An ECR on a conference tour in central Europe

Thanks to UKCCSRC funding through a Call 2 research grant, I was able to attend two conferences in consecutive weeks last month (April 2016). My name is Sascha Serno and I am a postdoctoral research associate in Applied Geochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. I am working on the application of geochemical tracers (stable oxygen, carbon and hydrogen isotopes, noble gases) to reconstruct residual CO2 saturation in saline aquifers. Our UKCCSRC-funded project focuses on using geochemical data from the recent CO2CRC Otway Stage 2B Extension residual saturation test conducted at the Otway test injection site in Victoria, Australia, end of 2014 to reconstruct residual saturation in the Paaratte Formation. This work is conducted in collaboration with Stuart Gilfillan, Gareth Johnson and Stuart Haszeldine from Edinburgh, as well as with colleagues from CO2CRC and CSIRO Energy in Australia, the Berkeley National Laboratory in California and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

Our UKCCSRC-funded project slowly comes to its end, and we are busy finishing up publications of the geochemical data and conducting laboratory experiments to test some of our hypothesis raised based on the geochemical data from the Otway field experiment. Two very interesting conferences in consecutive weeks in April 2016 provided the perfect opportunity to present our results from the project, meet colleagues and old friends, and develop some new connections and research ideas for future work.

I first jetted over to France to participate in the D.I.N.G.U.E. 4 workshop for noble gas geochemistry at the CRPG institute in Nancy. The workshop was all about paying tribute to one of the most inspiring noble gas geochemist who unfortunately passed away last year, Pete Burnard. After taking a lovely EasyJet flight over to Paris and the TGV train to Nancy, I was positively surprised by Nancy, a lovely small town with nice scenery, and great food and wine. The workshop lasted for 2.5 days and was a total success. I was able to meet the prominent figures in noble gas geochemistry in a relaxed environment (thanks to CRPG for providing French wine from the lunch break onwards), discussing noble gases and other important things in life. Next to discussing our current noble gas work at Edinburgh with colleagues from different institutions and countries all around the world, I also presented in a talk part of my Ph.D. work that I conducted at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York and the University of Potsdam in Germany, dealing with the application of helium isotopes as tracers of eolian dust in marine sediments in the North Pacific.

Following this successful trip to Nancy and a short stopover in Munich for the weekend, I took the train to Vienna, Austria, to participate in the EGU General Assembly 2016. In a sharp contrast to the D.I.N.G.U.E. 4 workshop, which had a mere 100 participants, over 12,000 scientists and exhibitors attend the EGU conference every year in April in the Vienna International Centre just next to the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The meeting attracts scientists from all disciplines in Earth and Environmental Science. Such large meetings are always a good opportunity for early career researchers to present their work to a large crowd, meet scientists from different research areas, catch up with old friends and colleagues, develop and plan new research ideas, and learn from exhibitors about newest technological and publishing developments. And this all happens in a great city like Vienna, with fantastic tourist attractions, great weather and lovely Austrian food, beer and other drinks. If you get the chance to go to Vienna or somewhere else in Austria, you should try Wiener Schnitzel, Kaiserschmarrn, Sachertorte and Almdudler; you will not be disappointed! I took an entire (!) Sachertorte home with me (Austrians are prepared for crazy scientists exporting their cake by selling them at the airport in non-destroyable wooden boxes).

I had the opportunity to present our oxygen isotope data from the CO2CRC Otway Stage 2B Extension in a poster on Wednesday afternoon in a session dealing with new developments in monitoring of geological CO2 storage. This session was very stimulating, with oral and poster presentations covering a wide range of geophysical, modelling and geochemical approaches to monitor safe storage of CO2 in the subsurface. I was fortunate that my poster was located opposite to the one of Edinburgh colleague Stuart Gilfillan, who was presenting Stephanie Flude’s work on the inherent tracers measured in captured CO2. I was luckily busy the entire poster session, presenting and discussing our work with fellow scientists. Further, I developed some interesting new connections and research ideas by talking with scientists at their posters in the same session. The conference will definitely help us to further improve our data interpretation and for future collaborative research projects.