Friday, 26 April 2019

My First European Geosciences Union General Assembly // by Olivier Humphrey


Olivier is a PhD student at the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry (British Geological Society / University of Nottingham) researching iodine dynamics. 


The Vienna International Centre
April 7 – 12 marked a very successful EGU General Assembly at the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria. I was one of 29 members of BGS staff in attendance, alongside many other scientists from 113 countries.
As this was my first EGU assembly, and first large scale conference I wasn’t too sure of what to expect. The annual conference is the largest geoscience conference in Europe, with something for everyone;  from atmospheric sciences to tectonics and structural geology.  With 5531 oral, 9432 poster, and 1287 PICO presentations given in just 5 days the timetable and most importantly map of the venue, provided via the EGU app, were an absolute necessity!  
During the conference I presented a poster entitled ‘Iodine Dynamics in Soil Solution’. This work was a combination of experiments I’ve conducted whilst studying for my PhD at the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry (British Geological Survey – University of Nottingham). The aim of this work was to further understand the rapid soil-plant-iodine interactions which immediately follow an iodine addition event (e.g. rainfall, irrigation, and fertilisation). Understanding iodine dynamics in soil solution and availability for plant uptake could be used to plan future phytofortification strategies.
Olivier presenting his poster 'Iodine Dynamics in Soil Solution'
Through the poster I presented data on the first application of microdialysis, an extraction technique predominantly used in neuroscience, to sample isotopically labelled iodine (129I) from soil solution every 2.5 hours for a total of 40 hours to assess short-term sorption and fixation processes. The results showed that iodine undergoes a number of reactions; (i) iodine is instantaneously adsorbed – the proportion of which is significantly influenced by specific soil properties, (ii) inorganic iodine is partially converted to soluble organic compounds and (iii) the remaining iodine in soil solution is rapidly removed, incorporated into the solid soil phase. We found that the newly formed soluble organically-bound iodine had relatively low molecular weights (<5 kDa). Interestingly, we also observed a slower time-dependent formation of larger iodinated compounds (12-18 kDa) in some soils. Loss rates were modelled using simultaneous ordinary differential equations and demonstrated that iodine present in soil solution, not instantaneously absorbed, had an average half-life of <2 hours. The results from this research have the potential to influence future strategies for iodine phytofortification as iodine applied to soils is rapidly lost, therefore, alternative fortification process, which are not reliant on the soil-to-crop transfer would be favourable.
Overall, the conference was a great success. As well as being able to share my research with the scientific community, some of whom are also trying to apply microdialysis to soil science,  I was able attend a lot of fantastic talks, engage in a few stimulating PICO and engage with some great poster sessions. . I’ll be aiming to attend next year; see you there?  


The PhD was supervised under the umbrella of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry: Dr Scott Young, Dr Liz Bailey and Professor Neil Crout (University of Nottingham) and Dr Louise Ander and Dr Michael Watts (BGS).

EGU is Europe’s general assembly for geoscientists, held in Vienna, Austria each year. The 2020 assembly will be held May 3 – 8. More details here.

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