Posts by Invited:
With the support of the EAG I was able to attend this year’s ‘Melting and fluid/melt-rock reactions in the mantle’ (MEREMA) International Winter School, held at the University of Pavia, Italy. The school was arranged by a lot of different organizations (the Italian Group of Petrography of the Italian Society of Mineralogy and Petrology, as well as the PhD programs of the University of Pavia, Ferrara, Genova, Milano and Modena-Reggio Emilia, and the University of Parma), which was a huge advantage for us students in that the school covered a lot of aspects of the broad field of mantle melting processes. The audience, as well as the invited speakers, represented a wide diversity of international backgrounds.
The first day started with an opening lecture in the historical, and really beautiful, Aula Scarpa, where we got an overview of what was going to happen during the week. The whole week was dominated by great, sunny, warm weather, but after surviving a winter in Denmark, spring in Italy already felt like summer! Fortunately, the lectures were so interesting that it was not too hard to go back into the lecture hall after a nice sunny lunchbreak! On Valentine’s Day, Yan Liang even managed to give a romantic touch to his lecture about modelling grain scale processes of peridotite melting, showing that an angular L-shaped grain can evolve into a heart during melting.
For me, the lectures basically covered the whole background of my PhD studies. They were wide-ranging, covering field studies, geochemistry with natural samples, experimental work and thermodynamics. During the week, I heard the best thermodynamics lecture of my career as a geoscientist, given by Marc Ghiorso (University of Washington, USA), and had the most amazing coffee and food.
In the evenings, we had time to discuss our research with other participants and lecturers during the poster sessions. The organizers gave us a lot of room to discuss in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, always with coffee and small snacks. In parallel with all the science, we got the chance to enjoy some culture by visiting the San Michele church on a guided tour. Afterwards, we enjoyed the Social Dinner offered by the school, which included a live band. So, the Winter School ended with music, dancing, good food and some drinks. Overall, I can say that the organizers, especially Alessio Sanfilippo and Chiara Trabella, as well as all the organizations who funded the MEREMA winter school, made the week a wonderful experience, keeping a perfect balance between a productive research atmosphere and the Italian way of life with good food and a relaxed mood!
At least for me, I can say that I definitely benefited from the course. Through the open discussions, I got some very interesting input for my PhD project that I can now, being back home, integrate into my research.
About the author:
Hannah Bobrowski is about to finish the first year of her PhD in the Earth System Petrology group at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. She is running high pressure experiments on near-fractional melting of the Earth’s mantle. Her supervisors are Charles E. Lesher (Aarhus University, Denmark; University of California, Davis, USA) and Christian Tegner (Aarhus University, Denmark).
This past September we had the privilege to attend Serpentine Days, a biannual workshop on serpentinite and serpentinization processes that is distinctly multidisciplinary. The workshop covers much of the active research on serpentinites, including everything from microbiological communities in near surface environments, through serpentinite dehydration at great depth within subduction zones and all the way out to investigations of the surface of Mars. Serpentinization is one of the key processes controlling a number of global geochemical cycles, being the carrier of the bulk of bound water into subduction zones and with further relevance for carbon cycling. More recently, the discovery of microbial communities associated with serpentinite-hosted hydrothermal systems has spurred research into these environments as life-supporting habitats.
This year the Serpentine Days workshop was held at Sète. Located approximately half an hour south of Montpellier, France, and situated on the Mediterranean Sea, the town is famous for its seafood and as a seaside destination for all ages. Despite the lack of any observable serpentinite, it made for an idyllic location to host a workshop. Our venue and accommodation for the workshop was Le Lazaret, a holiday village just off the beach. Each day of the workshop presented opportunities to network and discuss with other researchers; for a few days we were able to live and breathe science, all the while enjoying the delights of southern France. A field trip to the Pyrenees followed the completion of the workshop, visiting the hallowed Lherz peridotite (of lherzolite fame) and nearby serpentinite locality near Bestiac to investigate records of mantle exhumation during the Cretaceous rifting event in the North Pyrenean Zone.
The first international workshop I was privileged to attend was one of the most memorable experience I have had in my research journey so far. It was exactly what I needed at the time. Of course, I could start by mentioning that it was slightly intimidating to stand up in front of an expert audience, not feeling very much like a serpentinite expert myself, to present a research project on the quest of a noble gases and halogens surface signature from the Archaean. At the time, I had been working on my PhD project at the Australian National University for just over a year, and was starting to dig deeper into my main project focusing on the fate of volatiles during alteration of the oceanic crust. The workshop pushed me to take a step back to these remarkable Archaean samples that I had the opportunity to work with earlier on in my PhD. I am still astonished by the fact that these serpentinites, after surviving a 3.7 Ga year long history, sometimes still preserving their original textures, were eventually brought back all the way from Greenland to end up on my desk, offering an invaluable window into the early earth.The workshop gave me the opportunity to gain experience in presenting my research, but mostly it helped me recover the enthusiasm and faith in science. As for many of my fellow PhD friends, I soon realized that during the ebb and flow of PhD life, it appears to be common to go through a dark tunnel. Doubts and questions take hold of the mind; we start to be sceptical about the journey we have embarked on and the relevance of the small details we are trying to understand. But being able to meet peers and colleagues, exchange ideas, friendships, good times and mostly lots of laughter, made me realized that science is very attractive when it is shared, that communicating and exchanging is what makes science, and that put together, the small details we are all tackling are part of a much broader and comprehensive story. At times, I admit, I have felt caught up in a system that lost its soul, a system that pushes students and academics to focus on personal objectives, to advance their careers, a system I had much trouble to identify with. The workshop was a perfect reminder that behind the aggressive and competitive academic life, there is still room for a science community, room to build something greater that goes far beyond each individual personal goal. I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity to meet whole hearted scientists passionate about their work but mostly about passing on their knowledge and their experiences, and I am very much looking forward to crossing their paths again. Morgan:
During the workshop I presented a brief overview of my current research on serpentinites from the Atlantis Massif (which I’m completing as a science party member of IODP Expedition 357), and in particular how I’m investigating fluid-mobile/volatile elements and using in-situ techniques to provide greater constraints on the serpentinization process and evolution of the Massif. The novel aspects I discussed during this talk included microscale oxygen isotopic heterogeneities recording multistage serpentinization at generally elevated temperatures, and also atypically low serpentinite noble gas abundances. Some of the many talks I found intriguing covered the potential incorporation of sulfate within the serpentine structure (Baptiste Debret), the formation of organic films/gels at mineral interfaces (Bénédicte Menez), and unravelling alteration histories in ultramafic rocks using magnetite U-Th/He dating (Emily Cooperdock). In addition to hearing talks directly relevant to my own work, I was able to satisfy my inner child and interact with scientists studying extreme environments both here on Earth and on Mars. This led to some great conversations, particularly regarding the formation and evolution of early life. I was also grateful to have the opportunity to catch up with fellow Expedition 357 scientists and discuss research to date, and potential for collaboration both within and beyond the science party.
We thank the EAG for the financial support which enabled us to attend Serpentine Days, and also the organisers of the workshop for their efforts in putting together a very successful and thoroughly enjoyable meeting.
About the authors:
Morgan Williams is a PhD student at the Australian National University. His research focuses on in-situ records of fluid-rock interaction within the oceanic crust, from seafloor (Altantis Massif, 30°N, MAR) through to deep subduction (Lago di Cignana, NW Italian Alps).
Joëlle Ducommun is a PhD student at the Australian National University working on alteration processes in the Oman ophiolite. Her research mainly focuses on the distribution of the noble gases and halogens in the altered oceanic crust with the aim to expand the understanding of volatiles cycling and recycling.
The 2016 AGU Fall Meeting took place in San Francisco’s Moscone Center from 12th to 16th December 2016. More than 28,000 scientists from around the world came together this year, and more than 20,000 oral and poster presentations were held. Among the attendees were six of EAG’s Early Career Science Ambassadors, who tell us about their experiences at the conference.
Overall impressions of AGU and the benefits of attending
It was an extraordinary experience—all the networking, all the discussions, all the nerdy jokes, meeting all the celebrity scientists (those you already feel so familiar with from the papers you’ve read). It was overwhelming and exciting, with new ideas flowing from all directions and from so many scientists and engineers, old and young. This really is science without borders.
The size and diversity of topics at the AGU fall meeting is perhaps one of its greatest strengths in my opinion, as it allows you to take in a wide range of content and to explore interdisciplinary connections in a way that isn’t possible at a small meeting.
The conference itself is a great opportunity to meet collaborators from all over the world, which is difficult otherwise. I used this chance to discuss current manuscripts and ongoing proposals with colleagues from the United States and Japan. Throughout the conference, I attended 27 talks and visited 81 posters related to my field. I learned a lot from listening to the top scientists in my field and through discussing my current projects with them. Right now, I’m improving two of my manuscripts using the feedback and new knowledge that I gained at the conference.
The AGU Fall Meeting is one of the most eclectic scientific meetings in the field of planetary sciences. All planetary science relies on interdisciplinarity and my work is no exception. I use first principles molecular dynamics to study aqueous fluids under extreme conditions and the AGU Fall Meeting offered a perfect opportunity for me to bridge theory with observations.
While presenting my work, I received invaluable input that has led to new research ideas and possible future collaborations. After numerous discussions with colleagues from across different geochemical fields, I feel that the horizons of my work have expanded. Participating at this event gave me an opportunity to better understand present and future research interests in aqueous geochemistry. The overall experience of attending this meeting has improved my research and widened my plans for future projects.
Presentations, posters and short-courses: the ambassadors’ personal experiences
On the Tuesday afternoon, I gave an oral presentation entitled “Spatiotemporal patterns of plant water isotope values from a continental-scale sample network in Europe as a tool to improve hydroclimate proxies”, based on some of the work I’ve been doing for my postdoc in Ansgar Kahmen’s lab group at the University of Basel, Switzerland. I had many conversations with colleagues about the project as a result of them seeing me speak on this topic. I greatly appreciated this opportunity to meet new researchers in my field, and to reconnect with many of my American colleagues. Several of the other presentations and posters in the session that I participated in were among the most engaging that I saw at the conference as a whole, but I also benefited from sessions related to other work that I have done or been involved with in the past, such as the session on hydroclimate records from the tropics.
—Daniel (session PP24B: “Water Isotope Systematics — Improving Modern and Paleoclimate Interpretations III”)
My poster presentation, “Modelling impacts of second generation bioenergy production on Ecosystems Services in Europe”, took place on Friday morning and it was really exciting to pick my poster up at the print shop and mount it in a hall where at least 5000 other posters were presented at the same time. I had applied for the OSPA (Outstanding Student Presentation Award) before, which meant that anyone interested in my poster during the day could have been a potential judge. I talked with many people during the session and I got the positive feedback that my project topic is both very interesting and important.
—Dagmar (session GC51C: “Renewable Energy: Wind, Solar, Marine, and Open Topics”)
Sat back in the undergraduate comfort zone of a lecture theatre it was great to be surrounded by the people who share my enthusiasm for – but also my frustrations with – the world of isotopes. I was engaging with the people who quite literally wrote the book (Reviews in Mineralogy & Geochemistry Vol. 82) and I was clasping it in my hand. With new friends and conversations started that would sporadically continue throughout AGU, the short course turned out to be the perfect way to start. I was prepared.
Or so I thought. Monday of AGU beat me. Thoroughly. I spent the entire day (save for an excellent young geochemist mixer event at lunch time) pacing the poster hall. Overwhelming in scale, like the whole of AGU, it turned out to be logically organised and easy to navigate. Thoroughly embedded in the Molybdenum isotope sphere, hours were spent engaging with the posters, the authors, and the other scientists come to share and to learn. And the great thing was that those scientists came in every format – the names you have read on papers too numerous to count to the ones, just like me, finding their space and their voice. I was amazed at how easy it was to make new contacts, and to casually bump into friendly, familiar faces from years – and days – ago.
—Becca (Short course: “Non-traditional Stable Isotopes”)
Tips and advice for first-time AGU attendees, from Dagmar…
• Be prepared: The AGU meeting is really huge; large flocks of hundreds of people are constantly running around and it can be really overwhelming. Be prepared to run around a lot searching for something, starting with the registration on the first day. There is a reason why every “freshling” has “first time attendee” written on their badge!
• Lunch: Don’t even try to find a place for lunch within a four-block radius of Moscone unless you are prepared to leave your talk early; or, if you enjoy waiting in lines of twenty or more when you go to get your food, maybe you should, and take the chance to talk with your fellow waiting scientists.
• Getting organised: There is an app available to make life and finding presentations easier but I preferred the daily newspaper, which I could scribble around on.
…and from Becca
• Shoes: I thought my trusty converse were the most comfortable things in the world but at the close of play on Monday I craved the arch support my parents like to bring up on visits home. (And if that doesn’t work, I would seriously consider a lunchtime stretching session).
• Drugs: Winter, flights, and the mass migration of global geoscientists can leave those susceptible to the common cold feeling pretty sorry for themselves. If, like me, medication is your chosen thing then bring a supply (and know the location of the closest conference pharmacy).
• Mixers: Go to the social events organised for you. They are full of great, interesting people (and often have the bonus of good food). Step outside your group and talk with as many people as possible.
About the authors:
I have been really fortunate to be asked to take part of the 2016 EAG Distinguished Lecture Program. My research interests are broad lying on the interface between chemistry and biology and I have always enjoyed interacting with researchers from these disciplines. I am a biologist by background but working on the biogeochemical processes of cold environments. Sometimes, I use biological techniques and sometimes more chemically-oriented approaches to determine the magnitude of carbon and nutrient cycling on glaciers. The tour was an excellent opportunity to interact across the disciplines. I went to specific Institutes that focused on Geochemistry (Kiev and Krakow) and Biology/Microbiology (Bucharest and Ljubljana). For each place, I was aiming for a mission to engage microbiologists with geochemists. On the top of that, it was a great opportunity for me to see a side of Europe that has a rich history. The airline Gods were certainly in favour of the tour. Travelling forth and back to four different destinations in 9 days meant to board on a plane 10 times using about 5 different airline companies in a short period of time. Except for one harmless small delay between Belgrade and Ljubljana, every single flight was bang on time, making the whole trip really smooth.
The first lecture was at the M.P. Semenenko Institute of Geochemistry, Mineralogy and Ore Formation, which is part of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine in Kiev on a Friday. This was my first chance to calibrate the talk to ensure that a predominantly geochemist audience would enjoy some microbiology. Based on the number of questions and interest around, I thought the tour started well. After the lecture, I had a very nice time learning about rocks and the projects running at the Institute. First, there was a tour in the Natural History Museum of the Institute which had one of the most amazing and complete mamuts I have ever seen and a wide range of rocks and minerals. Thereafter, PhD student Tatiana Ilchenko took me for a tour of the city centre of Kiev and I learned a great deal about Orthodox churches. It was my first time in Kiev and certainly very impressive.
Saturday morning, I flew to Bucharest via Warsaw. Bucharest was the place in which I would spend the weekend until Tuesday, so I was quite excited to see the place around. Dr. Cristina Purcarea and her PhD student Antonio Mondini took me to a variety of places and every place just made me more and more dazzled. I was simply speechless during the visit to the Palace of the Parliament and I enjoyed some amazing food too. On Monday, it was time to give two lectures in the Institute of Biology Bucharest, which is part of the Romanian Academy Bucharest. There was a very enthusiastic audience and we had a great and lively discussion throughout the morning and afternoon. I am very grateful here for a gift from Cristina which included a T-shirt with my favourite book character, Dracula.
Tuesday was then time to get to Ljubljana via Belgrade where Prof. Nina Gunde-Cimerman and PhD student Laura Perini took excellent care of me too. I had an absolutely great Slovenian meal, including some very delicate frog meat. The talk was in the Department of Biology at University of Ljubljana containing a very nice mixed audience of academic staff and undergraduate students. We had some very good discussions about the role of fungal communities in cold environments, as this is still an understudied biological component of glaciers in which Prof. Gunde-Cimerman’s lab is doing very exciting work on.
Thursday and Friday, I spent time in Krakow at the Institute of Geological Sciences, Jagiellonian University, hosted by Prof. Marek Michalik and Dr. Monika Kasina and another PhD student. There was a good mix of academics and students working on the interface between geochemistry and biogeochemistry, resulting in really interesting discussions about the role of microbes on rock weathering. Krakow is a very vibrant city with around 100,000 students across several universities, beautiful historic places and lots of nice people. It is one of the oldest cities in Poland and one should not miss the castle and the Jagiellonian University museum.
Because I work in the UK during a period of so much debate created by Brexit, I could hardly stop thinking about the impact that the EU has had on collaborative research across Europe and, in particular, in society and economy of Eastern European countries. I am trying to be neutral, but it was impossible to not notice what Ukraine may gain, what Slovenia and Romania have already gained and what the UK will loose. The young generation in the places I visited are full of hope and very enthusiastic about their work. I am extremely grateful for my hosts to have made my tour so enjoyable and stimulating, but I would certainly like to give special thanks to the young generation of postdocs and PhD students who took excellent good care of me. These are not only nice young people, but very bright rising stars doing extremely interesting work in geochemistry/microbiology. Special thanks to Tatiana, Antonio, Laura and Monika. I must also thank Marie-Aude Hulshoff for all her hard work to sort all the practicalities out, and the EAG for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The videos of the lectures ‘Biogeochemical cycles and microbial processes in icy habitats’ and ‘The interplay between weathering and microbes during soil formation’ are available at www.eag.eu.com/outreach/dlp/.
About the author:
Prof. Alexandre Anesio (University of Bristol, UK) was the EAG 2016 Distinguished Lecturer. Alexandre’s research interests are broad and combine concepts from Geography, Biology and Chemistry to understand carbon cycle in the cryosphere. His research has concentrated in two broad areas. Firstly, he studies microbes in the cryosphere. Against all expectations glaciers harbour a highly active microbial community. Bacteria, viruses and microscopic plants thrive in conditions that might be analogous to other planets and to early Earth. Second, he is also interested in a range of climate (e.g., UV radiation and acid rain) and human impacts (e.g., mining, sewage, pesticides) on freshwaters. Read more
It is an honour, and a great pleasure, to become president of the European Association of Geochemistry. My first task is to thank Liane Benning for the fantastic job she has been doing over the last two years. Under her leadership, EAG has flourished as never before. The 2015 Goldschmidt conference in Prague was one of the most attended, and certainly one of the most exciting, geochemistry events of the last decade. Liane has also been central to developing EAG publications. Geochemical Perspectives (GP), founded by Liane, Eric Oelkers, Susan Stipp and Tim Elliott, and later on, Janne Blichert-Toft, recently achieved a remarkable impact factor of 8.8. Geochemical Perspectives Letters (GPL) was launched two years ago, and this new publication is already a highly praised letters journal. The business model is unique: GPL and GP are produced by geochemists for geochemists, without any interference with commercial publishers. The publications are run, fed, and evaluated by our community. EAG’s decision to invest into this new publication endeavor allows us to offer open access to GP and GPL to anyone in the world, without subscription. Authors are not required to pay publication fees to publish in GPL, although we strongly encourage those who can afford to contribute.
I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to Marie-Aude Hulshoff, EAG Business Office Manager. Marie-Aude is pivotal in keeping the EAG boat sailing at full power. Many thanks as well to Karim Benzerara, who agreed to take on the ungrateful task of treasurer. The EAG is a vibrant community that relies on unselfish individuals. These are the councillors and committee members, a list of whom can be found at www.eag.eu.com/about/council. Special mention to Rizlan Bernier-Latmani, Carsten Münker and Emily Pope, who joined us recently. We are also very grateful to outgoing councillor Ruben Kretzschmar, for several years of generous help and effort. Last but not least, I would like to recognize the lasting and substantive contributions of Chris Ballentine and Eric Oelkers, who recently finished their term in the council. Chris Ballentine served the EAG Council for nearly 10 years, as Goldschmidt Officer then as Vice-President/President/Past-President. Chris’ steady leadership and diplomacy have been inspiring. His initiatives are innumerable, but to highlight a few, he played a key role in the successful establishment of an agreement with the Geochemical Society, as well as partnerships with numerous national and international societies. Eric Oelkers has been the longest serving councillor ever with 13 years of devoted service, assuming in turn all the responsibilities within the council, including Goldschmidt Officer and Vice-President/President/Past-President. Eric has also been a co-founding editor for GP and GPL. His dedication and the vision he’s always had for EAG have allowed our society to grow tremendously, also for the benefit of the geochemistry community.
Geochemistry is blossoming in Asia, with the formidable rise of the People’s Republic of China and the outstanding geochemical community of Japan. We seek to improve relations between our respective communities as well as with others around the world. As an example, EAG has launched initiatives towards countries that have no easy access to geochemistry, with publications that are free of access restrictions, as mentioned above, and in supporting distinguished lecturers on tours of Eastern European and African capitals. We are thinking about several actions to enhance opportunities for young researchers from developing countries, such as ways to improve student participation in workshops and conferences. Your suggestions are, as always, most welcome.
The forthcoming period is special: populism is gaining momentum, raising concerns about what this might imply in terms of denying science and promoting belief rather than facts. Geochemistry is a privileged discipline in which to observe and understand how the world functions in time and space. We are continuously observing, building stories and developing models that can be tested and corrected at any moment when new data arise. I am always amazed to see what can be said, with trace elements in a microphase or with isotopic ratios at extreme precision, about processes that occurred billions of years ago, or that will take place in the future (sadly, in some cases, the all-too-near future). We are fortunate to be paid for doing a creative, non-profit job and it is time to give back to society what society has given to us. We need to stand up and inform decision makers and, more modestly but equally importantly, our neighbours around the corner.
We are now just a few months away from the next Goldschmidt conference, to be held in Paris, France, and we look forward to welcoming you to the Ville-Lumière. Antje Boetius and Marc Chaussidon are efficiently sharing the task of organizing this exciting event in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The conference will take place from 13th to 18th August 2017 and will be a great opportunity to relax in the country of culture, food, and wine, where radioactivity and the carbon cycle, among others, were first discovered. I look forward to seeing you all very soon!
Bernard Marty, EAG President
About the author:
Bernard Marty is a Professor of geochemistry at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Géologie, Université de Lorraine, and researcher at the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques (CRPG, UMR 7358 CNRS-UL), Nancy, France.
His is interested in the geochemistry and cosmochemistry of volatile elements, notably stable isotopes and noble gases. Topics include stable isotope variations in the solar system, processes of planet formation, the origin(s) of terrestrial water and other volatiles, the geodynamical cycle of these elements, and the evolution of the atmosphere from the Hadean eon to Present. Besides mantle geochemistry, Bernard is involved in space missions such as Stardust (return to Earth of cometary grains), Genesis (analysis of the isotope composition of the solar wind), Rosetta (in situ analysis of cometary volatiles), and others.
Bernard gained a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Toulouse, France, and a Doctorat d’Etat in geochemistry at Université Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris. Bernard was co-chair of the Meteoritical Society meeting in Nancy in 2009, and chair of the Goldschmidt Conference in Prague in 2011, serving as EAG Goldschmidt Officer from 2009 to 2014. He was EAG Vice-President in 2015-2016 and will serve as EAG President for 2017-2018.
In May 2008, Chaitén volcano in Chilean Patagonia erupted and provided the world with spectacular footage of the first rhyolitic eruption ever to be observed in modern times. But the 2008-2009 Chaitén eruption is not only remarkable from a geological point of view, but also in regards of its short- and medium-term crisis management and social implications. This November, volcanologists of all trades – geochemists, geophysicists and social scientists – gathered in Chaitén for four days, to study the volcano, the 2008-2009 eruption dynamics and its effects on the town and the broader environment. A most enlightening experience I feel lucky to have made, thanks to the generous support of the EAG, which funded my attendance of the accompanying ‘Cities on Volcanoes’ conference as an EAG ambassador.
‘We want people to feel safe again.’ Chaitén’s mayor Pedro Vásquez Celedón sounds positive and persuasive as he is welcoming us, some 20 volcanologists, in the new cultural centre of the Northern Patagonian community. But in direct line of sight, the steaming dome of Volcán Chaitén tells a different kind of story: its most recent eruption in May 2008 flooded the largest part of the town with suspended ash and rendered it temporarily inhabitable. The river draining the volcano had got overloaded with volcanic ash and chose a new channel – one of the town’s streets.
When settlers founded Chaitén in 1940, they had no idea there was a dangerous volcano slumbering at the end of their valley. In fact, locals didn’t realise that until the night of May 2nd, 2008, when the volcano exploded and hurled ash to an altitude of more than 20 km. In a meeting with residents, they tell us how earthquakes got stronger in the weeks leading up to the eruption, but no one made a connection to Chaitén volcano, including the Chilean Geological Survey (SERNAGEOMIN), which wasn’t monitoring the volcano at the time. In the hours before the eruption began, people got terrified by the constant strong rumbling and shaking of the ground, and some left the town in a hurry. Once the eruption had set on and ash and pumice started raining on the town, the Chilean government reacted promptly and evacuated about 4000 residents within 24 hours, mostly by boat. On May 6th and May 8th, two more Plinian pulses of activity occurred, and a 50 km evacuation zone was established in response, with a total of 7300 people evacuated. Thanks to the efficient crisis management, Chaitén town was deserted and no one was harmed when minor rainfall caused voluminous lahars and the overspilling river flooded the town on May 10th.
Explosive activity waned by May 12th, and the eruption entered a dominantly effusive phase that was to last until early 2010. Hot rhyolitic magma with low crystal contents was extruded at high rates (up to 66 m3/s) and formed a lava dome of about 2 km diameter and 200 m height within a few months’ time. As part of the touristic development of the region, a path to the caldera rim has recently been opened, which allows truly stunning views on the steaming dome and its several lobes, spines, and small pyroclastic flows. The hike up through an obsidian-and-pumice-spotted landscape that has just started recovering from being inundated by pyroclastic flows is just as awe-inspiring.
As the dome was growing high enough to be seen from Chaitén town in 2009, there was still nobody living there. The zone officially was still declared inhabitable by the government, and former town residents were staying in Puerto Montt and other major cities in the region. The Chilean government had responded pragmatically to the volcanic eruption and the destruction it caused, by making plans for a complete relocation of the town to Santa Barbara beach, a sheltered bay 10 km north of Chaitén town. They hired city planners and architects to pitch a vision of ‘Nueva Chaitén’ to the people of Chaitén, and even started building an airport and provisional administrative facilities on the beach. But locals felt that the planned houses didn’t look like their homes (for example, the windows were designed way too big to resist the strong Patagonian storms) and rejected all plans of relocation declaring they wouldn’t let themselves be uprooted. They created facts by gradually moving back to Chaitén town and protesting against the government’s plans. In early 2011, running water and electricity got reestablished in the northern part of town; ferries started reoperating between Chaitén and the local centre Puerto Montt; school classes resumed in March 2011. Consequentially, in April 2011, the Chilean government declared the northern part of town habitable and announced plans to rebuild the city on site. As we visit Santa Barbara today, the site where Nueva Chaitén was supposed to flourish, we find nothing but a few lone houses and a rusty, withering fishing boat.
Today, more than eight years after the Plinian eruptions, Chaitén shows two very different faces that are separated by the river that once was a street. The northern part of Chaitén town is looking snug, boasting hotels, hostels, restaurants, shops, and outdoor excursion providers. A few ash-covered houses are left alongside the regulated riverbed – they will be conserved as a walkable museum, very much like Pompeii.
South of the river, ash-covered ruins are not a museum feature, but everyday reality for the people that started settling here despite the governmental refusal to declare this part of town habitable. There is no electricity and running water, and people are living in more or less makeshift houses; local patriotic, fierce graffiti cover the flooded ruins. It seems likely that locals will also win this second battle against the Chilean government and have the southern part of Chaitén officialised as well.
What can we learn from the story of the 2008 Chaitén eruption and its aftermath? I believe it showcases two crucial issues volcanologists and communities close to volcanoes are facing today:
Firstly, Chaitén’s unexpected, moderate rhyolitic eruption shows us in a rather mild way that the most hazardous volcanoes are the ones that we don’t know about, or that we are not monitoring. The fact that there were no casualties during the Chaitén eruption is undoubtedly thanks to the rapid emergency response of the Chilean government and SERNAGEOMIN. But had the eruption unfolded in a way that would have swept the town at a much earlier point, the lack of a monitoring- and alert-system might have proven disastrous. Communities living less than ten kilometres from an explosive eruption vent will not always be as lucky as Chaitén has been. The Chilean government and SERNAGEOMIN have learnt their lesson from the Chaitén eruption, and have established a national real-time monitoring and volcano hazard assessment program, covering half of Chiles 90 active volcanoes, with two additional observatories planned in Southern Chile.
Today, monitoring tools are powerful enough to give us a grip on the current behaviour of a volcano, and tied with a scientific understanding of the eruptive history and pattern of a volcano we can prepare appropriate emergency plans and mitigate any hazard. Obvious volcanoes like Chaitén, with an obvious lava dome since at least 5000 years, are low-hanging fruit and easy to monitor – given the financial means. The next, bigger challenge for modern volcanology are volcanoes that haven’t been active in historic time, or that we simply haven’t spotted yet (Not all volcanoes are perfect cones like Fuji!). Geochemistry will be a fundamentally important tool to prospect for previously undiscovered volcanic fields.
Secondly, the case of the failed relocation of Chaitén drastically shows us the limits of our efforts to keep people safe from volcanic hazards. Clearly, Chaitén is not a safe place: It sits 10 km from a fuming volcano that will erupt again at some point and send pyroclastic flows and lahars right down the valley at the end of which Chaitén is located. Clearly, Santa Barbara would have been the place where people could actually feel safe. But they wanted to return to their homes, to the place that their great-grandfathers have founded, and where they built themselves a life. Hazard perception and appraisal is not something that works solely on a rational level, and to many people being uprooted seems to be worse than the idea of dying.
People are working hard to make Chaitén an attractive place to live and a tourist destination again; they are sanguine and proud. The decision to come back and feel safe again might not be a rational one from a volcanologist’s point of view, but we have to assume that after what locals endured in 2008, it is an informed and conscious decision that we have to respect.
About the author:
Martin Mangler is a third-year PhD student at Imperial College London / Natural History Museum London. In his research, he uses geochemical and petrological tools to elucidate the plumbing system of Popocatépetl volcano, Mexico, and to improve our understanding of the transition between effusive and explosive activity at arc volcanoes. He is actively involved in volcanic hazard education and other science communication events both in Mexico and the UK.
Recent events show that we have in front of us rocky times of uncertain worldwide leadership and this will change the world in directions that are not healthy for our planet. As geochemists, we have the skills to address major human impact issues like pollution, ocean acidification or climate change and we need to stand together doing so.
My two years as EAG President have passed quickly with a mixture of very stimulating and at times highly time-consuming challenges, as well as rewards. This would not have worked without the steadfast help of Marie-Aude Hulshoff, our Business Manager; she is the perfect glue that holds us together at the EAG. Thanks, Marie-Aude.
Over the last two years I am proud to say that we strengthened our already good collaboration with the Geochemical Society (GS) and expanded our bilateral agreements (MOUs) that my predecessor Chris Ballentine started to now include several European and international societies (most recently including the International Association for GeoChemistry and the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits). These agreements provide our members and our MOU societies members with more benefits and advantages. We also strive to reach more geochemists in under-represented regions of the world through our Distinguished Lecture Program in Eastern Europe and EAG-GS Outreach Series in Africa. We support early career geochemists through our Student and Ambassador Programs, and we built a database of PhD/MSc/BSc programs and courses in geochemistry as well as links to available bursaries. We need your help to make this resource even better so please become active and send us your input.
Finally, one initiative and new member benefit I am particularly proud of is the launch of Geochemical Perspectives Letters (GPL), a new short-length style geochemical journal written, edited and published by and for the geochemical community. We launched it in 2015 and together with the continually successful Geochemical Perspectives, we have created a new home for excellent geochemical science publishing.
For me the highlight each year is naturally the Goldschmidt Conference. In 2015, I helped Eric Oelkers and the Cambridge Publications team organize and run the Prague meeting, and seeing its success was a happy moment of achievement. On the other hand, in 2016 I was terrified as I had to give a President’s plenary talk in front of a highly diverse geochemical audience. However, the pre-talk stress was rewarded with joy and happiness through positive reactions received after the talk (those who thought otherwise would be wise to not say so and let me continue to dream).
My EAG President’s tenure also coincided with my gradual move from the University of Leeds (UK) to the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ, Potsdam, Germany). This transition is a long endeavor that is testing my patience and increasing my airmiles.
As of January 2017, I will pass EAG’s rudder to Bernard Marty. I am sure he will, in light of the challenges that face us as geochemists in the near and far future, lead the EAG in new fruitful directions that I am excited to see happen.
About the author:
Liane G. Benning is Professor in Interface Geochemistry at the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) and Professor of experimental biogeochemistry at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds. Her research focuses on the quantitative elucidation of geochemical reaction mechanisms in inorganic and biogenic systems.
Liane has served the EAG Council since 2009 and is co-founding editor for Geochemical Perspectives and Geochemical Perspectives Letters.
I am really grateful to the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG) for their support to attend the 35th International Geological Congress (IGC) 27 August – 4 September 2016, Cape Town, South Africa. The city of two oceans where the beautiful nature and enjoying the fresh winds first before going further into the black continent. With one of the new seven wonders of nature the Table Mountain where you have a look at the ocean and the land at the same time.
The International Geological Congress is one of the biggest conferences in geology and held every four years. With approximately 5000 participants the 35th IGC in Cape Town was a great event for meeting pioneers in all geological disciplines. My scientific interests are related to carbonate rocks especially the geochemistry, sedimentology and petrophysics. I had the opportunity to present my paper on the geochemistry of limestones and get the feedback and comments from the audience. During sessions and in breaks the discussions with scientists from all over the world enhanced my knowledge and added some ideas which I can apply in my work.
Again I would like to thank the Early Career Science Ambassador Program for such a great experience.
About the author
Ahmed Ali is a PhD student at the Department of Geodynamics and Sedimentology, University of Vienna, Austria and the supervisor is Prof. Dr. Michael Wagreich.. The subject of his thesis is about geochemistry and petrophysics of limestones with a case study of Middle Miocene limestone in Austria. The Author is a member in the EAG and aslo is EAG Ambassador.
The 13th Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology (USSP) was held at the University of Urbino (Italy) in July 2016 (www.urbinossp.it). USSP focuses on past climate dynamics with special emphasis on the analysis of the long-term carbon cycling and its implications in the understanding of present and future climates. It is a unique opportunity for postgraduate students and early career scientists to be trained by ~25 leading senior scientist from around the world. I was looking forward to an intensive course to strengthen my knowledge of different areas of paleoclimatology including biogeochemical cycling, paleoceanography and deep-time climate modeling.
The good timing of USSP gave me the opportunity to participate in the Goldschmidt Conference, held this year in Japan, a week of sightseeing in Japan and then, relaxed and motivated, directly go to Urbino. At the airport in Ancona already, I met two of my ‘summer-school-colleagues’ with whom I spent most of the following 17 days. Unfortunately, because of some lost pieces of luggage, we arrived in Urbino a bit later than expected and missed the icebreaker. So we had to wait until the next day to meet the other students.
The course started with four days of lectures and after work beers at ‘Piazza della Repubblica’, the heart of the beautiful small Renaissance city. This was a great opportunity not only to socialize but also to discuss my research with some of the lecturers. After these first intense days of introductory lectures about climate studies, lectures about age models, the carbon cycle and biotic proxies, a day of fieldwork followed. We visited the outcrop in the Contessa Valley that spans several organic-rich horizons deposited in the Cretaceous and the outcrop across the K/T boundary at Bottaccione. Subsequently, we split up in 6 groups for logging where I had the possibility to work on the outcrop in Furlo containing Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (OAE-2; C/T boundary, ~94 Ma). This section was especially interesting to me since I am working on the same event but on southern hemisphere sections.
On the next day we learned how to statistically evaluate whether the stratigraphies of our logged sites followed Milankovitch cycles and the groups presented their findings. The lectures on the following days covered orbital forcing of climate, climate models, geochemical proxies, OAEs, several warm periods, cryosphere dynamics and sea level, the reconstruction of glacial-interglacial records, Holocene ice cores and present day climate change including prospects for the future. We also had poster sessions giving us students the possibility to present our work and the Cioppino Conference where the lecturers were talking about their current projects.
Most people used the free days to do sightseeing. I spent one day in Urbino visiting the childhood house of Raphael (Raffeollo Sanzio da Urbino), the Ducal Palace and the Cathedral and on another day, some other students and I rent a car and explored the lovely city of San Marino.
Overall, USSP was an amazing experience! I have learned a lot about paleoclimatology that is very useful for my work. It was also great to have the possibility to talk to paleoclimate experts in an informal atmosphere and to meet so many interesting and nice people with whom I will hopefully stay in touch. Many thanks to the EAG for the sponsorship that made this trip possible!
About the Author:
Sophie Gangl is in the second year of her PhD studies at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. She is looking at C isotopes and additional redox-sensitive metal isotopes (e.g. U) during Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (C/T boundary, ~94 Ma) from southern hemisphere sites in New Zealand. Her supervisors and advisors are Claudine Stirling, Christopher Moy, Matthew Clarkson, Hugh Jenkyns (University of Oxford) and James Crampton (GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington).
The 4th International Workshop on Highly Siderophile Element Geochemistry was hosted by Durham University, United Kingdom, from July 11th-14th 2016. This meeting was attended by 75 delegates from all over the globe; and their 73 abstracts offered broad and exciting science for the week.
The scientific programme covered a range of topics in Earth and Planetary Sciences, exploring mineralogical and textural observations, highly-siderophile-element abundances and their fractionation, stable and radiogenic isotope systematics, and chalcophile element data including S-Se-Te variations and isotopic compositions. These data were shown to trace low-temperature processes related to environmental contamination, Earth’s geochemical cycles and erosion processes, and high-temperature processes linked to ore formation, mantle melting on Earth, and some of the major phases of planetary evolution. A full day was devoted to the presentation of new findings arising from meteoritical and lunar studies and a number of related posters were presented during the mid-week poster session. A public talk titled “How do meteorites tell us the story of our Solar System” was delivered by the workshop’s keynote speaker, James M. D. Day (SCRIPPS, UC San Diego), and effectively advocated for the collection and study of planetary materials; it was well received by a mixed audience of workshop delegates, academics from the wider University, members of the Royal Astronomical Society, and general members of the public.Twelve student travel bursaries were awarded totalling approximately £3,500 in funding provided by the Meteoritical Society, Geochemical Society, and the European Association of Geochemistry. Three of these students travelled from Australia, North America, and India; all others came from continental Europe and the UK and all presented their research findings at the workshop. Two student talks supported by the Meteoritical Society provided interesting new tungsten stable isotope data for a range of meteorite types along with innovative atom probe tomography results for refractory metal nuggets in chondrites. The best and highly-commended student talks and posters were judged by a body of external volunteers, and the prizes were presented by Laurie Reisberg, President of the Geochemical Society. The successful post-conference field trip to the Isle of Rum was coordinated by Pierre Bouilhol, Durham University, and involved a party of approximately 30 delegates and workshop committee members. The excursion was very ably led by Brian O’Driscoll, University of Manchester. Harrisites and their textures were examined and their mode of formation formed a basis for debate among the group. Chromitites of the eastern layered series, rich in platinum-group-elements, sparked great interest and the stoic field party made the climb to these outcrops despite heavy rain and high stream waters. Amy Riches, Geoff Nowell, Kevin Burton and an army of helpers ensured that the field party could dry-out after each excursion and kept everyone fed and watered. The return trip to the mainland across glassy-waters on a warm and bright day was inspiring and capped the adventure.
The workshop’s sponsors are thanked for their support and include: The Meteoritical Society, The Geochemical Society, the European Association of Geochemistry, Engineering Design Plastics, Thermo, Nu Instruments, the UK’s Geochemistry Group, Applied Mineralogy Study Group, Mineral Deposits Study Group and the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group. Gratitude is offered to the organising committee and voluntary team for their tireless efforts that ensured the success of the workshop and its fieldtrip. Edward Inglis and Katie Schweitzer arranged an excellent ice-breaker, and Fienke Nanne coordinated a highly-successful and very memorable banquet complete with ceilidh! Geoff Nowell contributed much and provided a number of informative laboratory tours. Chris Ottley is thanked for coordinating the panel of judges and supporting some of the student prizes. Chris Dale and Alex McCoy-West were responsible for the scientific aspects of the programme. Chris Dale is also thanked for scheduling volunteers and session chairs during the workshop itself. Marc-Alban Millet and Paul Savage formed the bursary committee and their input during workshop preparation, throughout the meeting, and in the field is much appreciated. Kevin Burton, Helen Williams, and Dave Selby are thanked for their encouragement and advice.
Alexandra Witze, 2016 winner of AGU’s David Perlman Award for Excellence in Science Journalism, wrote a feature article in the Aug 6th edition of science news which also dominated the cover page and explored the constraints iron-loving elements place on Earth’s evolution. Prior to our meeting, a successful affiliate session titled ‘Tracing Ocean Circulation – Past and Present’ was convened by Ruza Ivanovic, Tina van de Flierdt and David Wilson at the 2016 Annual Goldschmidt Meeting. Following the HSE workshop, Fienke Nanne and Thomas Kruijer chaired a special session titled ‘Planetary evolution: Advances in meteoritical and lunar isotopic analyses’ at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society, which was well-attended and engaged a broad scientific audience.
In relation to this workshop a Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta special issue, provisionally titled “Highly Siderophile Element [and closely-related] Constraints on Low- and High- Temperature Earth and Planetary Processes”, is in preparation and enables the timely publication of pertinent contributions of new research findings. We are soliciting relevant high calibre contributions from workshop delegates and the wider community, and the deadline for submission is midnight (GMT) on October 28th 2016. All prospective authors must meet the fundamental criteria for publication in GCA. This includes a high degree of novelty and broad geochemical significance as well as quality of data and presentation. Further information: http://www.hseworkshop.co.uk/special-issue-gca
About the author:
This report was kindly written by Amy Riches, Durham University.