Our Foundation provides funding for its doctoral fellows to present their research at an international conference in their second or third year. Such meetings are vitally important for young researchers to become exposed to wider ideas, to make themselves known and to meet others. But how does that work at a time when international travel is all-but-impossible from Australia and when many international conferences have been cancelled or postponed?

This photo from December 2019 demonstrates the international nature of research at LIRS prior to COVID-19. Of the 13 people, nine are from overseas specifically for research at LIRS and another is an international student based in Australia. Tim Gordon is fourth from right.

Several fellows are waiting for the opportunity to use their travel funding. But one of them, Tim Gordon (University of Exeter; 2019 Ian Potter Doctoral Fellow), came up with a novel solution to use it sooner. He had planned to present his research at the massive, four-yearly International Coral Reef Society Symposium in Bremen, Germany, in July 2020. The physical conference was cancelled due to the pandemic and replaced with a virtual conference that took place in July 2021.

Tim requested permission to use his travel funds to participate in that conference as follows:

“Rather than attending from home, a group of us from several different institutes in the UK are planning to go away for the week together to a hostel to stay for the conference – the idea being that we can network amongst each other, share ideas and reaction to talks, and create a bit more of a ‘conference atmosphere’ (albeit with only UK-based researchers), than if we were all sat on our own doing the conference entirely online.”

The request was approved and Tim’s alternate conference experience was a great success.

In addition to the normal benefits that accrue to a young academic from participation in such a meeting, Tim notes:

“Going away with colleagues from the UK was a wonderful opportunity to network, socialise and discuss current and future plans for research with a wider network of researchers. As well as strengthening the working relationships I have with many of my UK colleagues, this served as an opportunity to brainstorm ideas and reflect together on the work we did as part of my Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship, and where it might lead next. This was a particularly welcome opportunity, because I have not seen these colleagues in person for more than 18 months (due to COVID-19 restrictions) – whilst we have been maintaining contact by email and ZOOM, these in-person meetings were the most enjoyable, productive and inspiring conversations we have had since before the pandemic.”

Tim’s PhD research is about the importance of sound in the coral reef environment. He has outlined some of that in two posts in this blog: Reef soundscapes & larval fish and The changing song of the sea.

Click the link below to see his presentation at the virtual ICRS conference.

Tim was awarded his PhD from the University of Exeter in 2020 and will soon take up an independent research fellowship at Lancaster University where he will investigate coral reef restoration. He hopes to return to LIRS soon – as do we!

By Anne Hoggett | LIRS Director