April 29, 2017

Guest Post: A Virtual Rendez-Vous for Geoscience Research Around the North Atlantic

Posted by Laura Guertin

The following is a guest post authored by J.P. Walsh. The information and opinions are of Walsh and not my own.


Selfie of the author, J.P. Walsh, during a recent webinar

While scientists in Europe enjoy their afternoon tea or café, North American researchers are beginning their day with a favorite beverage, maybe a Starbucks or Tim Horton’s coffee. We are thousands of kilometers apart, yet many of us are working on similar or related science. To be successful in our research, it is important that we stay informed about the work of others. Also, networking is essential to develop new ideas and research relationships. Conferences are invaluable for making connections, but they can be overwhelming, awkward and often lack opportunities for questions and conversation. Reading articles is imperative, but who has time to read everything! And papers are not very interactive. Considering these challenges, the idea of a virtual rendez-vous to share research was born.

This spring I am fortunate to have a Fulbright Research Scholarship at the Université de Bordeaux in France, and this provides me with an incredible opportunity to connect with foreign scientists. But, in preparation for my travels, I wondered if there might be a way to help others benefit from my situation. In collaboration with Dr. Reide Corbett from my home institutions, East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, we have initiated a webinar series focused on coastal and marine geological research around the North Atlantic. The specific objectives of this virtual seminar/meeting are to provide a new forum to: 1) learn about and discuss research and 2) foster research connections and collaborations. But, indeed webinars like this can have many other benefits, such as teaching students, encouraging broader thinking, allowing researchers to stay connected and maybe helping scientists learn a language. (I wish there was one in French!)

Typically, this rendez-vous is on Fridays at 9 AM Eastern Time (North America) which is usually 3 PM Central European Time. We are using WebEx for communication, and it has worked well, although there have been some connection and bandwidth issues. There are other software options, but internet speed or consistency may be insurmountable problems in some situations. To maximize time for questions, we have encouraged speakers to keep their presentations to ~20 minutes. A nice aspect of this webinar is that you can tune in from anywhere with an internet connection. So if you’re feeling sick or you’re just sick of your office, you can watch from your favorite café or at home. Also, sessions are being recorded, and in the future, we hope to make a library of presentations available.

Screen grab from my computer (in Bordeaux France) during a presentation made by Dr. Chris Hein from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Thus far the webinars have connected scientists and students from the U.K., France, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Australia and numerous states in the U.S. The meetings have involved individuals and groups from universities and agencies, such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the South Carolina Geological Survey, the Université of Bordeaux (my French host), the Université of La Rochelle, Trinity College Dublin, Exeter University, the Université du Québec à Rimouski, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia Tech, Coastal Carolina University, Edith Cowan University and East Carolina University. Each meeting has featured a new speaker on a different topic, and we ask each presenter to share a related manuscript.

While the spring 2017 series is about end, we are planning to continue the virtual rendez-vous in the Fall.   Any interested researchers or students are welcome to participate. Also, to view past meetings or to present in the future, please contact me, J.P. Walsh at [email protected].