Avid reader to active coordinator

Scott St George webPAGES' current guest scientist Dr. Scott St. George can't quite believe he's progressed from reading the PAGES Newsletter (now the Past Global Changes Magazine) to being a working group coordinator.

"Since the beginning of my graduate career, PAGES has been there," St. George said. "My supervisor Brian Luckman was always leaving the PAGES Newsletter in the lab and it was the first time I had the idea that my work was connected to broader initiatives. And 20 years later, I'm supposed to be coordinating things!"

The native of Winnipeg, Canada, is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota, USA, plus coordinator of the PAGES 2k Network and a scientific committee member of the Floods Working Group (FWG).

"Currently with 2k we're working on what we would like to achieve in the third phase," he said. "It's a mature working group, with a strong track record of products. And Floods has been a great reintroduction to one of my main subjects - using natural records of floods to extend our understanding of the potential for future floods. It was my first job after my Masters - I was hired by the Geological Survey of Canada to create a paleoflood record of a major river in Canada.

"Floods have an enormous impact on communities and economies. There is huge value in paleo studies in general, because if you only have one or two floods per century, it's impossible to know if they are becoming more common. You need a long perspective to have the answers."

He is in Europe until mid-2018, and has broken up his Alexander von Humboldt Foundation fellowship at the University of Mainz, Germany, to spend two weeks at the PAGES International Project Office in Bern, Switzerland.

An active social media user, St. George said the fellowship was partly initiated by a Twitter connection with (now) fellow 2k coordinator Oliver Bothe. "Two years ago, Oliver invited me to talk at the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg. Then a year later, I was wondering how I would spend my first sabbatical, and I thought maybe I could get back to Germany somehow.

"The fellowship has been amazing - I had no idea how huge the Humboldt program is. I needed to identify a potential host, and I had met Jan Esper at a meeting in Switzerland in 2001. Fast forward 15 years and he's moved to Mainz. I ended up being very lucky. I've been able to see how a tree-ring lab in Germany works, and being in Germany is a great opportunity to see and meet people whose work I know. The award has also allowed me to meet other dendrochronologists based in Europe - there is such a big paleoscience community here."

Tree rings have been the main focus of his research and career, which all came about "because I wanted to go to the mountains".

"I grew up in the (flat) Canadian Prairies," he said. "I had a choice of two projects - Quaternary geology of central Canada, which would have involved trips to gravel pits, or to do Brian Luckman's research project in the Canadian Rockies. I was totally unprepared for anything in the Rockies. I fell off everything ... I had no gloves ... I was a terrible first-time field assistant."

Because the connection with PAGES was fostered early in his career, he now encourages his students (he currently has three grad students) to be involved in the organization.

"I've had students who've attended meetings and group workshops. It's a wonderful experience to be plugged into this warm, welcoming community."

He gave a lecture at the Geography Department of the University of Bern last week and will talk today at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) in Zürich.

St. George attended his second PAGES Open Science Meeting (OSM) in Zaragoza, Spain, in May 2017. His first was in 2009 in Corvallis, USA.