Archive for the ‘Goldschmidt Scene’ Category

I think everyone agrees that we had some very inspiring presentations yesterday at the Earth’s future panel. Here’s what I retained:

Dr Bill Chameides said that, as a “lobbyist” for the environment, explaining complex issues about climate changes to elected peoples in positions of power is good, but that explaining simple issues to a lot of voters is even better. He joked that his “impact factor” was surely higher when he appeared on a cooking TV show to explain the meaning of “carbon footprint” than when he was publishing scientific papers. He warned that people from outside science, when they listen to scientists, are all too often left with the impression that while scientists are very intelligent, people can’t understand what they are talking about. Tackling climate change is all about communication, he said, and a scientist that takes a position on an environmental issue is not necessarily losing his or her credibility. His motto: Education, Communication, Multidisciplinary. I met him randomly today and he asked me put up a link to his blog.

Dr Veerabhadran Ramanathan warned about removing pollutant sulfur dioxide from the atmosphere without removing twelve times more CO2 at the same time. The calculation is simple: sulfur dioxide has a cooling effect on the earth climate twelve times more powerful than the warming effect of CO2. Along the same lines, he explained that emissions of other gases and particles that have greater warming effects that CO2, such as black carbon, should also be reduced. He said that global warming is about to reach thresholds that will bring iconic changes to the Earth surface. Here is the list in order of manifestation: i) the ice age oscillation switches off (this threshold is already reached; we will have no more ice ages), ii) the melting of the arctic ice cap, iii) Greenland melts, iv) the Amazon rain forest disappears, v) El Nino southern oscillation stops, vi) thermo-haline circulation shuts down, vii) the Antarctic ice cap starts to melt and viii) the Antarctic fully opens.

Dr Janet Hering also referred to three important events:

Galileo stated that the earth revolves around the sun (1610)
Darwin wrote that humans descend from apes (1859)
The term anthropocene was coined by Nobel prize winner Paul Crutzen, meaning that humankind has entered a new geological era (2000 – see his paper in Nature).

What are her solutions? We need to participate in local efforts on the community scale and focus on education, outreach and the empowerment of women.

I refer to Julia’s post for comments on Sir David King’s speech


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The Alpine slopes above Davos filled up with geochemists this afternoon, as many chose to spend the flexible afternoon discussing science while getting views of Davos from above, and meeting the locals.

Davos from Jakobshorn

Davos from Jakobshorn

local inhabitants

local inhabitants

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Wow, what a day. 

It would be lie to say I didn’t wake up a little nervous this morning knowing my first talk at an international conference was but hours away. Although the nerves were there, they didn’t get in the way of the thorough enjoyment and interest I had listening to the other presentations in the session themed “Microbial Cycling of Iron Minerals” with a particular focus on Fe(II) oxidation. It was such an experience to hear cutting edge research directly related to my field of research, delivered from peers I hold in high esteem from reading of their published work. 

The keynote address by Katrina Küsel on “Iron Cycling at the Oxic-Anoxic Interface in Acidic Peatlands” was great. She presented some novel methods for redox gradient analysis and iron oxidizing bacterial characterization using inoculation by gradient tube methods (methods I hope to pursue her about and relate to my own work). Her sophisticated yet simple to follow talk offered excellent insight into bacterial mediated iron cycling over a redox gradient in a peat land environment. It was great to hear in the majority of the talks a discussion on the iron oxidizing bacteria Leptothix ochracea, a bacteria close to my heart.

 My talk focused on biomineralisation of nano-particulate Fe(III) phases in circumneutral environments. I don’t think I’ll be wearing the same shirt again for the remainder of the conference after the nervous sweat that was perspired during the talk, but I was extremely gratified to be offered an oral presentation. It was an excellent learning experience, and although being nervous, I enjoyed delivering it and believe it was well received. It was nice to have one of the session chairs, Thilo Behrends approach me after the session to congratulate me on my talk and propose further discussion with him and one of his PhD students who was studying a similar topic….an opportunity I definitely won’t miss. 

The same session in the afternoon was equally interesting, however more focused on the bioreduction of Fe(III) phases. It really is a fascinating and hot topic at the moment (illustrated by the standing room only crowd in both sessions). 

Looking forward to tomorrows plenary by the él presidenté, Marty Goldhaber and will report in at some stage post plenary.

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A quick introduction….. My name is Lloyd Isaacson and I am a PhD student with a research group known as Southern Cross GeoScience at the Southern Cross University in Eastern Australia. My area of research looks at biomineralisation of iron(III) minerals in inland circumneutral waterways.

The initial feelings of excitement, anticipation and nerves accompanying my first Goldschmidt conference have slowly alleviated after an eventful few days leading up to the ice breaker. This included a night in Zurich involving a piano bar and some unconventional water quality testing methods, a climb to a glacier, a trip up the “Reinenhorn” gondola and a snow fight (unexpected and quite novel coming from sub-tropical Australia) at the top of the “Fleulepass”. Davos is a beautiful part of the world and the mountains here make those back home look like rolling hills.

The ice breaker was excellent. Good entertainment from a band of French geochemists and tasty canapés topped off with the odd fine ale made for a jovial environment. It was good to meet fellow conference attendees and the night ended with a group of newly acquainted researchers at one of the many fine restaurants in Davos.

After a welcoming speech by the quirky Eric Oelkers, the European Association of Geochemistry president, I managed (just) to find my way around the rabbit warren of the Davos Kongress Centre to see some quality talks on organically influenced iron(III) mineral transformations and structural variations in nano-particulate iron oxides.

I present tomorrow morning and will post a reflection (very relieved) of this experience at some point in the afternoon.


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Lured by the promise of posters and breakfast, I wandered down to the Ice Rink area to check out the posters this morning, and I’m glad I did, because I got to meet Stuart Daines, a postdoctoral researcher in Tim Lenton’s Earth Systems Modelling Group (http://researchpages.net/ESMG/). They have developed a model of “oxygen oases” before the Great Oxidation Event 2300 million years ago. Oxygen oases are hypothesized regions of the ocean where, due to high primary production by oxygenic phytoplankton, the ocean could have had a much higher concentration of oxygen than the ocean did on average. These oxygen oases are important for understanding the evolution of life on Earth because they were regions in which the modern ocean carbon-oxygen system probably evolved. In their box model, organic carbon is converted to CO2 and methane during methanogensis; this is starkly contrasted with our groups model, where organic matter is used to feed sulfate and ferric iron reduction. Contrasting these two systems – their methane-oxygen coastal system with our global redoxcline ocean – gives us a broader picture of the biogeochemistry of the early Earth. However, like our model, it raises more questions than it answers. For example, what impact would the Paleoproterozoic global glaciations (~2400 million years ago – Kirschvink et al., 2000) have on primary production? What was the dominant limiting factor on primary production at this time? Could the ocean even support a redoxcline globally for such a long time period? These questions will hopefully be answered not only through future modelling endeavors, but also through direct analysis of the rock record. Hopefully, some of these answers will be discussed at later sessions, such as 07c: Records of Ocean Anoxia and their Impact on Life.

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Just a short note to tell that the Goldschmidt conference has taken off today with a very nice ice-break. Tons of people and millions of human interactions. I have met friends that I had not seen for months and there was virtually no time to speak with everybody! The next five days are going to run very fast…

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The conference kicked off this evening with an enthusiastic welcome speach from the conference convenor Judy McKenzie a little rock-n-roll by the Double Dutch.  According to Judy, there will be over 2,000 participants at this year’s Goldschmidt conference, so it’s bound to be an exciting and energetic conference this year.

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