COP21: The Outcomes

Last week the leaders of almost 200 nations came together in Paris for the 21st UNFCCC Conference of Parties. On Saturday, 12 December 2015 these leaders reached an agreement that will signal the end of the use of fossil fuels, with the aim of rapidly replacing coal, oil and gas with clean energy sources worldwide.

Continue reading “COP21: The Outcomes”

COP21: Australia’s Position

Climate change is a global problem that requires all nations to come together to be a part of the solution. Australia equates to 5.15% of the world’s landmasses and 1.3% of greenhouse gas emissions, the 13th largest emitter in the world per capita out of 195 nations.

Countries by carbon dioxide emissions in thousands of tonnes per annum, via the burning of fossil fuels.
Countries by carbon dioxide emissions in thousands of tonnes per annum, via the burning of fossil fuels.

Continue reading “COP21: Australia’s Position”

COP21: Paris Climate Talks

Next week one of the world’s biggest and most important diplomatic events will take place. But what is the UNFCCC COP21 and why should we care?

Understanding the Acronyms

UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this refers to the selection of leaders from 195 nations and the European Union who have come together with the aim of reducing the impact of human actions upon the Earth’s climate system.

The Conference of Parties (COP) is the leading body of the international convention. COP21 is the 21st annual gathering for the UNFCCC leaders and is to be held in Paris, 30 November – 11 December 2015. Continue reading “COP21: Paris Climate Talks”

Lindau – An experience of a lifetime

By Adi

63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate MeetingAlfred Nobel’s philanthropic gesture of establishing the Nobel Prizes enabled our society to annually recognise some of those who, in Nobel’s words, conferred the greatest benefit to mankind.

This is the story of how an annual event that celebrates the achievements of the Laureates, continues to spread the spirit of the Nobel Prizes and inspire the next generation. Continue reading “Lindau – An experience of a lifetime”

Back to the Past

By Malte (guest blogger)

Last week the RSES Student Conference was upon us. This is an annual event that gives the students at RSES the opportunity to present their research to the School in a short 5 minute presentation. The more than 40 talks covered most of Earth History and reflected the huge range of projects going on in this school.

Continue reading “Back to the Past”

Preparing for AGU


By Claire

I have never been to a large international conference, and I have chosen AGU to be my first. AGU (American Geophysical Union) holds a conference in San Francisco each year (known as the Fall Meeting), which attracts more than 24,000 scientists from around the world.

Now, I have to admit that I’m having some difficulties comprehending that many people in one place. It’s basically like having a full Manuka Oval (or an average crowd at an SCG match) worth of scientists, scurrying around to get to lectures. So far, the conferences I have been to were quite small – only 400 people or so, so I’m looking forward to the sheer size of this conference.

I was advised this morning that in order to secure a reasonably priced room for the week-long event, I needed to book now. Usually, I’m more of a last minute type of person. I wasn’t really planning on thinking about accommodation until a few months before hand, but at the advice of my advisor, I started looking this morning.

I’m soooooo glad I did! Continue reading “Preparing for AGU”

Maths – our (often) forgotten tool

By the time you read this… I’ll probably be presenting at a conference. The particular conference I am at this week is the 2013 conference on the Mathematics of Planet Earth, which is being held because 2013 is also the international year of the maths of planet earth.

Rather than going into details of either my presentation or the conference itself, I want to take the soap box for a bit to talk about the ways in which maths is an essential tool to do good science. I also want to ask the question: “how does maths help you with your science / what sort of maths do you need that might make your science better?”. Also note I’m not going on about pure maths, I’m talking about maths the tool rather than maths the subject. I’m also keeping it fairly generic: no huge discussion on second-order Bessel functions despite the fact I use them daily at the moment.
Apologies in advance for any minor gremlins in this post, editing on a small tablet is… interesting.

Continue reading “Maths – our (often) forgotten tool”

Bad Talk Bingo

By Nick,

I’m just back from a week long presentation. My talk went well, the networking was great and I had a fun time. The sessions in my field were also excellent. But…

It wasn’t that great a conference, and a lot of that was down to some really dodgy presentations – especially in some of the sessions that weren’t directly related to my field, but were still of a passing interest. A bad presentation is hell on earth. I hate them, I switch off, I don’t care, often I sleep. I know I should try, I know that a bad presentation is not the same as bad science (although there was plenty of correlation = causation going on) and that I should really try hard. But in a long conference keeping up attention is hard. So a bad presentation is not exactly the best way to get your message across to me.

Now, there are plenty of blogs and websites out there which will explain how to give a good presentation, so I won’t go into the details. Instead, I’ll give you a way of staving off the boredom in those terrible talks. Next time you go to a conference, print one of these and take it with you, and play Bad Talk Bingo! Compare with your friends in other sessions and see who had the worst time.



monotonic voice

distracting background photograph

changing the title to something boring


Comic Sans

skipping unnecessary slides

turning back on the audience

reading from notes


mentioning lunch, before the end of the session

PowerPoint’s slide transitions

“As we all know…”

convener unwilling to keep session on time

running massively over time

figures with panels not used in talk

correlation = causation

Font size too small


acronyms not defined


lack of contrast between text and slide

inappropriate dress

“As you can see…”

clip art

reading from the slide

When things stall…

Michael Leunig
Michael Leunig

By Claire

First thing I need to make really clear, is that I love my PhD. I love what I’m researching and I love the people I am working with. Up until this point, I have been really lucky. My PhD has been a breeze. You hear all the time about people who come to loathe the research they are doing a couple of years in to it. I am not one of those people. I am one of the lucky ones who have coasted through so far. I still enjoy what I am researching and I enjoy coming in to work each day.

That is until now.  Continue reading “When things stall…”

The Art of Presenting

Springtime in Vienna - an invasion of geoscience!
Springtime in Vienna – an invasion of geoscience!

By Evan

As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in beautiful Vienna, recovering from the after party of the European Geophysical Union General Assembly 2013. The conference is one of the largest meetings of geophysical sciences (with a large helping of geochemistry!), with over 11,000 participants.

My session on glacial isostatic adjustment brought out some of the big shots of the discipline, something I was warned about before arriving (egos abound!). It was great to meet all these people who have published influential and important papers on ice sheet models, sea level change, and the rheology of the Earth (i.e. how the Earth deforms under the shifting loads of water and ice). It was interesting to get people’s views on these matters, and have feedback on my own work. Luckily, everything went smoothly!

Now, onto the matter of the art of presenting. I went to many sessions on tangentially related subjects, and sometimes the talks were not as good as the ones in my own. I have some advice for those who want to have an effective presentation. Continue reading “The Art of Presenting”

Maybe I do know something after all…

Pondering the lessons I've learnt
Pondering the lessons I’ve learnt

By Claire

Right now I am sitting in Melbourne Airport, getting ready to fly back to Canberra after attending the AMOS Conference at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

I have to admit to writing yesterday’s post on the weekend while I was preparing my talk for the conference. I actually considered not posting my “struggle” with so-called “imposter syndrome” but I decided that it was a valid fear that some people might relate to. I did manage to overcome my fear of being exposed as a fraud by the time that I had to give my talk.

I actually realised that I know more than I thought I did. Telling people about my work and being able to answer questions that I was asked was something of an ego boost. It’s not until you actually face talking to people about what you know, that you yourself get to find out what you know.

It turns out that I do know what a “monsoon” is, which I’m sure is a relief to my supervisors, since that’s what my PhD topic is. My talk went really well and I actually got some great feedback, which helped to reassure me that I’m going along ok.

I apologise for the complete lack of scientific content in this post, but being a scientist isn’t always about the science.

“Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

another-cat-imposterBy Claire

Kelly has posted before about “Imposter Syndrome” – a fear that you will be found out as an imposter who somehow tricked everyone into thinking you know more than you actually do.

Next week, I’m heading off the the Atmospheric and Meteorological Society (a.k.a. AMOS) annual conference in Melbourne. While I’m really excited to head along and catch up with people and hear all about the interesting work going on, I am a little bit terrified about giving a presentation myself.  Continue reading ““Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about.””

More than hot air in Doha?

By Kelly

The latest round of international climate negotiations have once again been plagued by talk of collapse, of an inability to agree on targets, and on failure to meet previous commitments. So where is the hope? As always the indomitable Professor Barbara Norman is there with her proactive stance on climate change.

Continue reading “More than hot air in Doha?”

Ignoring planetary peril

QatarBy Bianca

After two weeks of climate talks in Dohar, 194 countries have agreed to implement a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol, or have they?

In a last minute decision Qatar decided almost on its own to extend the Kyoto Protocol for another seven years.

With only Europe and Australia agreeing to sign on for the second and final phase the results are rather depressing. Although the Kyoto Protocol has been extended, negotiations will be until 2015 and further global emissions reduction agreements won’t take place before 2020. Not unjustified, scientists warn that any deal that goes into effect in 2020 comes too late and that we have to act now. Continue reading “Ignoring planetary peril”

Has Curiosity found life on Mars?

Scoop marks in the Mars soil from analyses conducted by Curiosity.
Scoop marks in the Mars soil from analyses conducted by Curiosity.

By Claire

A presentation given by the team responsible for putting the Curiosity Rover on Mars, and for its ongoing exploration have presented some initial findings from the missions at the AGU fall meeting, held this week in San Francisco.

Curiosity has begun sampling the martian soil, testing the chemical composition of a small sand dune in Rocknest.

Curiosity has scooped five soil samples from this area, sending the samples into a variety of analytical tools on board for analysis.

Flow chart showing the process for analysing the soil samples.
Flow chart showing the process for analysing the soil samples.

Initial results from the soil analysis show the presence of organic carbon molecules – a possible indication of the presence of life on Mars.

At this stage, the Curiosity team are cautious of this result, indicating that these molecules could have been brought with Curiosity from Earth. Further analysis of additional soil samples will help to clarify the origin of these organic compounds.

View the full AGU presentation here.

AGU Fall Meeting 2012

AGU conference – lots of people!

By Evan

No, I am not at the AGU Fall Meeting this year. Though, now that I see what is happening there, and pictures of my friends from afar, I wish I was. The American Geophysical Union holds its fall meeting every December in San Francisco, and is the largest gathering of earth scientists in the world. Here are some of the big events going on.

Rumours abounded last week when a NPR report said a that an announcement of results from the Curiosity rover was “gonna be one for the history books”. NASA has tempered those expectations. Disappointingly to some, the results presented were the first analyses of Martian soil, which may have found chlorinated methane compounds (though NASA suggests the methane could have originated from the rover itself). Continue reading “AGU Fall Meeting 2012”


By Nick

Dirty networking. Image from:

Ugh! Networking is such a dirty word. It puts me in mind of boring businessmen in suits being incredibly narcicissitc about their own abilities while sucking up to whoever they’re talking to in an attempt to gain favour. This favour might later lead to promotion or job contracts or a game of golf and influence on the board over the next round of mergers and acquisitions.

Even in slightly more realistic situations networking is still seen as a slightly dirty thing, and I, for one, hate it. For a start, I’m not much of a person to talk myself up and often I find contrived conversation tortuous and difficult. But it is a necessary evil, particularly at conferences, where getting to know your fellow geologists* is all important, for getting future postdoc positions or research insights with elder academics. Or getting to know your peers so that you can collaborate for years to come.

Luckily geologists have ways around some of these networking problems.

Continue reading ““Networking””

What a week!

By Kelly

It has been a busy week at the research school with guests from abroad, the announcement of new ARC fellows and a careers workshop to help the apprentice scientists among us decide whether we should attempt to join the ranks of the aforementioned academic elite. On Thursday, Edouard Bard gave the annual Jaeger-Hales seminar; an excellent summary of what the scientific community knows about climate during the last deglaciation and the mechanisms or forcings -as we like to say in the biz- that cause icecaps to form, and melt, through the ages.

Dr Andy Hogg, 2012 Australian Research Council
Future Fellowship recipient.

While on the topic of the hydrological cycle a huge congratulations must also go to Dr Andy Hogg for being awarded an ARC Future Fellowship, and close to $800,000 to support his research over the next 5 years. The fellowships are designed for early/mid career academics (5-15 years post PhD) and like all funding they are highly competitive. From Andy: “The Southern Ocean is critically important to future global climate: it controls the natural global carbon cycle and the distribution of heat and nutrients around the ocean. This project will investigate key uncertainties in the Southern Ocean’s response to climate change, and thereby improve our capacity to predict future climate.” Money well spent I say. Continue reading “What a week!”

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