I is for Involvement (with the research community)

Many researchers come from a long lineage of scientists who have been working in a similar field for generations, and can trace their scientific ‘ancestry’ back to a single hydro-scientist linchpin. Here in Canada I think of the DM Gray, Hok Woo or Jonathan Price dynasties, which must be at least into their fourth generation – in fact DM Gray’s may even be into its fifth.

Coming from outside of such a long Canadian lineage can make it difficult to become part of the national research community. My PhD supervisor was an ex-Brit, with an excellent record of grad student supervision in the UK, but very few in Canada. And as glaciologists, we also weren’t part of the hydrology community. So when my research shifted from glacier hydrology to snow hydrology, I felt like an alien in a strange land. I hadn’t worked with all these people from grad school onward, and I certainly hadn’t interacted with them at meetings or conferences. So how was I going to get comfortable with this new – and fairly unknown – society?

Turns out the best approach was to get involved. I started by organizing an annual conference session at our Canadian Geophysical Union meeting. For a couple of years it didn’t pan out, as we just didn’t get enough abstracts for a solo session. But one year was fantastic thanks to Dan Fagre, a dynamic invited speaker from the US. After that I started my current position, and volunteered to host a student conference, which some students still remember even though it was almost five years ago. Then I volunteered as Secretary of the CGU’s Hydrology Section, and started a listserve. It was a great two years of keeping up to date on what people in the community were working on, the new projects they were starting and needed grad students for, and the neat conferences and workshops going on across the country.

Having served almost a year now as VP of the same organization, I now feel like part of the community. I’ve co-organized another hydrology workshop, and been a guest associate editor for a couple of hydrology journals. While some might think all this is pure resume fodder, I see it as my key to the kingdom. I know who people are and how they’re ‘related’ in the hydrologic genealogy. I know who to contact if I have discipline-specific questions, or have undergrads interested in working on a particular aspect of hydrology. Most of all I have people to talk to about all the things we share – and some things we don’t – as step-siblings through our hydrologic ancestry.

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