COSAM News Articles 2024 01 Department of Biological Sciences holds Auburn Watch Party for a virtual scientific conference

Department of Biological Sciences holds Auburn Watch Party for a virtual scientific conference

Published: 07/09/2024

By: Maria Gebhardt

The Department of Biological Sciences held a two-day “watch party” for the Virtual Evolution Conference in the Ralph Brown Draughon Library and Mell Classrooms.

“The watch party at Auburn had attendees from the Department of Biological Sciences and the College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Environment, and across various career stages – graduate students, faculty, postdoctoral researchers and staff,” said Laurie Stevison, associate professor and coordinator for Graduate Certificate in Computational Biology.

The attendees were able to watch the meeting together instead of just behind a computer and connect with people from 35 countries.

“One aspect of the virtual watch party I really enjoyed was the ability to have conversation about the presentation while it was happening without any interruption to those outside the room,” said Vince Ficarrotta, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences. “Quickly passing comments or thoughts added new perspectives during the presentation while also aiding my focus during portions that would normally have not kept my attention. I found this laid-back atmosphere to be a pro of the watch party.”

The group was able to listen to the virtual meetings in three different locations in the library and Mell Classrooms.

“Since COVID-19, a lot of scientific societies have continued to hold virtual meetings,” Stevison said. “Virtual meetings mitigate a lot of challenges of in person meetings and overall make science more inclusive and accessible, as well as better for the environment. But they still have a major challenge of engagement.”

Coming together created an optimal environment for everyone to actively participate.

“My experience at the recent watch party was truly amazing. As someone from the College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Environment, the event provided a fantastic opportunity to connect with individuals in similar fields of research within the Biological Sciences. Additionally, it motivated me to fully commit to the virtual presentations, which I might not have done if I were watching alone. Thank you, Dr. Stevison, for organizing this event. We look forward to more such gatherings in the coming years,” said Temitope Folorunso, graduate research assistant.

Stevison created this opportunity to bring everyone together.

“Knowing I would not have been able to sit still at my desk for two days and stay away from other tasks, I wanted to organize an event that would make the event more engaging and help me connect with people at Auburn,” she said. “Hosting a watch party was a way to still have some in person connection with researchers here at Auburn, while watching talks from 35 different countries and in various languages. The in-person Evolution Meetings will happen later this month in Montreal. It was also nice to connect with folks from Auburn who will be going to the meeting later this month since it is a rather large meeting, and we will likely prioritize meeting up with folks we do not see as often and who have traveled from longer distances to be there.”

The Department of Biological Sciences sponsored coffee and refreshments for the attendees.

“The watch party was a great opportunity for networking with colleagues at Auburn and the topics presented at this international conference provided some great opportunities for discussions,” said Janna Willoughby, assistant professor in the College of College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Environment.

View the online site for the virtual conference and the Third Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology.

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