New adventure: a PhD in Göttingen


Hello guys, today an update from beautiful Göttingen!
<voor een Nederlandse versie, klik hier>

It was somewhere mid-May when I received one of my happiest phone calls ever; my (now) supervisor told me: ‘Joost, do you want to start the PhD with us?’. ‘Whaatttt?!’ was my reply. Two weeks before I applied for a PhD position in the chairgroup ‘Soil Science of the tropics’, for a project with a focus on land use change in Indonesia – as this seemed to be my dreamjob, I’d never expected to be chosen! – yeaaaahhhhsss I’ll take it’ I replied  (with still my breakfast in my mouth, as I picked up the phone immediately after what was the result of a combination of surprise and enthusiasm).

    And so it started; in july I moved to Göttingen. ‘Göttingen???’ I hear you think. Yeah, a city, exactly in the center of Germany. See the map above. It’s located south of Hannover, 300 km away from Berlin and 380 km from Eindhoven – exactly in between both my lives. Providing the world with over 45 Nobelprice winners (sometimes I see one during lunch!), the Georg-August University Göttingen is also known as the center of German science. Cycling past the ‘Max Planck Institut für Sonnensystemforschung’ on the way to uni, I still feel impressed. Together with Greta, my Italian colleague, I found an apartment in the center of Göttingen’s ‘Altstadt’. This city can best be described as a ‘real, intense, typical German city’, haha. All the houses have the typical authentic wooden structures. I have to admit, I like it very much. After 3 years in Berlin, it’s nice to be in a small-scale city. And in case it gets boring; Berlin is a 2-hour train ride away!

    Het straatbeeld in Göttingen!

    Göttingen’s street view!

    My institute is located at the outskirts of the city, at the food slope of a hill. Having my room located on the fourth floor, means I have amazing views over Göttingen and the adjacent valley. My colleagues and supervisors are amazing; everybody is very friendly, supporting and enthusiastic – such a difference compared to Berlin!

    Bezoek van mijn zusje en broertje!

    My sister and brother visiting me!

    Allright, now my topic! The coming three years I’ll be investigating the influence of the transition of forest to smallholder oil palm and rubber plantation on the emission of greenhouse gasses of the soil. Quite the sentence, a short description: as by now known by the public, oil palm is being used more and more in daily life. Secretly it’s an ingredient in a lot of common products (think peanut butter, tooth paste etc.). This palm oil needs to be cultivated, and the tropics around the equator are the most optimal for growth. The same goes for rubber trees. This is resulting in mass cutting, burning etc. of the tropical rain forest. This change in land use has consequences for the ecosystem, and therewith for the climate. Clearing and replacing of forests, for instance, has its effects on the water content and structure of the soil, also it causes a decrease in litter input. This all together causes changes in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). But in which way? Exactly that’s what I’m going to tell you in three years from now! Hereby I kindly invite you all to attend my thesis defense ;-)

    Het meten van: boomstam broeikasgas uitstoot (links) en bodem broeikasgas uitstoot (rechts)

    Measuring: treestem greenhousegas emission (left) and soil greenhouse gas (right)

    How am I going to measure this? In Indonesia. For an intermittent period of 18 months. And I’ll leave in two weeks from now. Waaa.. That’s getting close. The fieldwork will take place in Jambi province, at the island of Sumatra. I already got a room in a house uni bought for us. ‘Us’, because I’m not going alone – there are about 40 -50 PhD students involved in this project! Not only environmental, but also biological and socio-economic. All students will be there every now and then. The organization is amazing, everything is being thought of; from motorbikes to visa application. I added a decent short documentary about the project!

    A short documentary about the whole project

    So, what is it going to be like over there? First, I’ll learn Bahasa Indonesia, so I’ll be able to communicate with my assistents. Because, yes, I’ll get assistants. Me, Joost, haha, crazy. We even get our own taxi drivers! Driving a truck we’ll visit the sampling sites. Three motorbikes are placed in the back, which we can use when the ‘real’ road ends. As you see, this is going to be one big adventure. I’m so excited, this is so bizarre, haha!

    Right now we are preparing the shipment of our equipment. With so-called gas-chambers I’ll measure the greenhouse gas emission – I’ll bring more than 160 of them. Besides that, more than 13.000 glass tubes (exetainers), 5000 plastic bottles and large machinery like a shaker will be send along. Quite a task, and we are already ordering and packing things for about a month. By now, not only our office, but also the entire floor and common kitchen changed into a warehouse! Should this PhD not work out, at least I’ll be able to start a job at FedEx or DHL. Hopefully we’ll finish packing this week and we can collect our visa and research permit next week. October the 5th is scheduled for our departure.

    De staat waarin ons kantoor af en toe verkeert..

    The state of our office every now and then. Fortunately Greta can still enjoy it.

    To be continued…

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    1 Comment

    • Reply September 22, 2016


      Supervet allemaal Joost! Damn, dat stadje Gottingen ziet er uit als een droom (vergeleken met de saaie stedelijke bebouwing in Nieuw-Zeeland al helemaal!). Wat een luxe om dadelijk in Sumatra te zitten inclusief assistenten en eigen taxi chauffeurs. En ook nog de taal leren,,, wie weet moet ik ook wel zo’n soort PhD gaan doen :P !

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