GeoMinKöln 2022 – ECR events, geochemistry and a questionable poster

Michaela here – 

Thanks to the generous support of the Tilly Edinger Travel Grant, I was able to take part in the 2022 annual meeting of the German Geological Society (DGGV) in Cologne (or Köln). In many ways, this conference was unlike any other I attended thus far. It was the first conference that I went to without the support of my supervisor and subsequently I had to navigate the shallow waters of networking on my own. It was also the first conference after I got involved with the young scientist section of the DGGV and thus I was busy organising ECR events, distributing merch and meeting all the people I had only known from endless zoom sessions, since the group was founded in midst of a global pandemic. However, the most significant difference was the work I presented – I have no other way of stating this: I pulled a bold move and the results were unexpected.

But let us start at the beginning.

Conferences are nicer in a comfy sweater.

It began with a pre-icebreaker for students and early career researchers on Sunday (September 11th.), that I missed, because I was stuck in Cologne’s unforgiving traffic. Great start – especially given that I am part of the group that organised the event, the JungeDGGV (YoungDGGV). Luckily, I was still received with a warm welcome afterwards – probably because I brought with me a box of t-shirts and hoodies that we designed for the JungeDGGV and were eagerly awaited. Wrapped in our new attire we were more than ready for the “grown-up” ice-breaker.

Organisig ECR events on a conference is a fun way to meet fellow students.

Networking without my Ph.D.-supervisor by my side who knows and is loved by everyone and everything in the German geoscience community, was harder than I expected. I have to admit that I felt a little lost at times. Although I had made a plan of who to talk to beforehand – I realised that a crowded ice-breaker was not the ideal place to find these individuals. However, the efforts of the JungeDGGV to make the kick-off less awkward for young scientists paid off well and while getting to know the PIs had to wait, I met lots of inspiring people from my own career stage.

My time to present came during the poster sessions on Monday and Tuesday evening and boy was I nervous. My poster on Tuesday was titled “What beachrock can and can’t do as a sea level indicator” and a wrap up of all the work I did during my 4 years as a Ph.D. student. The conference was very mineralogy heavy, which meant that there were not a lot of sedimentologists and no sea-level researchers present. Under these circumstances I am more than happy with the turn up. Everything I did during the last four years was talk about beachrock – so, you guessed it, this was not the poster I was worried about.

The second poster I presented on Monday, titled “Shards of glass” was a shot in the dark. Being at a point where my Ph.D. is finished and searching for postdoc opportunities, I currently focus on future research. Apart from the idea, the most critical aspect of this is acquiring funding and finding a PI who is willing to support you during the process. During a Summer School in May 2022, a fellow student and I had an idea to investigate anthropogenic materials like plastic, glass and plastitar that we found cemented into a beachrock on Eleuthera Island (Bahamas). We want to find out where the trash comes from, how it is transported around the island, if it influences the beach rock cementation process and if cemented coastal sediments function as an effective sink for trash and thus keep it from drifting off into the open ocean. Beautiful idea – but who to work with and how to get funded? We thought why not produce a flashy poster that describes the idea even though we haven`t produced any data yet? When I found myself standing next to a poster that looked pretty but had essentially no content apart from “please hire me”, I asked myself more than once: is this a good idea? Turns out: it was. I have never presented a poster that attracted so much attention. People wanted to discuss the idea, gave tips on what methods to use and how to structure fieldwork, and left so, so many business cards.

Even a poster without the biggest scientific findings can attract attention.

So what is my take away from the GeoMinKöln2022? I’d say: put yourself and your research out there even if it is just an idea and go and join a scientific society, because it helps.

background: Poster session seemingly occurring outside. Foreground: Michaela standing on the left with her poster about shards of glass and trash.


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