About Bethan Davies

I am a post-doctoral research associate, working on the James Ross Island project at Aberystwyth University. I wrote and developed the AntarcticGlaciers.org website as part of an ongoing commitment to outreach, education and research impact. Read more about me at www.antarcticglaciers.org/bethan-davies.

In defence of reticence

Occasionally, comments on this website call me reticent. I think that this is because I try not to let my personal opinions cloud my professional, scientific judgement. I am proud to be reticent. I always try to be informative, to give values of uncertainties and ranges and assessments of confidence. I try to present both sides of the story, while always relying on peer-reviewed papers published in reputable scientific journals. I try to let the evidence speak for itself. Continue reading

A note on ‘Collapse’

There is a lot in the media at the moment about the ‘collapse’ of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. See my previous blog post for more information. But when we talk about ‘ice sheet collapse’, what do we actually mean? When we talk of people ‘collapsing’, they fall down right in front of us in the street. Buildings collapse. Bridges collapse. It’s a very bad thing. Right? Continue reading

Is the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsing?

Marine ice sheet instability

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is the world’s most vulnerable ice sheet. This is because it is grounded below sea level, and marine ice sheets such as these are susceptible to rapid melting at their base. Fast-flowing ice streams draining the WAIS (Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier in particular) into the Amundsen Sea have a grounding line on a reverse bed slope, becoming deeper inland. Recession of the grounding line means that the ice stream is grounded in deeper water, with a greater ice thickness. Stable grounding lines cannot be established on these reverse bed slopes1, because ice thickness is a key factor in controlling ice flux across the grounding line. Thicker ice in deeper water drives increased calving, increased ice discharge, and further grounding-line recession in a positive feedback loop2, 3.  This process is called Marine Ice Sheet Instability4.

Continue reading

Analysis of www.AntarcticGlaciers.org as a tool for online science communication

Davies, B.J., and Glasser, N.F., 2014. Analysis of www.AntarcticGlaciers.org as a tool for online science communication. Journal of Glaciology 60(220), 399-406.

Download the preprint: Davies_et_al_2014_preprint.

The following is a shorter, simpler version of the published paper.

Science communication for the time-limited academic

Academic research into climate change is driven by pressing human concerns. Because climate change has the potential to seriously affect our society, the effective communication of this research is increasingly important1. As such, increasing numbers of academics and researchers are taking part in public engagement2-4. But a key question is,

How can time-limited academics, who work in full-time positions, implement effective outreach strategies with limited budgets?

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Five years post PhD

Career to date

This week, it’s five years since I had my viva. Rather like finishing my PhD originally, I feel like I’ll celebrate this anniversary several times (five years since submission, since viva, since corrections accepted, since graduation, etc.). I guess this means that I’m no longer an early career researcher, and I’m supposed to know what I’m doing. I feel that this is as good a time as any to reflect on the past five years and my career progression; where I am, and where I want to be. This article contains thoughts on some of the strategies that worked for me – and that I’ll be employing over the next few years as I move on to the next stage in my career. Continue reading

Setting up a science blog

Online science communication

There are as many outlets for science communication as there are scientists doing it. They range from traditional press releases and media interviews1 to science cafes, public debates and lectures, museums, open days, TV programmes2 and films. However each comes with its own specific limitations; many preach to the converted. Many people visiting these events are already interested in science3. Scientists are limited by a lack of training, opportunity and time (we can’t all be the next Brian Cox). These events often offer only a limited time to explain key concepts and deliver powerful arguments. Continue reading

My 2013 year in review

It is a good idea, at the close of one year, to review the past 12 months and to reflect on accomplishments, skills developed and lessons learned. Inspired by similar posts by Jon Tennant and Martin Eve, I thought that I would also write a summary of my activities and achievements in 2013, just for my own benefit. Hopefully others will follow suit and we can all congratulate each other! Continue reading

How to get a post-doc

Why do I need a post-doctoral position?

In an era when PhD students are rising in number and the amount of highly qualified early career scientists is huge, competition for post-docs are intense. These fixed-term research positions, which can be thought of as apprenticeships, are essential for scientists wishing to move to permanent positions in research leading universities. Lectureships at good universities seem to require at least 5 years of post-doc experience, at least 10 first-author publications in strong journals, a significant amount of grant income, and ideally a prestigious independent research fellowship. Continue reading


As part of GeoWeek, students and staff from Aberystwyth University Department of Geography and Earth Sciences discussed women in Geography and Geoscience. We wanted to know what challenges are faced specifically by women in science and by Geowomen, and how they can be overcome. We discussed our motivations and inspirations, gender balance in different research networks, challenges faced specifically by women in academia, and the importance of role models. Continue reading