Meet the expert in hydrology – Sharing visions for hydrology

By Tobias Weber

This year’s AGU/CGU Joint Assembly in Montréal (May 3 – 7) saw the first Early Career Hydrologist Night (ECHN) organised by the YHS. Accompanied by lucullan food and local craft beer, invited experts gave pitched contributions sharing their visions in hydrology with young hydrology scientists. Intense and fast paced discussions on the future of young hydrologists in academia followed. With more than 30 people attending from a broad range of career stages, contributions showed a wide range of vantage points. Strong cause was made by the experts and attending seniors alike; “to remember the principles of sound science and remembering it for future careers also outside of science”, and “not to sign off on invalid conclusions”. Again the importance for young students to attend scientific meetings and participate in the scientific communities was highlighted.  Concerns of career options in and outside of academia were brought forward by the young. Additionally, the need for good leadership, support, and guidance was made. We are happy to see the impetus of the ECHN on spreading the YHS has and we look forward to student involvement at future CGUs.

Maria Strack gave a specific talk on hydrology as a discipline serving other scientific disciplines. As a respected scientist in the field of carbon emissions from peatlands and wetlands, she was able to exemplify how important hydrology is to understand environmental systems response to change. The ensemble of process leading to certain signals in carbon fluxes are not fully understood. However, a good knowledge of the hydrology of a wet- and peatlands can serve as a helpful proxy for predictive purposes of carbon exchange. She pointed at the fact that while knowing the watershed hydrology can help C-flux trends, there are unexplainable due to processes governed by short term and small scale processes not visible on the watershed scale. The bottom line was that hydrology is a key driver for a multitude of interconnected ecosystem processes.

Bill Quinton gave an account of his own career and used this to exemplify strategies which worked for him and he suggests young hydrologists to test to grow. These included “apply for scholarships”, “apply for funding”, “reassess and resubmit previously unsuccessful application for funding (at other locations)”, “mark out trends to catch on funding chances early”, “build interest groups of peers at research institution and invite your seniors/superiors and share in what you are doing”, “invite people from outside to talk in front of your peer group”, “attend meetings like CGU and AGU”, and “build student network locally, nationally and globally”. This list is a summary and does not intend to be a full narrative.

John Pomeroy talked about challenging the fervent use of calibrations in hydrology. Calibration of parametric models as an indice of hydrology not having incorporated the physics. He advised hydrology students not to settle with satisfactory results in calibrating effective parameters for hind- or forecasting. Instead, to question previous knowledge and bring the natural science into hydrology. Think of the governing physics and invest in understanding these.

We thank Maria Strack (University of Waterloo, Canada), William Quinton (Wilfried Laurier University, Canada) and John Pomeroy (University of Saskatchewan) and all attending undergrads, grads and early career scientists for the lively discussions. Lastly, we thank AGU and AGU Hydrology Section for their assistance.

Tobias Weber is a PhD candidate at TU Braunschweig, Germany, conducting his research on vadose zone hydrology and redox dynamics of organic soils. Currently, he is at the University of Waterloo,to do conduct research on non-equilibrium water flow processes.

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