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SPP 2299 Early Career Researcher Meeting March 2023

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Written by Sahra Greve. Edited by Jessica Hargreaves

Over the week of the 7th to the 10th of March the first ECR meeting of the DFG Priority Programme ‘Tropical Climate Variability & Coral Reefs’ (SPP 2299) was held at MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen. ECR stands for early career researchers, so covers everyone who just started their PhD or has completed their PhD recently and is now working as a postdoc in the programme. Meetings like this one are helpful and inspiring since they provide a space for early career scientists to share experiences, discuss similar challenges both scientific and personal, and reduce the isolation often associated with academic work. As the Priority Programme is spread across different institutes, this ECR meeting allowed us to get a sense of the work environments in other institutes, and develop networks across Germany

Takaaki (Konabe) Watanabe (Kiel University (CAU)) presenting his work in the TINBELT project.
Phyllis Mono (Leipzig University) presenting on her EOCENE project.

Previously this group of ECR’s had met at the Kick-off meeting for SPP 2299 in October 2022 where we also had a very interesting workshop on diversity during the last day. Since then we had only seen each other in the monthly online meetings so it was a really nice opportunity to meet up in person again. But for some of us that meant a long train ride to Bremen since institutes from all over Germany are working together in SPP 2299, some of us had to travel up to 10 hours to get here (by train!).

The meeting consisted of four days of interesting talks, workshops, networking and catching up on work ahead of us. The meeting was designed for us to share our work experience, update each other on the projects we are working on, get tips and feedback from the others, and also establish collaborations between the different projects. So, the first two days were filled with presentations from each of the ECR’s, mostly giving an overview about the projects we are working on. This included looking at; (1) analysis to reconstruct the climatic environment of a few 100 to a few million years ago, (2) the effects of coral bleaching seen in their skeleton and related to their symbiont community as well as (3) comparing reef structures and coral morphology of fossil reefs with modern ones. These broad presentations were a good way to start discussion and since most of us are working on similar topics, with some overlapping methods, we got to share information and get tips on what to change or how to solve some challenges we are facing.

There were also presentations from two guest speakers. Sindia Sosdian from Cardiff University was presenting on the topic of coral reefs, specifically on how giant clams differ when growing in a turbid vs. clear environment – based on research from her students. She also shared challenges she faced in academia being a minority female researcher, starting a number of conversations during the breaks and dinner on how we could all promote diversity within our own institutions.

A major focus of this meeting was also science communication and Alessio Rovere, a PI within the Priority Programme, showed us how we can make short informational videos on YouTube and what we must consider when publishing videos of our work. Keep an eye out for future YouTube videos from the programme’s ECR’s!  

Each evening a dinner was organised with lots of opportunities to get to know each other better and the city of Bremen outside of the university campus. This did come with some challenges though, as on the second night some of us got to enjoy a surprise late night 40 minute walk along Bürgerpark (unfortunately not through the snow) since the tram and bus system in Bremen was a bit confusing due to ongoing construction work.

After everyone made it back the night before, the third day started with a walk through the fresh snowfall to the MARUM for a workshop held by Philipp Gramlich on ‘Politics, society, science: Make an impact’. Here we discussed how to make our research transparent for different audiences and how to structure presentations to make the most memorable impact. We got the opportunity to do a lot of groupwork and some roleplay to interact with audiences from different backgrounds (like how to deal with the general public, a politician – Texan businessman, or family members). I will definitely be using some of the methods for my next presentation or when I try and explain to my friends what my research is all about.

Dinner 2 at the ECR meeting in Bremen, Germany.
Dinner 3 at the ECR meeting in Bremen, Germany.
Video of Wyatt Million a postdoc at Justus Liebig University Giessen. Disclaimer that the video is made just to show off our skills! Video made by Marlen Schlotheuber.

The last workshop for the ECR meeting on Friday was on the topic of ‘film your science’ and started with an online presentation about the different techniques in film making to make your film more interesting and fun to watch. After that we were given the freedom to experiment with these techniques by filming some clips representing our research topic. This resulted in a group of 15 people running around the MARUM to find places and interesting perspectives to film for the workshop. But in the end, we got two very cool short films showcasing the research we are doing in the Priority Programme. One of us, Wyatt, a postdoc from the Justus Liebig University Giessen showcasing some research – not necessarily his own but watch out for more to come!

For now, we are all back at our institutes working away and grateful for the tips and tricks we got from sharing our challenges. And at the end of May the next Topical (tropical) Meeting for everyone in the Priority Programme will take place, where we get to meet in person again and hopefully further develop our scientific collaborations!

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