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PAGE21 Young Researcher Profile: Isabelle Gouttevin

Today we have a pleasure to introduce one of our PAGE21 young researchers, Isabelle Gouttevin from Joseph Fourier University, located in Grenoble, France.
Isabelle GouttevinIsabelle GouttevinName: Isabelle Gouttevin
Institution: UJF – Université Jospeh Fourier, Grenoble (currently at EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland)

Nationality: French
Please describe your research field: 
I belong to the people who try to represent what appends on the Earth's surface through equations fed into a numerical code – in short: modelers.

I work with the French land-surface model ORCHIDEE, which is co-developed between Paris and Grenoble (we are the high-latitude team). During my PhD, I implemented a representation of soil freezing in the hydrological part of ORCHIDEE: this helps reproducing spring flooding over certain areas of the arctic, because of melt water running of the surface of still frozen soils.

Research field (Photo: Isabelle Gouttevin) Research field (Photo: Isabelle Gouttevin) Aside from the thermal effects of soil freezing (which are huge !), we are also interested in the impact of snow and its time-varying properties on the soil thermal regime (and its link to the carbon cycle).

Snow is something land surface models (but also remote-sensing) struggle to capture with accuracy. In order to learn more about this fragile, beautiful but yet uncooperative component of high-latitude landscapes, I just started a post-doc in the EPFL – CRYOS team, where researchers develop and use a dedicated, very precise snow model: Alpine 3D. Meanwhile, I still work on the ORCHIDEE model...

How it is affiliated with the PAGE21 project / what parts of your research will be a direct input to PAGE21?
I contribute to WP6: model developments and cross validation at the field sites.

What is the current challenge within this topic?
As Sarah pretty well reported in her blog, arctic landscapes are very variable and our model parameterizations are, in comparison, very limited. But worse than that: we often lack the possibility to disentangle the well represented from the more inaccurately represented processes, out of lack of detailed data. Data specifically and intensively acquired at a site, spanning from soil properties to turbulent fluxes, are just a goldmine for modelers: they can understand the strengths and weaknesses of their model, and come up for better parameterizations... This is just what a modeler dreams about!
How did it happen that you became a researcher?
It was simple: I just cannot figure out anything else to do. It is the job that blends my curiosity, eagerness to understand, love to write, communicate, and meet nice people, and ambition to keep my brain working a little bit -- besides being compatible with my lousy life habits.

Why do you like being the researcher?
See above

What do you like most in being a researcher?
Meeting nice, interesting, dedicated people for whom research is just a way of life, as natural as breathing.

How a typical working day looks like?
Code.. bugs..., discussions, solution.. arghh, no... let's have a coffee...!
Modeler question: What are the challenges for modelers?
Incorporate arctic-relevant processes (like thermokarst ponds, ice-rich permafrost..), that can affect even the magnitude of projected climate change, in a way that is still coherent with the scale of application of the models, eg. rather coarse scale. And this is not so easy !
Usual response when you tell somebody that you are researcher in the field of modeling?
They just call me geek... might be partially true, though !
Answered by Isabelle