International Research Platforms – getting involved!

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Navigating the world of professional research networks/platforms can be overwhelming – after all there are so many out there, from discipline specific to those which are pushing international research agendas. INQUA is one of these international research platforms, and for this blog post I wanted to introduce a couple more of these (of which I have experience with) to highlight complementary networks that might be of interest to other INQUA ECRs.

So to start – a little about me! I work at what I would describe as the ‘contemporary end’ of the Quaternary period! The time-frame in which I work is challenging when it comes to understanding ‘natural’ environmental change, as it is the period of time which encompasses the period with the largest amount of human activity and impact on the landscape (especially in terms of magnitude and rate of change). I am lucky that my research allows me to undertake science, but I particularly enjoy the applied aspect of my work too. Because of the time-frame I work in (present, back to 2000 years) and the ecosystems which I choose to study (freshwater lakes) my work stretches across a multitude of disciplines, from Quaternary Science right through to ecosystem services and policy. I love identifying with INQUA – it completely sums up my undergraduate and postgraduate background (from specialising in Quaternary Environmental Change during my BSc at Aberystwyth University through to my MSc in Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, culminating in my PhD at Loughborough University). However, given the multidisciplinary nature of my research and its relevance to societal challenges (e.g. the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals), I am also involved in (and contribute to) other research platforms – most notably Past Global Changes (PAGES) and Future Earth.

Past Global Changes aims to support research that is directed towards understanding the Earth’s past environments to be able to better predict and understand its future trajectory, as well as informing sustainability strategies. PAGES has a really broad scope – covering everything from the climate system, biodiversity, biogeochemical cycling and the human dimension, and take in time-frames ranging from the Pleistocene right up until the recent past. PAGES has recently undergone a few changes, having been one of the initiatives of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (which ran from 1987-2015). It is now included as one of the networks of Future Earth (more about that in a minute!). PAGES supports (and funds) a range of activities, including Data Stewardship and Working Groups. Working Groups are temporary organisations (c. 3 years in duration) that aim to bring together palaeoscientists from the international community to integrate knowledge that targets specific aspects of PAGES scientific agenda. Currently there are 15 PAGES working groups, many of which will be of interest and complementary to the research of many INQUA ECRs (PlioVAR, LandCover6k, Global Paleofire 2 and Aquatic Transitions to name but a few!)

Future Earth is a (new) international platform which aims to provide the knowledge and support to transition towards a sustainable world. Future Earth is acting as an international hub, bringing together a number of existing programmes (including the former IGBP initiatives) to co-ordinate inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches to research. Future Earth embraces the concept of co-design and co-production, integrating the needs of scientists (physical and social) and stakeholders across a wide range of sectors in order to carry out research, building on the strong foundations of existing (and former) initiatives. Future Earth is in its early years; it was established in 2012 and became fully operational at the end of 2015, their website is packed with information, and includes details on networking conferences for young scientists. Future Earth also run a blog, so why not check it out (after you’ve read the INQUA blog of course) and join the discussions there!

There are other international research platforms out there – another one that springs to mind is Young Earth System Scientists (YESS). I would strongly encourage all ECRs to check out all of these organisations (if you haven’t already) and get on board if you feel you are able to contribute to their working groups and meta-databases. It’s worth checking back to these websites, as many have funding opportunities (like the INQUA Awards), opportunities to get involved and attend international Working Group meetings (occasionally funding will exist for ECRs to attend), conferences (such as the PAGES Young Scientist Meeting/Open Science Meeting) and other ECR networking meetings and events (Future Earth). So come on – what are you waiting for! Get involved!


**Disclaimer – I am a Steering Committee Member of the PAGES Aquatic Transitions Working Group, and on the Scientific Committee for their 2017 Young Scientist Meeting. I have also participated in Future Earth’s Early Career Workshop on co-production and co-design. I was not asked to write the above by either organisation – I just wanted to share my experience with other ECRs**


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Keely Mills

I am a palaeoenvironmental scientist at the British Geological Survey, and ECR representative for the INQUA Humans & Biosphere Commission (HABCOM). My research interest centres on trying to understand how lake ecosystems have responded to past climate changes from a multi-disciplinary perspective and to try to understand how resilient these often vulnerable but ecologically important freshwater resources may be to future climate changes, especially under increasing pressure from human activity, pollution and modification. I spend much of my time working on lake systems in warmer parts of the world (Africa, Australia and Malaysia), and my speciality is in the identification, and quantitative application of fossil diatom analysis.

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