Tag Archives: virtual

Virtual Virtuosi or Vacuous Vassals: The #BES2020 Festival of Ecology Write-Up

Every year after I am finished with Europe’s largest ecology conference I write a summary of my most memorable thoughts and experiences. Truth be told, I didn’t think I’d bother this year. Surely a virtual stand-in for the British Ecological Society’s Annual Meeting can’t be that noteworthy? But here we are.

Let’s get the obvious over with – this year has been a nightmare for most. Fieldwork has been cancelled, offices and campuses have been shut down, and many researchers (including those completing PhDs, a group already disproportionately suffering from a cocktail of stresses, anxieties and other fun stuff) have been wracked with even more stress than usual.

Read more

Timewarped

Although virtual conferences have broken down geographic boundaries it has introduced the problem of timezones as well as the dreaded zoom-fatigue. Nothing like a few all nighters in a row to help you dissociate from reality for a while…

Oh and don’t forget the added desk clutter and absolute crumbling of any sense of time management.

Although meeting virtually may never replace a quick chat in the hallway the chance to still meet up with colleagues and learn some cool things along the way makes it worth it!

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

Conference in the Time of Corona: A Beginner’s Guide to Hybrid Conferencing

This article was co-authored by Jonatan Marquez.

About a year ago, my colleague and friend Jonatan and I were asked to organize EvoDemo7, the 7th Annual Meeting of the Evolutionary Demography Society. It was planned to be a traditional, small-sized conference: a comfortable, almost family weekend-like get-together of about one hundred scientists from all over the world, nestled in the Norwegian mountains. Little did we know that a pandemic would turn the world upside down and spark the scientific community to come up with creative ways to meet, forge collaborations and share research ideas.

Read more

The Big Challenge: Increasing City Biodiversity

Image Credit: GuoJunjun, CC BY-SA 3.0 NO, Image Cropped

The Big Challenge Science Festival is currently in Trondheim, bringing a host of celebrities, scientists and futurists together. Their goal is to present solutions for the challenges the planet currently faces, and get people thinking about how they can adjust their lives to help the planet. While there are some big names in attendance, there are also a large number of local students and scientists working tirelessly on stands, and it’s them that I spent yesterday working alongside.

There’s some fantastic stuff on display. I was particularly impressed by the use of VR in a couple of exhibitions. One stand presented a worst case scenario for warming planet, with one of Trondheim’s most famous laneways submerged in water (although the man clinging to a floating car tire waving for assistance may somewhat disturb the kids). Nearby was another VR experience where you could shoot cars, carbon molecules and chimneys, transforming them into bikes, trees and solar panels respectively. The tent next to us had a great range of displays, presenting practical and simple options for living sustainably and also letting you snack on insects and other arthropods!

Our own stand was part of the Futurum exhibition, which postulated how Trondheim may look in 2050. It focussed on biodiversity, and how Trondheim’s wildlife will change over the next 30 years with increasing urbanisation and a warming climate. On loan from the Natural History Museum was a selection of species that could conceivably arrive in Trondheim with a 1-2 degree temperature increase. It was fun to see kids’ faces contort at the thought of a parrot being a common presence in Trondheim, but with Ring-Neck parrots already as far north as Brussels, it could happen within their lifetime.

I was pleasantly surprised at the willingness of some children to accept that new species weren’t necessarily a good thing. Most of them were entranced by the sight of a grey squirrel, but readily understood that it could mean the demise of the red squirrel and some local bird life. Likewise, I was surprised at how many parents could immediately recognise the species likely to disappear from Trondheim, and acknowledge how many more Black-Headed Gulls and Northern Lapwings they could see only twenty years ago.

64262832_2322293161379203_6966865140876574720_n

NTNU’s Tanja Petersen explains how species life the Pacific Oyster or the Grey Squirrel could be in Trondheim within 30 years (Image Credit, Øystein Kielland, CC BY 2.0)

It was also encouraging to see how many people have started to let portions of their garden grow wild in an effort to allow insects, and thus birds and mammals make their way back into urban areas. The exhibition had 2 fantastic videos compiled by Øystein Kielland focussing on the difference between a green area and a biodiverse one, and how fragmentation has devastated local plant and insect populations. So the number of adults who had already started letting areas around their house grow unchecked was encouraging. Two particular highlights were the couple who eagerly showed us the badger who had recently taken up residence in their backyard, and the girl who nodded eagerly and started telling me all about her insect hotels.

One thing I always struggle with in these situations is communicating uncertainty. Whilst it’s fun to see jaws drop at the thought of parrots in Norway, it’s difficult to communicate the ‘maybe’ factor in the amount of time it takes to engage someone in these issues. The point of the Big Challenge is to get people to act, so I hope that people walk away thinking that if they don’t start living more sustainably there could be huge species’ turnover, but I don’t want to present a worst case scenario, or talk in absolutes about issues that are very much only possibilities. So any success stories you’ve had communicating uncertainty in these scenarios would be very much welcome below!

I’ll be back at the Futurum exhibit at Krigseilerplass near the Royal Garden today. If you’re in Trondheim, I highly recommend stopping by. You can read more about the event here.