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.

Books to read before starting University

Next week is Freshers’ Week and across the country, universities will be welcoming enthusiastic students into their departments. These students will be equipped with notebooks, lever-arch files, reading lists and text books.

But there is more that you can do to prepare for university. Here is my own recommended reading list. These are popular science books that I love. You won’t find them on your termly reading list, but they are well written by science advocates, and they may just remind you of your love of science after a particularly dull lecture. Further, they will broaden your horizons, going beyond the scope of your lecturer course and tying together many different concepts.

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Just published: most comprehensive review ever of the glaciation of Antartica

A major new review of the last glaciation of the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet has just been published by Quaternary Science ReviewsThe special issue of the journal includes a suite of review papers involving an international team of experts regarding the last glaciation of the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet. This review, which comprises six review papers and an overview paper in a special issue of Quaternary Science Reviews, is now complete and all papers have been accepted for publication. As this is the most important, up to date and inclusive review ever to be attempted for the glaciation and recession of the Antarctic Ice Sheet, it represents a major step forward in our understanding of palaeo ice-sheet dynamics, provides a benchmark against which future research needs can be identified and highlighted, and provides a compilation of data unlike anything seen before, which can be used to test and calibrate numerical ice-sheet models.

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How to get a funded PhD studentship

A position on a funded PhD studentship in the environmental sciences (including Geography and Geology) has never been easy, but in these days of funding cuts and university and RCUK (Research Council UK) reorganisations, it’s ever more difficult to get PhD funding. It’s competetive and every studentship may have hundreds of applicants. Here’s a guide on how to maximise your chances.

The following advice is most applicable to early career researchers wishing to pursue a PhD in Physical Geography or Geology, but hopefully some of it at least is more widely relevant! Continue reading

Moving on (again)

So, in September I’ll be moving on again. I’m leaving the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading to take up a lectureship in Physical Geography (Quaternary Science) at Royal Holloway, University of London.

I haven’t been at the University of Reading for long, but I’ve been impressed by their progressive attitudes, by the friendliness of the Department for Meteorology (including their croquet games and daily seminars with cake!), and by their generally well-run, well-organised attitude. I enjoyed working on my research project and enjoyed working with my PIs. I’m very sad to be leaving.

But I’m also delighted to be starting at RHUL, to be joining such a dynamic and exciting department, and to be taking charge of my own research and teaching. It’s the next step in my academic career. I’m excited and can’t wait to start.

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.

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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