Summer School Reports

Student accounts of their experience at recent ECORD summer schools

The Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology 2015 was such a wonderful experience and so much more than I could have hoped for. The program covered a very diverse range of topics from cyclostratigraphy to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, cryosphere dynamics and the Eocene-Oligocene Transition to Holocene climate change. Lectures were taught by researchers at the forefront of their field, which provided particular insight into the topics that were covered. There was even some lively debate and discussion between the instructors! I definitely have a much more thorough understanding of the Earth System, paleoclimatology, and different research methods in the field after attending this course.

Although the lectures at the summer school were great, by far the best part of the course was its informal nature and the interaction among students and instructors. Every day after lecture the students and instructors would go for a drink at the main square in Urbino to chat and discuss that day’s lecture and students’ and instructors’ research. There were about 70 students at Urbino from different universities around the world, all studying a variety of different topics within paleoclimatology. I really enjoyed learning about everyone’s diverse research interests and I could not have asked for a better setting in which to do it. The rolling countryside around Urbino, wide piazzas, old churches, and cobblestone streets were beautiful.

I am so grateful to IODP Canada for granting me this opportunity and I would highly recommend this summer school to any other early career paleoclimatologists.

- Anna Phillips, PhD student, University of Toronto

The Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology 2015 was so much more than a summer course. Its content went far beyond what textbooks could tell us. The summer school brought together the leading scientists from different fields of Paleoclimatology. What we learned from them were latest discoveries in Paleoclimatology, how those discoveries were made, the pros and cons of different methods and the current key knowledge gaps to be filled. I was stimulated to be more skeptical about individual evidence but be more creative to fit different evidence together.

The summer school succeeded in providing a big picture for early-career scientists. It covered different fields of Paleoclimatology: from stratigraphic methods, new findings on various proxies, to ice sheet and climate modelling. It reminded us how individual research can combine to form a much bigger picture.

I am grateful to IODP-Canada for offering me the summer school scholarship. The summer school gave me the chance to meet so many amazing instructors and students whom I will surely see again in the near future.

- Man-Yin Tsang, PhD student, University of Toronto

After a long day of travelling, including planes, trains and buses, I finally made my way from Halifax to the beautiful city of Urbino, Italy. From the moment I stepped off the bus onto the cobblestones, I was amazed by the beauty and history of the city. Over the next 17 days, I was able to meet 75 students from different parts of the world and various leading scientists. The school provided a diverse learning environment; lectures were organized to cater to students coming from various academic backgrounds, taking advantage of the expertise of scientists from around the world. Learning was not only restricted to the lecture hall, but was also provided during a field trip, practical lessons, discussion during coffee breaks, and even over a glass of wine in the evening. The Urbino Summer School in Paleoclimatology (USSP) 2014 provided a perfect platform to share ideas and knowledge among people with similar interests.

Apart from academics, Urbino - with its rich culture - provided the perfect atmosphere to relax in the evening after a long day of lectures. We were able to explore surrounding towns and beaches during the free days. Some great friendships were formed during lunch breaks and picnic dinners. It was also exciting to meet the experts that I have cited in my research in a social setting. Having only heard and read about the K-T and PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) events before, seeing these in a field outcrop was definitely the highlight of my trip.

Overall my experience with the summer school was more than what I had expected. It was the perfect combination of academics and a social getaway for students who, like me, spend a lot of their time in labs and in front of a computer. I would very much like to thank IODP-Canada for providing me with such an opportunity.

- Diksha Bista, MSc Student, Dalhousie University

Urbino Summer School 2014 was so much more than I could have anticipated. The setting itself in the town of Urbino is breathtaking, and well worth the long trip. The cobblestone narrow streets, beautiful churches, and rolling surrounding countryside provided me with a much-needed peaceful retreat from the enormous amount of material I was learning every day. As a young scientist finishing my Masters in micropalaeontology I was incredibly grateful for the first week of introductory lectures on subjects I hadn't thought about for years. There was a wonderful structure to the teaching, which built up a clear and complex picture of the climate system and how we can understand it from a geological perspective. I now have access to PowerPoint slides and recommended papers provided by experts in each field, on topics I will certainly revisit in my future studies.

The learning experience of Urbino was not just found in the classroom. Meeting students from around Europe and North America and a few other scattered locations who are interested in the same subjects provides a unique social experience. Never did I think I would be having conversations about coccolithophores to a group of greater than two people, which I found encouraging and really fun! We all love to talk about our research, so receptive new ears and perspectives are wonderful things. The poster session in between lectures provided an insight as to what the current research interests are internationally.

An experience that I thoroughly enjoyed was the day trip we took to see the stunning stratigraphy of the Umbria-Marche Apennines. As a Toronto resident, even the slightest variation in topography can be exciting and outcrops are few and far between. Seeing the clear bandings of OAE's within a quarry exposed outcrop of pelagic Cretaceous sediments, and later standing next to that famous tiny layer with the iridium anomaly attributed to the asteroid which wiped out all dinosaurs (aka the KT boundary) was amazing. In true Italian style this geology trip was followed by a long three course late afternoon lunch.  I'm so grateful for this opportunity that was provided for me by IODP-Canada, and would recommend this experience to anyone who is interested in pursuing a PhD in paleoclimate research.

- Katherine Schmidt, MSc Student, University of Toronto

Report on the 2012 ECORD Summer School in Canada

Impacts of Cryosphere Dynamics from Land to Ocean

Rachel North1, Catherine Robin2 and Phoebe Chan3

1 Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, UK
2 Geodetic Survey Division, Natural Resources Canada
3 Department of Earth sciences, University of Toronto, Canada

The joint ECORD/ICDP/IODP-Canada Summer School on cryosphere dynamics took place from July 5th to 21st in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Nineteen participants gathered from universities in Canada, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, Greece and Belgium, attending classes and workshops presented by invited lecturers at GEOTOP, University of Québec in Montréal (UQÀM).

The first week consisted of lectures on a broad range of topics providing an excellent synthesis of current cryosphere research. The talks focused on reconstructing the cryosphere and climate change in the Cenozoic, from a number of different perspectives and timescales, using modelling, geomorphology, palaeomagnetism, and terrestrial and marine core records. Following lectures, workshops were conducted in three groups, each of which selected a crucial question that had not yet been critically addressed. This question was then discussed throughout the session and presented to the class on the last day of the school.

During the second week, the summer school travelled to the north shore of the St. Lawrence River to take part in a 5-day field excursion. On the first stop at Baie-Comeau, the class toured a coring site in an ombrotrophic peat bog and visited a beach cross section of Holocene deposits (see photograph). The group then moved to cabins located on the shore of Lac Walker, an ancient fjord now the deepest known lake in Québec. During the next few days, the participants surveyed the lake using CTD profiles, took underwater gravity cores and explored the nearshore surface sediments of the lake with a remotely operated submarine. The fieldwork also included a survey of the Sept-Îles area where students conducted sub-bottom acoustic profiling using a chirp echo-sounder, and high resolution multibeam bathymetry in order to characterise a submarine glacial moraine associated with the Baie-Trinité Moraine complex. On the last day of fieldwork, students were guided through outcrops of Quaternary sediments revealing the postglacial evolution of the cryosphere around the Sept-Îles area.


Section of Holocene deposits along the North coast of the St. Lawrence estuary.

Upon returning from the field, students participated in a series of interactive exercises at GEOTOP, which introduced a number of proxies, geochemical and statistical methods used in palaeoclimatic research. The class became acquainted with microfossil analysis in cold water environments (foraminifera, dinoflagellates and pollen) through lectures and microscopy practicals. The classes continued with sedimentary analyses, seismic interpretation, time series analysis, radiogenic isotopes and stable isotope methods, followed by a tour of the GEOTOP isotope laboratories.

The summer school concluded with a day of presentations on the workshop questions researched by each of the three groups during the course. Finally a summary of the fieldwork was provided by the University of Québec students.

The Montréal summer school offered an excellent opportunity to learn about the current understanding of cryosphere dynamics and methods used to reconstruct past climatic change, and to critically assess the challenges and new developments in paleoclimatology and their impact on climate predictions. It enabled students of diverse nationalities and academic backgrounds to collaborate in a friendly, scientific setting; in the field, the classroom, and the laboratory. We would like to give a big thank you to all those who made the summer school a success!

Proceedings of the 2010 ECORD Summer School in Canada

Ocean and Climate Changes in Polar and Subpolar Environments

27 June – 12 July 2010; Quebec, Canada

IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, Vol. 14, 2011