Hydrological experiences as an Early Career at the EGU in Vienna

First impressions as an EGU rookie

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is one of the biggest congresses in the field of Geosciences. Last year I attended the IWA Congress. I came back full of inspiration. So, I was excited for my next conference, the EGU General Assembly 2023. This year, there were 15453 attendances with 938 sessions. Wow, it was an intensive, inspiring week, but I am coming back with even more energy and inspiration and eager to work on further research.

Experiences of networking on the train to EGU

The train trip was an experience in itself. The trip went really well; all trains were (almost) on time. As all KWR colleagues were spread over the train, I met new (EGU) people who sat beside me. I met someone from Malaysia living in Wageningen. We talked about the (cultural) differences between Malaysia and the Netherlands, but also about differences in water management. After him, I met someone else and talked about the hydrology in the dunes. He mentioned that he had previously seen a poster presentation once by someone who was also doing drainage research. As it turned out, we had also spoken to each other at a conference two years earlier! Such inspiring talks made me happy, the networking had begun!

Since EGU is an incredibly large conference, I decided to divide my week into four topics: hydrology from a broad perspective, hydrology in-depth, hydrology in the (near) future, and general skills for an early career.

Hydrology in relation to plant roots, soil and meteorology

Hydrology in depth I learned immediately: do we always have to make ourselves happy? Your first hunch will probably be YES! However, imagine a child who doesn’t want to eat vegetables at dinner but chips. Probably a parent will not allow it, and the child will be taught to eat vegetables. Now, imagine a plant. A plant we try to water on time so it can grow well. However! I learned that a plant continuously adapts to its environment. If a plant gets less water than it would like, it adapts by making longer roots to search for water or closing its stomata (but not linear). This ultimately results in a more robust plant: both in drier and wetter times, it can supply water. So should we always make a plant happy?

In addition, drought or wetness also affects soil composition. In other words, thinking from one box or expertise is so easy. But, from a hydrological perspective, it is important to also take into account how, for example, a plant functions, what meteorological developments there are, and what properties a soil has.

Presentation given by Janine de Wit.

Hydrological consequences of measures

Hydrological processes and the water balance are important topics to understand (for a hydrologist). These processes could be researched in different ways. For example, measuring processes with monitoring wells, soil moisture sensors, soil thermal profile series, seismic geophysical methods, coplanar geometry, and electromagnetic induction. At EGU, there was also a trade show with companies where I saw a new soil moisture sensor. Furthermore, I attended a presentation with different results than expected. After another look at the data, it became clear why the results were different than expected: it turned out that they had not looked at the details enough.

Finally, I also got to give a presentation myself on the hydrological effects of controlled drainage with sub-irrigation. If a measure is applied, it is important to know what the effects of this application are. The presentation went very well, with room for discussion. After the discussion and the other sessions, it became even clearer to me that even with controlled drainage with sub-irrigation, crops and the landscape could be more robust in terms of water. I think it’s important that first, a measure could be a solution if, at the same time, it does not create other challenges, and second, a measure should be able to move with the situation at the time.

The value of water in the future

Water is one of the four elements. In addition, we have one water system, which everyone needs, now and in the future. The value of water was also evident at the EGU. Clearly, water supply and water demand are out of balance. It’s a raise to the (water) bottom. What important is, is that there is both action on reducing water demand and exploring different ways of water supply (or water sources). One of the sessions used soil moisture measurements and the weather forecast to estimate field conditions in the future. Interesting and relevant work, which we at KWR are also working on. I also learned how the van Genuchten and Brooks-Corey models could be brought together. Models are used in much work toward the future. The quote “simple models are incorrect, but useful whereas complex models are correct but useless” was mentioned. Whether this is true or not, I do not yet know. But the take-home message for me was to think carefully about the purpose of a question and what method can be applied to this question.

Walk before you run, but start walking!

At the EGU, there were not only content presentations. There were also so-called short courses, varying in subject matter. In the session “is social media outreach,” different forms what outreach were discussed, both quality and quantity. How do you tell your story, where do you tell your story and what is useful and what is not useful to do? The take-home message was also about who ends up reading your story, which is increasingly difficult to know on the internet! The other short course was about scientific writing. With the main take-home message for me: why are articles published, and what do you write where a paper and why?

EGU was an intense but inspiring week. Do we always have to make ourselves happy? Still not sure yet, but I was really happy in Vienna. The interesting people I met, both new and old ones. Also, the new ideas for further research I got. Furthermore, keeping myself up to date with the latest both in water and water-related topics was really educational. Lastly, a very good time I had with my other KWR colleagues. Karel van Laarhoven, Peter van Thienen, and Ina Vertommen also wrote about their experience in a blog! At the previous IWA conference, I learned the quote, ‘walk before you run, but start walking’! That’s what I did; I really enjoyed the inspiring time in Vienna and look forward to what’s next.

Train travel with colleagues.