28 June 2017

Former PhD student Aimée Slangen

42 degrees South

My first visit to IMAU was in August 2008, to apply for a PhD position with Roderik van de Wal and Bert Vermeersen. At the time, I was finishing up my MSc in Meteorology and Climate in Wageningen with an internship at Meteo Consult. The PhD position was on modelling of the glacier contribution to sea-level change. Not exactly meteorology, but since I had done a BSc in Soil, Water and Atmosphere, and spent a 6 month-period at ETH Zurich studying glaciers and ice sheets, the topic was actually perfect. After all, sea-level change is an integrated signal of changes in many different parts of the climate system. I was offered the position, and so my journey in science began. 

In the four years that followed, I worked on my research and had a great time with all my colleagues at IMAU. There were coffee breaks, drinks, barbecues, beach volleyball, petanque.. It was a great group of people, many of which I still regularly meet at conferences. I also got the opportunity to go to Greenland for fieldwork in the NEEM camp, certainly an experience I will never forget. 

When I finished my PhD (on 12-12-’12), I decided I wasn’t done with science yet, and I started looking for a postdoc position, preferably somewhere exotic of course. Half a year later, I found myself in Tasmania.

Tasmania, you may ask yourself, where is that? Well, it is an island south of Australia, quite literally on the other side of the world. It has about 500,000 inhabitants in an area 1.5 times the size of the Netherlands, so you can imagine the peace and quiet. I lived and worked in Hobart, wedged between the Derwent river and Mt. Wellington with its 1200 m summit. The nature in ‘Tassie’ is quite spectacular, with lakes, rainforest, ocean, mountains and beautiful unspoiled beaches nearby. There is also some amazing wildlife: wombats, wallabies, echidnas and Tasmanian devils. Oh, and snakes too.

First and foremost I went to Hobart to work with one of the giants in sea-level research: John Church. I worked in the Oceans & Atmosphere division of CSIRO, the main Australian research organization. Being a member of the oceanography group, I learned a lot about ocean modelling and observations. My own work mainly focused on the detection and attribution of 20th century sea-level change. In other words: can we find a human fingerprint in observed sea-level changes? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes...

Former PhD student Aimée Slangen

When my 3-year contract in Hobart came to an end, we moved back to Europe, to the UK, where my husband started a postdoc in Hull. While we lived there, I worked for IMAU again, investigating changes in sea-level extremes under different sea-level change scenarios.

Then, the opportunity arose for a tenure track position at NIOZ in Yerseke; I applied and got the position! This means that, after nearly 4 years abroad, I now find myself back in the Netherlands. The tenure track at NIOZ gives me 5 years to start building my own research group on sea-level change, after which I hope to continue in a permanent position. Even though I really enjoyed living in Australia and the UK, it also feels great to be back home. I particularly enjoy being able to bike everywhere again!

From what I’ve experienced so far, NIOZ-Yerseke is a great place to work. My new colleagues have been very welcoming, and the institute is located in a great spot, looking out over the Eastern Scheldt estuary. If you would like to come by and have a look (or stay a bit longer and work with me on sea-level change), you’re very welcome, so get in touch! 

Aimée Slangen