WEG update – EGU 2016

Greetings from EGU 2016 in Vienna!

WEG is in attendance and contributing talks and poster presentations at the EGU (European Geoscience Union) congress (http://www.egu2016.eu/). This is my first experience of EGU and Vienna. First impressions are definitely agreeable, albeit through the filter of jet lag. It’s been great to catch up with international colleagues like Josh Larsen, Gina Moseley, James and Lisa Baldini and more.

Monday 18th – the day was dominated by the speleothem palaeoclimate session which comprised a series of experimental studies, methods advancements as well as full palaeoclimate records. As ever, the need for innovation in speleothem research, especially in regard to the interpretation of traditional geochemical proxies (C & O isotopes, Mg/Ca) really came across. Pleasingly there are a new generation of researchers coming through who are addressing fundamental assumptions relating to the systematics of isotope fractionation in cave carbonates and delivering elegant, basic research to address the key questions which are often ignored. I don’t mean this as a criticism of those willing to put their necks on the line and attempt isotope-based reconstructions, but this is certainly something I’ve been acutely aware of since becoming involved in cave research (some 10 years ago as an undergraduate- yikes!). In my opinion, this is the central issue limiting the advancement of speleothem palaeoclimate research and this is the main motivation behind the QUEST project which kicks off next week in Cambridge, UK.

Two personal highlights from the speleothem session came from Maximilian Hansen (Mainz) who has developed an experimental system for simulating carbonate deposition under cave analogue conditions, and Franziska Lechleitner (ETH, Zurich), who has devised a new method for developing reliable radiocarbon chronologies from speleothems which are hard to date by conventional (U/Th) methods, and has also done some important work on the capture of soil organic signals by speleothems. I also caught up with Gina Moseley who presented a poster on her NE Greenland Caves project. Which is a truly amazing and inspiring journey of scientific discovery and adventure with the aim of developing the first cave-based records of palaeoclimate from the arctic. It should be obvious to everyone how important it is to understand how climate has changed in the past in this critically important region for the global climate system. Check out Gina’s excellent webpage (http://northeastgreenlandcavesproject.com/) for more information.


Gina Moseley of the North East Greenland Caves Project

We had a ‘speleothem dinner’ yesterday evening which was a lot of fun. Hopefully I didn’t cause an internation incident through my failure to eat a Wiener schnitzel which was the size of a dinner plate. This is one of my unwritten rules- never try to eat anything bigger than your head! More updates to come.



Tuesday 19th – this was BG (biogeosciences) day and saw me present the findings of some of my postdoctoral work on groundwater systems, coauthored with Wendy Timms (EGU Poster, Hartland and Timms).

I took part in the BG poster tour in which early career researchers presented their work, summarizing their findings in the space of 2 minutes. It was a lot of fun and we got around quite a few in the space of the hour or so that we had.

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I also caught up with my old friends and PhD contemporaries Jon Eden and Megan Klaar. It was great to see them again and to catch up with each others lives. Time flies and it’s a shame we can’t do this sort of thing more often.

Thursday 21st – After a day off and a cycle tour around Vienna on Wednesday, I returned to the conference yesterday. One of the fantastic things I have found about EGU has been its capacity to surprise with unexpected scientific treats. I was delighted to run into Ed Tipping, who is a powerhouse in the world of metal interactions with ligands in soil and water and whom has had a huge influence over the development of the field. Other highlights from Thursday include Josh Larsen’s presentation on our arsenic work. Josh introduced the study, which was published in ES&T last year, to the hyporheic research community. Finally, and most unexpectedly, Josh and I attended the Geomorphology Ralph Alger Bagnold Medal lecture by Niels Hovius. Honestly, this was probably the best scientific lecture I have ever attended which revealed Neils as a scientist with a singular vision and capacity for understanding his field. Fantastic stuff!

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Friday- the last day of the conference, but an important day in terms of relevant sessions for my own research. I spent the day in sessions which examined the processes controlling organic carbon in soil and water. There were several useful methodological insights arising from the talks as well as a sneak peek at the latest data on DOC trends in European catchments (since the decline in atmospheric S pollution). Interestingly, we still see increases in DOC in the majority of catchments, leading to the consideration of other mechanisms/drivers of these increases. Overall, this was a great conference- easily the best I’ve attended. That said, I’ve had enough of living out of a suitcase and look forward to family, friends and work in NZ. Before that happens though, I have one more trip to U Cambridge for the launch of QUEST in 2 days.



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