7th ArcTrain Annual Meeting – together in the distance


The 7th Annual Meeting of ArcTrain was totally different from any ArcTrain meeting that has happened before, and still, many things were similar. The reason for the change was the same all over the world: the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions, as well as concerns to further spread the virus, forced us to transform the meeting into an online-event. Not that easy when the aim of a meeting is to get in touch with your fellow collaborators, get to know people better, have deep science discussions on multiple poster sessions.

Special times lead to special pictures: Instead of a classical group picture, the only thing we could do was to take a group picture of everyone participating in the video conference (Screenshot from the zoom conference by Franziska Tell).

When the Atlantic Ocean (a distance of up to 7,800 kilometers and up to 8 hours in time difference) separates the people from Bremen and those from Canada, it is hard to come close together.
But still, we managed. Today, we want to give you more insights on how we overcame the physical distance and what we learned during the annual meeting.

Our general format of student presentations for the ArcTrain meetings usually is a short talk (called a pico presentation) that acts as a pitch for your poster. Following the presentations there is a poster session where – if someone’s talk piqued your interest – you could go check out their poster. This year, this format looked a bit different. The poster sessions following the talks were in separate breakout rooms that all participants could leave and enter throughout the poster sessions. This format worked as an excellent virtual substitute for the poster sessions and after the first day, most people had the idea of how to enter and leave different virtual poster rooms.

In addition to the student presentations, ArcTrain also hosts a variety of external talks in a variety of subjects such as scientific communication, community engagement, and of course scientific research. This year was no exception, and with the online format, ArcTrain was able to host speakers from all over the world in varying research and interdisciplinary projects. 

Isotopes can help to trace back the origin of water in the Arctic Ocean – sketchnote on the invited talk from Georgi Laukert (drawing by Franziska Tell).

The first speaker to kick off the ArcTrain meeting was Benjamin Rabe from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, to talk about the recently completed MOSAiC expedition with the talk entitled: MOSAiC: a year in the Arctic ice and ocean. This talk gave really nice insights into the amazing, first of its kind, expedition which was able to collect data on so many different features of the Arctic Ocean throughout the year. We are all waiting for all the interesting results coming out of this!
The next invited talk was given by Martin Jakobsson from Stockholm University, Sweden. He took us on a journey through the Arctic glacial history, giving an overview of results showing that the Arctic Ocean was once covered by a huge ice sheet.
Our next invited talk moved from the ice into the ocean and its transport mechanisms: Georgie Laukert from GEOMAR Kiel, Germany, explained how isotopes can be used as tracers of ocean circulation and biogeochemical processes. 

The final talk of this year’s Annual Meeting was on a topic we all need to consider more: Intersectionality in science (L’environnement c’est intersectionell!). It was given by Lourdenie Jean from Montréal, Canada. She gave a great overview of how close the environment and society are linked to each other, and how important it is to think about the accessibility of environmental knowledge to our communities. Central to linking society and the environment is the importance of recognizing different obstacles, barriers, and challenges faced by different members of our community. By integrating this approach into our environmental communication we can remove the bias of imposing certain rules and ideas onto other societies that we may think are representative of the entire community.

Aspects we have to think about when it comes to intersectionality in science and environment protection – sketchnote on the invited talk by Lourdenie Jean (drawing by Franziska Tell).

Even though this conference was online, the important social aspect of the ArcTrain Annual Meeting was not forgotten. Throughout the conference, there were many social events to connect the students and PIs. Kicking-off the meeting was a bingo game, which took place during the entire conference. The bingo card contained a variety of typical happenings during online meetings – like people asking if one can hear them, see their screen, or forgetting to unmute their microphone. Even though we are getting more and more used to online-meetings these days, those sentences are still used a lot. So why not see it from a more fun perspective? Besides, there were also a lot of sentences connected to the experience of people: Someone who had been on a glacier or was standing on sea ice, someone who spent too much time in the lab, … And to begin with the game, we started with an evening with a lot of small breakout rooms, where you could have a chat with two to four other people about whatever you like. As people were sent to different breakout rooms randomly, this was kind of blind-dating, as you did not know who you would meet. It was a great opportunity to get in touch with many people and learn about their life, work, and many more, or simply meet people you knew from the years before and haven’t talked to in a while.

Another fun event was a quiz night. During this event, our knowledge was tested in two totally different ways. The first part was about the Arctic, research methods and devices, phenomenons, and more. Not a problem for the people from the ArcTrain group? Maybe not – but even when you are an expert from a certain field, you never know everything! The second part moved away from science and was meant to loosen up the atmosphere: Different songs were played and we had to identify both performer and title of it. The most frustrating thing during this part was whenever you totally knew a song, but could not at all remember its name, nor the name of the band performing. In the end, we even figured out that this second half did not totally disconnect from science: All songs had some connection to weather, might it be obvious or more hidden. Besides those games, there were further get-togethers with the opportunity to chat, stay in touch with ArcTrain alumni, see which path one can take after finishing a PhD in the Arctic Sciences, and many more. And of course, at the end of the meeting, the winners of the bingo and the quiz were honored. The price: vouchers for the ArcTrain Spreadshop, thanks to which everyone is able to show their connection to the ArcTrain group (so if you feel to have this connection, we totally recommend to take a look at the shop!).

Although not the same as an in-person meeting, the online format for this meeting was still able to deliver a successful conference experience with lots of interesting research. As Arctic researchers, a key component of our research is being able to adapt to new situations, and the online virtual conference world is no exception! This ArcTrain Annual Meeting reached an important milestone where we had the highest number of enrollment (102 people, of which some where not even directly related to the ArcTrain group) and 27 students presenting their research. 

Nevertheless, we are already looking forward to the next possibility to see each other in person. So let’s hope that it will be possible soon, and we can get back to our usual meeting format for the Annual Meeting 2021. 

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