Sea-level research and its results have been well on the map for the past couple of years. “So why not make it the main theme of an early career researchers (ECR) meeting?” must have been the thought of our main sponsors INQUA and PAGES back in early 2017. Together with Aimée Slangen (NIOZ, UU), Kay Koster (TNO), Robert Barnett (University of Exeter), Xavier Benito (SESYNC) and Eduardo Alarcón (Central University of Venezuela), I was invited to be in the main organising committee for this INQUA-PAGES conference at Utrecht University held from Sunday 26 to Wednesday 29 August 2018.
The conference started with a well-attended ice-breaker in the Serre at the Botanical Gardens on Sunday. On Monday we had a full day of talks in two different sessions: 'Past sea-level changes', and 'Recent and future sea-level changes'. Both sessions showed that the community is working hard on solving the past and present sea-level budget, focussing on processes such as glacial isostatic adjustment, sedimental erosion and storms that impact regional (future) sea level. The immediate interaction between attendees during talks, breaks and poster sessions was very nice.
The Netherlands is well known for its water management on many levels, so why not go by a number of great sites to show how it actually works in the past and the present? We had a bus trip that took us past the Lek River towards the windmills of Kinderdijk. Striking to most of our visitors is the large difference in elevation between the water level in the river, the height of the dikes, and the much lower ground level adjacent to the dike with houses. Well visible in central Rotterdam that took us towards Vlaardingen for our next stop. After a good lunch we went on with the more active part of the programme: core drilling! The excursion organisers (Kim Cohen UU and Kay Koster TNO, with help from a couple of colleagues) brought some 25 m deep cores that showed the early Holocene drowning of the Maassluis area (about ~ 10.8 cal years BP). Also, we conducted hand corings and drilled into the ground looking for sea-level markers like the flooding of Vlaardingen mid-12th century. The day ended at the beach near the Sand Engine and a great conference diner at the Fletcher hotel in Naaldwijk.
On Wednesday we continued with a great set of talks in the 'Mitigation, adaptation and coastal impacts' and the 'Submerged landscapes' sessions. Again, a nice variety of talks on the impact of sea-level rise on coastal areas and how this has either changed the landscape in the past, how it affects current communities and the possible impact in the future. Actually, precisely dealing with the main theme of our conference.
In that respect I think we had a great programme and a very nice group of young researchers presenting the current highlights of sea-level research. With a total of about 65 attendees from more than 20 different countries I can say it was a great success!