A first time for everything

This is the 6th time that I am attending the EGU and yesterday I managed for the first time to be busy the entire day with meetings and actually not listening to any presentation or looking at any poster. That’s what scientists normally do most of the time at conferences. Listening to other scientists presenting their studies. The EGU is thematically subdivided into 22  divisions. I am usually jumping around between sessions of Atmospheric Sciences, Biogeosciences and Soil System Sciences. This is enough to bring your calendar to explode because normally one ends up with at least three different sessions running at the same time, and of course, at opposite ends of a four-storey building. However at the EGU, it does not stop there. For me it is THE PLACE for networking and there are loads of additional sessions dealing exactly just with that.

First of all, there are so-called non-public splinter meetings. You want to sit down with scientists from other universities and work on something? You can book a meeting room at the EGU. Yesterday morning we were seven people sitting together for one and a half hour working on drafts for scientific papers from a measurement campaign. These meetings can also be organized as public meetings for networking in the scientific community (e.g. “Ideas and perspectives for future research on forests and the CH4 and N2O cycles” organized by Mari Pihlatie from Helsinki) and it is also possible to contribute actively to shaping the programme of the EGU General Assembly in 2018 by joining the subdivision meetings (e.g. Subdivision SSS4: Soil Biology, Microbiology and Biodiversity). If you are a young scientist, go to these meetings! It is a great way to increase your visibility in the research community. In addition to the scientific and administrative sessions and meetings, there is also a huge exhibition with companies presenting their scientific instruments. These companies are keen on getting to know our research interests and needs to design new product lines. In the best case, it is a win-win situation for both sides. I had a meeting with a LI-COR Biosciences representative to discuss what I like about the currently availabe suit of gas analyzers and what improvements and new developments I am looking for to use in future measurement campaigns. And of course at the end of the day, I had to present my poster.

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Poster presentations at the EGU can be a bit daunting and overwhelming for both the presenters and the audience. There are huge halls where you have nothing but posters. “That poster abstract sounds interesting, but do I want to walk another kilometer today to find it? Brain, are you still capable of taking in new information?”.

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And thus it can happen that you have invested a lot of time in preparing a nice poster and you are at a conference with over 10.000 scientists, but maybe only two or three actually stop at your poster and maybe one asks you a question. Yesterday, I had the best poster session at the EGU ever! I love my research topic and think it is absolutely awesome and cool. What a feeling when other people come to you and have the same opinion. As it turned out, my boss did a great job in advertising my poster during her talk in the morning. A lot of people came and said “I heard this talk in the morning, can you explain me more about this and that”. One and a half hours of author’s attendance time (the time you actually should stand next to your poster to answer questions) were just flying by and I stopped counting to how many people I spoke during that time. Yes, fresh motivational boost for the upcoming work!

To finish the day, I went to listening to a talk by Pete Smith. For all of you soil scientists out there, yes, THE Pete Smith. Yesterday, he received the Philippe Duchaufour Medal for his outstanding contribution to the field of soil science and this guy is just an awesome presenter. The title of his lecture might give a hint (“Soil science is way more fun than a proper job”). You should really have a look at his abstract. And don’t get back to the first sentence of this blog post. This didn’t count as listening to a presentation. That was relaxing after work.

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Goodbye solitude

Spring marks the beginning of a new field season. When I spent my days in the field measuring CH₄ fluxes between soils and the atmosphere, I am mostly all by myself. Last Thursday at my mesocosm experiment that little insect kept me company which didn’t mind being carried around with the measurement equipment.

However right now, I am in Vienna to visit one of the biggest conferences I can possibly attend in my reasearch area. The European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2017 has begun.

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A full week of listening, watching, discussions, networking … over 900 sessions and more than 10000 attendees. Topics ranging literally from the Earth’s core all the way into outer space. You can even watch part of the action from home. For me, it will be the first time to present my project CH4ScarabDetect to a really large and diverse audience. If you are actually at the conference this week and interested to learn more about my project or insect CH₄ emissions in general, you can find me in poster hall X1 at board 17:30-19:00. My project supervisor, Prof. Claudia Kammann, is going to talk about rose chafers (Cetonia aurata) early in the morning in session SSS4.7.

EGU2017-12499 | Posters | SSS4.7

The influence of cockchafer larvae on net soil methane fluxes under different vegetation types – a mesocosm study
Carolyn-Monika Görres, Claudia Kammann, David Chesmore, and Christoph Müller
Tue, 25 Apr, 17:30–19:00, Hall X1, X1.221

EGU2017-12198 | Orals | SSS4.7

Stimulation of methane oxidation by CH4-emitting rose chafer larvae in well-aerated grassland soil
Claudia Kammann, Carolyn-Monika Görres, Stefan Ratering, and Christoph Mueller
Tue, 25 Apr, 08:45–09:00, Room -2.32

March for Science

I study greenhouse gas fluxes between soils and the atmosphere, but I will never see my study object. I can hold a beetle larva in my hand knowing that it potentially can emit methane, but the gases stay invisible. I only ever see them indirectly as numbers on a screen or a printout. Thus it is essential for my work to be able to trust the output of analyzers, but also to trust data and publications made available by other scientists. At the same time, I have to be very critical about my own work and the work of others. All measurements have uncertainties and are prone to errors. Measurements can be interpreted in different ways. The combination of trust, critical assessment, sharing data and knowledge as well as open discussions are key elements of research integrity and the basis for advancing our knowledge. Alternative facts don’t help here. And that is why I marched for science today. And of course, to have a great time with a bunch of funny, cool and crazy people I have never met before.