Report - Spring School 2022

From May 16 to 20, the RTG spring school took place in person in Plön.

Text by Nicolas Dettling, PhD Candidate

From May 16th-20th, the TRR181 PhD students and PostDocs gathered in Plön for the first offline spring school at Koppelsberg in Plön. The spring school officially started with the “RTG conference”, a welcome opportunity to practice and refine contributions for upcoming conferences. In the presentations and posters we travelled from Arctic Fjords to the Baltic Sea, to the Tropical Atmosphere and into the realm of internal wave theory, once again showcasing the diversity of research performed within TRR181. Lively discussions and constructive feedback also demonstrate that we have made great progress understanding each other's work.

Apart from giving talks and presenting posters, the ability to introduce ourselves and to communicate our scientific work in a very limited time is a valuable skill. This is why in the “Elevator Pitch Training”, Manita Coucksey (UHB) and Stephan Jüricke (Jacobs University, AWI) encouraged us to prepare a short introduction to our work and to pitch it to each other for practice. Rumours say that some first successful pitches have already been given during following conferences.

Time for breakout

Visualising results is also an important aspect of our work. The quality of our visualisations may well decide whether we reach and convince our audience. This is why we explored the two high-level visualisation tools “Inkscape” and “Blender” in breakout sessions. Following some simple examples, we obtained a first impression of each program so that now everyone can decide whether to incorporate these tools into their work. In another breakout session, the different areas came together to recap their progress so far and to discuss future directions. There is still work to be done to forge deeper connections between the different subprojects and to explore potential collaborations to bring the whole TRR closer together.

Subsequently, in the “Art and Science Update” Jennifer Fandrich (UHH) gave a review of recent outreach projects such as the screening of the piece “Die weiße Wand” at Thalia Theater Hamburg. As a special guest, composer Victor Ernesto Gutiérrez Cuiza together with Valentino Neduhal then walked us through the process of writing his musical work “Choreatmosphere” which is based on atmospheric data. This gave everyone the chance to experience the piece which was already presented live at Hochschule für Musik Hamburg.

Another highly anticipated contribution was the SONETT update, reporting on the successes and hardships of the recent TRR field campagne in the South Atlantic. Especially for all the participants who have not been to sea, this was a great opportunity to learn about both the scientific work and the daily life on an oceanographic research vessel. We are now looking forward to seeing first results and keep our fingers crossed for the preparation of the follow-up cruise next year.

At "sea" with canoes at Plöner See

After hearing all the stories about the work at sea, spirits were high to spend some time on the water and so we set out to explore the “Großer Plöner See” by canoe. Luckily, in comparison to the Atlantic the conditions were calm and sunny and both participants and gear made it back to shore safely. Half way through the tour, all the boat crews came together in the middle of the lake, a picture to be remembered! 

Besides discussing our own work, there was also time for some scientific input in the form of three invited talks. In his keynote lecture “Machine learning in the Geosciences - an opinionated review”, David Greenberg (Hereon) gave a comprehensive overview of how machine learning can potentially be used in the geosciences. Whether machine learning is a beneficial tool to be used in our subprojects is for everyone to decide. One way to find out is to dive into some simple examples like in the exercise class David graciously provided for us after his lecture. 

In the following talk “Transport, mixing and transfer operators”, Kathrin Padberg-Gehle (Leuphana University Lüneburg) provided insights into how mathematical methods can be used to identify persistent features in geophysical flows. Applications include the tracking of mesoscale eddies as well as the description of Polar Vortex splitting.

To conclude the day of lectures, Lars Umlauf (IOW) introduced us to the k-ε-model, a two equation model representing turbulent properties of the flow. Starting with simple scaling considerations, we quickly moved on to the derivation of the partial differential equations for the turbulent kinetic energy and dissipation, describing the evolution of the energy and scale of turbulence.

“What is next?”

As we progress in our journey as PhD students and PostDocs, the question of “What is next?” has become a recurring theme in our conversations. This is why the last session of the spring school explored career paths in academia and beyond. Four TRR alumni joined us for this session to tell the stories of their careers: Camilla Nobili (University of Surrey, lecturer) and Meike Ruhnau (UHH, research management) representing careers in academia as well as Veit Lüschow and Almut Gassmann who now work in the fields of climate consulting and medical engineering. The following discussions made us realise that the reasons for pursuing or leaving an academic career are diverse and personal and challenge us to further explore our skills and talents to make a decision ourselves in the future. The opportunity to talk to the TRR alumni was very much appreciated and we thank them for openly sharing their career paths with us.

Finally, we all met again on Friday to summarise what we have learned and experienced. Not only the scientific content and training but also the opportunity to sit around a bonfire, play some volleyball or to go for a swim together was greatly appreciated by all participants. In the very end, we were sent home with a musical rendition of the sad story of the lost SONETT glider: “Here I'm like comet in a deep space, far behind the boat, Navier-Stokes were true and there's nothing I can do…”

  • Canoe trip at Plöner See