AGU Chapman Conference on Asian Monsoons, Washington DC, January 5-9, 2020

In early January, sub-zero temperatures and long dark days aren’t exactly conducive to stimulating and energizing oneself. However, in Washington D.C. this year, my January Blues swiftly disappeared whilst attending the AGU Chapman Conference on the Evolution of the Monsoon, Biosphere and Mountain Building in Cenozoic Asia, with my mind being carried away to the warmer climes of the Asian (sub)tropics.


It was a small meeting, around 100 attendees, with a good blend of ECR, mid-career and fully-fledged profs from across different sub-disciplines (i.e. paleoceanographers, climate modelers, geologists, microbiologists…). The aim of the meeting was primarily to establish the state-of-the-art in Asian Monsoon research, assess achievements following the recent campaign of scientific ocean drilling by the IODP (2014-2016) whilst fostering collaboration and dialogue between the different sub-disciplines in order to identify outstanding questions. This was realized in four days of oral and poster presentations as well as break-out groups during the latter half of the meeting.


It was an intense four days. Particularly so, because everything felt immediately relevant as opposed to attending large conferences where you can dip in and out. I was able to catch-up and have informative discussions with collaborators and other scientists working on IODP Expedition 353 material (where my PhD samples came from) as well as being able to meet and form new connections with a whole host of fellow monsoon-ers. Between poster breaks and chats (and lots of food), I managed to squeeze in a tour of the new AGU building to learn all about how it has achieved a net zero energy status (check it out here:

One key highlight for me (aside from Peter Clift presenting 15 years’ worth of piracy in the Arabian Sea) was the importance of inter-disciplinary co-operation. What I found most revealing was that, between the different sub-disciplines present, varying nuances existed in the definition of what a monsoon even actually is!


Having worked in a temporary technical lab role following my PhD, and being in a state of limbo, this meeting was an invaluable opportunity for me to re-engage and connect with the “monsoon” community again as I look to continue a career in research.


I left D.C. with a sense of excitement: inspired and determined to get the remaining papers of my PhD out into the world following some good discussions at my poster. And, very much excited to see what the next decade of monsoon research will bring.


A special publication is planned following the conference so do keep your eyes peeled!

About the author

Katrina Nilsson-Kerr is a paleoclimatologist who exploits the geochemical signals locked in the foraminifera shells to reconstruct past climate changes. Her PhD focused on reconstructing the Indian Summer Monsoon in the late Pleistocene using deep-sea sediments drilled from the Bay of Bengal. Twitter: @katrinanilskerr