouse gases from shallow pond sediments’. Both posters received substantial attention from visitors, who were keen to discuss both the posters content and the wider issues relating to agricultural pollution and mitigation. Among those who discussed my poster was a Professor whose papers I have cited numerous times throughout my thesis. After some discussion of my findings he encouraged my attendance at another conference in the autumn. The experience was motivating, constructive and exciting, as well as highlighting a few issues which I had not considered, and influencing my thinking about future experiments.
In addition to presenting my own work, the general assembly was a fantastic place to view a diverse range of cutting edge research. All aspects of geosciences were showcased, from planetary sciences to oceanography and atmospheric to soil sciences. Presentations were in oral, poster and also hybrid formats which combined elements of traditional style presentations to create a new way of transferring information. Being interested in soil-water and water-atmosphere interactions, I chose to mainly sit in on sessions focussing on greenhouse gas transfers from terrestrial and aquatic environments, for example ‘Herds of methane chambers grazing bubbles’. This study, like my own, utilised low cost chambers to measure methane fluxes from sediments. However the presentation detailed how resolution could be increased both temporally and spatially through use of automation of chambers and giving them GPS guidance systems. Although too complex for my own work, the concept was an interesting one, and also dealt with many of the problems I have faced myself.
I also attended numerous other lectures dealing with various aspects of catchment management, such as using farmers to monitor water quality on their land in areas with diffuse nutrient problems, and improving the resilience of catchments to flooding and drought. All were highly interesting and in some cases demonstrated how grass-roots approaches to dealing with catchment issues, could make an impact in the real world.
Philippe Duchaufour Medal Lecture - A soil's perspective on sustainable agriculture
A number of special lectures were delivered by individuals who were being awarded for their contributions to their field. The Philippe Duchaufour Medal Lecture ‘A soil's perspective on sustainable agriculture’ was delivered by recipient Johan Six. The lecture moved through work on aggregates before finally focussing on the issues of sustainable agriculture, particularly in the developing world. As part of this, the need for ‘home-grown’ soil scientists in these regions was highlighted.
The post-conference review
Attending the EGU General Assembly 2014 was a great experience, a personal milestone and also highly informative. The knowledge I have gained through discussion of my own work and observing the ongoing work of others will be used to enhance my own thinking and perhaps lead to new paths of enquiry in the future. I can only hope to return soon and many thanks to BSSS for the award the student travel grant which made it possible.