Welcome to the Virtual Life!

A “Resonance of Bioacousticians” presenting online

This coming Saturday at 4pm PDT, I will be on a virtual panel with a resonance of esteemed bio-acousticians. We’ll each take ten minutes and three slides to introduce ourselves, and then it opens up for discussion and public questions. There are some really influential scientists in the retinue, and I’m humbled to be included in the lineup.

The event is a Facebook event called Voices of the Ocean, hosted by Dr. Eloise Ashworth of Lumières. Please join us!

Which brings us to this new way of engaging with or work – now almost entirely through a screen. Since the end of April I have avoided the airport numerous times, and I’m sort–of getting used to it. And it was clear that the birds were having a ball. It also helps us traveling conservationists reign in our ridiculous carbon budgets.

Of course I would have loved to be at the Ocean Noise 2020 conference in Barcelona last week – throttling back with international bioacoustic friends and colleagues in the sleepy town of Vilanova i la Geltrú for a week of presentations and – well, what else to you do in sleepy Mediterranean towns? But the prospect of attending the Acoustics Society of America (ASA) meeting in Chicago, in December… was not high on my “Big Fun” list.

The clever Virus moved in really fast on those of us who regularly attend conferences to present our work and catch up on the work of others. On-site conferences are being postponed until we have a better understanding on how to gather in groups, and many are being re-worked to be conducted online.

I’m sure anyone reading this has “Zoomed” with colleagues, family, and friends. My first virtual happy hour was a delight – getting to face 18 colleagues to talk about our work in an informal setting. And I got to hear everyone speak – even the shy undergrad who would not have spoken much at a conference happy hour. So this has actually worked out pretty well in terms of smaller gatherings in the same time zone.

But last week I participated in an International Standards Organization (ISO) meeting on underwater acoustics terminology. I am glad that it was just a plenary meeting, because it spread across seventeen time zones – from the Netherlands to China. This had me joining the meeting at 5am. I can let the planning free-wheel a bit, but I would have been useless to discuss the particulars of the discipline at that hideous hour.

I’m sure we will work out the kinks. The December Chicago ASA meeting has been “virtualized” (yea!). And it will be a good test of the waters; as usually these on-site meetings last the entire week with presentations of papers, technical committee meetings, and social hours. After which there are usually smaller groups of people who go out to dinner to discuss, speculate, and bond, around their collaborations.

A few weeks back I watched a live-stream panel of scientists “exploring what lessons can be learned from the impacts of the Coronavirus on our ocean and what that means for the future of marine research, policy, and conservation.” The panel was really informative regarding the vicissitudes of ocean science in these dynamic times. But probably my most moving take-away for me came from Heather Zichal, Executive Director of Blue Prosperity Coalition.

Heather said that we have been persuaded that radical change to our economy, and the energy assumptions that have been driving it for the last 100 + years would not change easily because of the sheer inertia of it. Then all of a sudden it all changed on a dime.

Clever little virus…

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