One of the special features of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship is the focus on training, and making sure you have the skills to move your career in your desired direction. For me, that focus has largely been on skills that directly relate to my research, but there are many other skills researchers need to progress in their careers.
Today I have been attending a course by Susan Chritton, hosted by the OD&PL (Organisational Development and Professional Learning) on personal branding. The importance of really thinking about who you are, what are your values and strengths to build an authentic brand, was reflected in almost half the session focusing on those aspects. Other take-aways include considering your emotional attributes and which ones you want to highlight and bring to your personal brand and thinking about the content by asking whether your readers will say 'this is someone I want to work with'.
After a couple of week of on boarding admin and finishing off a big manuscript that has been in the pipeline some 30 years (I'll post a bit on that project soon!), this week is all about getting to know my new team, both at Leeds and in PlioMIP (Pliocene Modelling Intercomparison Project).
This afternoon is the first of two I will have the pleasure of spending getting to know about the other work of ERCs in the PlioMIP. There are some familiar names, with Ran Feng presenting on past terrestrial hydroclimate driven by Earth System Feedbacks and Dan Lunt talking about GMST and polar amplification in the PlioMIP ensemble - results from IPCC, and some new colleagues such as
Julia Tindall, presenting on comparing the PlioMIP2 ensemble to Pliocene proxy data: how good are the models?
One of the interesting questions we need to address in proxy-model mismatch for Arctic amplification of temperature is how to tell if our proxies are bias or if our models are missing or mischaracterising processes in the climate. In palaeoclimate, best practice is to apply multiple proxies, each with different underlying basis for the relationship to the climate variable of interest, e.g. delta18O of tooth enamel and leaf physiognomy at the same locality to estimate mean annual temperatures. In general, if these agree, and don't contravene the Whitlock Principal of Least Astonishment, we have good confidence in our estimates. And yet all the training data for all our models is based on the modern world - what if our bias comes from the current climate space for which the Pliocene (and future) is not analogous, could this lead to all proxy-schemes being bias in the same way? If a climate variable currently covaries with the 'important' climate variable that is driving the relationship, but is not itself tightly bound to our proxy, this may be true.
A big of all Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowships is training. For me, that training will be in brushing off and extending my skills in statistical modelling. This will be key to thinking about the mechanics of how our currently proxies work and their potential pitfalls - as well as generating a new proxy for cloud. I am looking forward to getting deep into it in the coming weeks.
This evening I am starting day 2 of the Explorer's Festival with Explorers Symposium: Reflecting on a Year and a Legacy.
"For 133 years, National Geographic has illuminated our world and what it means to be human. To reflect on the past year is to listen intently to voices new and old and to learn from immense change. To reflect on our legacy is to tell stories with an even more expansive audience and to engage in an even deeper exploration of the world. It's an hour and a half of inspiring discovery from across the world."
One example - Justine Ammendolia, who is an amazing example of an adaptable young scientist making a difference in difficult circumstances, from a failed project in Greenland, to making the most of being stuck without a project in a city, during COVID. "When you're in the field and things fail, you have to adapt."
Later on I will be joining my colleagues in polar research as we discuss a new Polar Hub to facilitate working together and sharing resources in this incredible part of the world.
Coming up next week, the first virtual National Geographic Explorers Festival has over 6000 explorers invited and I am excited to attend.
In 2016, a National Geographic Research and Exploration grant, in combination with the Polar Continental Shelf Program and the NSF division of Polar Programs, funded my field season at three sites in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago – Beaver Pond, Fyles Leaf Beds, and Ekblaw. Five years, three international moves, and three fellowships later, the samples we took keep allowing me to answer questions about what the Arctic was like in the nearest analogue we have for our near future climate.
Although 5 years ago, National Geographic is still supporting my career with training in Effective Mapmaking, Advanced Storymaps with ESRI, and Making an Impact. I look forward to applying these new skills to my new research on palaeoclouds, as well as the related work we keep trickling out on fire in the Pliocene Arctic.
Clouds cause the greatest uncertainty in climate models, but we currently have no way of testing cloud model performance in a climate with higher CO2 than the historical records. Palaeontology gives us access to such a past, but currently, we don't have a method to reconstruct cloud in deep time.