Doing a PhD in the midst of a global pandemic is, as we have experienced over the past year and a half, fraught with various difficulties and inconveniences. Even though we are now very experienced with virtual seminars and conferences, they cannot permanently replace face-to-face meetings. Since the beginning of 2020, all ArcTrain meetings had only taken place online. So, we were all the more pleased that the eighth “ArcTrain Annual Meeting”, the gathering of ArcTrain members, could actually take place on site at Etelsen Castle, near Bremen. In this historic castle from the 19th century, 15 PhD students and some responsible scientists met to talk about past and future ArcTrain activities and to discuss our research.
We especially enjoyed the fact that this Annual Meeting was once again an opportunity to explore the surroundings of the conference venue outside of our own living room. We started the week in changeable weather with a GPS-based city tour in nearby Verden, which was a welcome contrast to the rest of the program, which mostly took place indoors.
The rest of the program mainly included a lot of science and research, in addition to planning outreach activities and a workshop on data analysis. We enjoyed a very pleasant mix of talks from external speakers as well as our own small presentations and scientific poster sessions. Invited speakers Céline Heuzé, Jean-Éric Tremblay and Karen Alley gave us exciting insights on the difficulties of simulating the Arctic Ocean in computer models, the role of nutrients in the Arctic and the state of the world’s glaciers. Something very special for most of us were the poster sessions, where we had the opportunity to present our research (compressed into an A0 poster) to each other. This personal exchange is actually an elementary part during a PhD, but it was not possible for us in this form during the past year and a half. During this week, many of us enjoyed our first “real” poster session, and during two poster sessions, lively discussions on our research results emerged.
Traditionally, the Annual Meeting always provides an opportunity to interact with ArcTrain members in Canada. Due to the continuing restrictions on international travel, we unfortunately had to postpone this personal exchange. Instead, at the same time as our meeting in Etelsen, the Canadian ArcTrain members (and a member of ArcTrain Germany, currently on a research stay in Canada) met in Montréal. At certain points of the program we were connected transatlantically via video and thus could experience a little bit the feeling of an entire German-Canadian ArcTrain Annual Meeting.
Throughout the week, we enjoyed the historic ambiance of Etelsen Castle alongside delicious food. Also, the social interaction after the end of the official program was not neglected and there was a lot of discussion about sometimes more, sometimes less scientific topics.