INTIMATE: a Research and Training School in Stefan Engels

The training school
The INTIMATE network aims to better understand the mechanisms and impact of climate change by bringing together scientists working to reconstruct and model palaeoclimate through the INTegration of Ice core, MArine, and TErrestrial palaeoclimate records. Since the 1990’s, INTIMATE has held regular meetings and the active community of scientists has expanded across the whole of Europe.  A new initiative developed in 2013 (when INTIMATE was funded as an EU-COST Action) was the organisation of a training school that combined teaching about palaeoclimate research with conducting actual research on-site as well as following the school. Stefan Engels (Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey),  Christine Lane (University of Manchester), and colleagues recently hosted the 1st training school in Dörverden (Germany), where 20 early stage researchers (ESRs) from across Europe and beyond attended and enjoyed a week of science in a productive and social environment....

Explaining how to core peat sediments
 After months of intense preparation, budgeting and organisation, local organisers Michal Slowinski and Mariusz Lamentowicz (together with Stefan Engels and Christine Lane) hosted the training school in the beautiful surroundings of Stara Kiszewa, northern Poland. A total of 21 ESRs from 9 different nations joined the training school, from Ireland in the west to Russia and Bangladesh in the east. The first day of the meeting was aimed at formulating research questions, and analysing the palaeo-tool box we can use to answer these questions. This was mostly achieved in an interactive environment, where participants cooperated in different groups and then shared their ideas and findings in short presentations. Day two was used to get acquainted with the Quaternary history of the region during a very interesting field trip, before two days of hands-on training. Participants learnt a variety of techniques, including coring on a lake platform (piston corer) as well as in a peat bog (Russian sampler), lake-water sampling and a lab session was hosted where several proxies could be ‘sampled’ under the microscope. The final day was used to bring all the initial results and techniques together, and to apply all the knowledge that was gained during the previous few days to the research questions that were formulated on day 1. 

Students getting to grips with the cores
Aside from this busy daytime schedule, the evenings were filled with state-of-the-art lectures by experts in their various fields, including climate modelling (Didier Roche, Gif-sur-Yvette), age-depth modelling (Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Oxford), ice core science (Sune Rasmussen, Copenhagen) and lake sedimentology (Achim Brauer and Rik Tjallingii, both in Potsdam). These lectures truly formed a great addition to the program, and highlighted key aspects of palaeo-research. The final evening was (of course) used to have a big farewell party, and included the consumption of a locally shot wild boar as well as some local beers and snuff! We were introduced to local traditions by two Kashubian folk music performers, and the participants spent their final drops of energy learning to play the ‘devils violin’ (see picture) or the horsetail-in-a-barrel. A great end to a fantastic week, thanks to all the participants.

Stefan Engels is a Research Fellow within the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, collaboration between the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham.