The final hurrah: #EGU15

Firstly, many apologies for the delay in this blog post. Thursday was the day of my presentation, and so I was preparing myself for this and having a couple of celebratory drinks and dinner after it was completed. Then friday came around and I was busy cramming in what would be my last couple of sessions. Unfortunately, Friday marked the end of my EGU15 journey and subsequently my flight back home to Blighty! Anyway, hopefully I can provide you with a flavour of my last two days at EGU 2015 in the following ramblings.

On Thursday afternoon, and after a busy morning tweaking my presentation and seeing some more sessions of a personal interest to myself, I was in attendance of the session that I myself would be presenting. The session was on the topic of ‘Geohazards and Critical Infrastructure’ and my talk discussed a part of my PhD research on the impact of clay-related subsidence (see earlier post) on the local highway network of Lincolnshire, UK.

Embarking on my own talk at EGU 2015 (Source: Hazel Gibson)

Embarking on my own talk at EGU 2015 (Source: Hazel Gibson @iamhazelgibson)

The session contained a range of interesting talks. In particular, Elisabeth Kraussman talked about the Joint Research Council (JRC) of the European Commission’s Rapid-N tool for monitoring risk due to Natural-hazard triggered technological accidents (Natech’s). Elisabeth suggested that there is an expected increase in Natech risk due to more hazards and a greater exposure due to rapid urbanisation.

JRC - Rapid-N tool

JRC – Rapid-N tool

The final day (Friday) of EGU 15 started with another interesting session on ‘soil mapping and modelling for sustainable land use’.

Tomislav Hengl discussed the Soil info App, a web-based application which allows you to visualise a range of soil properties, at 1 km resolution, for a range of depths. For example, the picture below shows the distribution of soil organic carbon between 0-5 cm across Europe. A range of other depths are available, and spot measurements can be interrogated and graphics produced – I advise you to have an explore yourselves. Tomislav highlighted that the next goal of the project is to provide a global soil map at a resolution of 250m.


The Soil-Info App

Alexandra Barthelmes then discussed her and her teams progress on the construction of a global high-resolution peat map by the year 2020. See the International Mire Conservation Groups (IMCG) Global Peatland Database site here for more information.

Alexandra identified several problems that global peat mapping faces, including;

  • Peatlands fragmented by land use
  • Peatlands diversity
  • Properly analysed and geo-referenced soil profiles from peatlands are rare
  • Access difficulties, disease and predators.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has identified that peatlands are a large source of the global carbon pool and therefore require careful and sustainable management. Approximately 5% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide is contained within the worlds peatlands, and that almost ~2Gt per year global carbon dioxide emmissions originate from drained peatlands. In her talk, Alex focused in particular on an area of Central Africa that they have to date focused their mapping efforts and validation.


Click on picture for link to report

Cranfield were once again involved with another presentation at EGU. Pia Benaud, a PhD student at Exeter University is seeking to develop a soil-erosion model (1km resolution) in collaboration with Cranfield University, for the UK. This will be offered as a publicly accessible web-mapping service. However, Pia identified that soil-erosion modelling in the UK is currently limited and significant bias of data spread exists. Therefore, a national-scale understanding of soil erosion in the UK cannot be currently determined and further work is required to overcome this issue. Although on the bright side, Pia suggested that her work to date could aid both evidence-based development for future research and an understanding of the potential magnitudes of soil erosion.

photo 4 photo 5

In the final session that I attended at EGU for 2015, we were immersed into the world of geoscience teaching. This had been a key theme I felt at the EGU, and as someone said, it is the youth who are the future of the geosciences!

First up was Taru Lehtinen who explained their novel crowdsourcing project, Tea4Science. This involves using schools, scouts, etc. to understand decomposition rates within soils. Essentially, the volunteers bury a Lipton Green tea and Rooibos teabag, and after 3 months (or preferably longer) the bag is recovered and weighed. A worksheet allows the rate of decomposition to be calculated, depending on the age range of the children involved and then information can be communicated back to get more regional/international views of decomposition rates. Follow them on Twitter, @TeaBagIndex for updates or to get involved.

Dietmar Dommenget from Monash University in Australia then introduced us to his Simple Climate Model, which aims to give those at a range of ages (from university level through to high school) an insight into how climate models are developed and used. It is very interactive and I particularly like the puzzle feature where you can explore the climate of the home planet of Luke Skywalker, Tatooine!


Explore the climate model of Tatooine

This concludes my week at EGU General Assembly 2015, and although I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the amazing science here, I would point you to a number of other blogs active during the week; check out the EGU’s Geolog EGU 15 Blogroll for more information.

Overall, the week was great, Vienna was a wonderful city, and the weather was perfect! I’d honestly recommend the EGU General Assembly to anyone, however, I would suggest that you plan your time well in advance. There are literally thousands of presentations (~14,300) to see over the week, not including the short courses and poster sessions!

Until (hopefully) next year, EGU, auf wiedershen….

 Author: O. Pritchard

Feature image: Austria Center Vienna (