World Ocean Day Panel Reflections

by Kelsey Archer Barnhill

For this year’s UN World Ocean Day I was lucky enough to sit on two event panels organised by One Ocean Hub. As a first-year PhD student, this was my first experience as a panellist and I was excited, if not a bit nervous, to represent the early career researcher (ECR) voice at these events.

WOD_Wonders of the Deep

The first event, Wonders of the Deep, highlighted deep sea imagery and videos from six researchers based in the UK and South Africa. Preparing for this event allowed me to reminisce on past cruises I sailed on, the memories of which, years later, remain vividly with me. As I shared my screen to show the attendees images of the deep sea, I realized I have always seen the seafloor from a monitor. In the same way footage from remotely operated vehicles are displayed in a ship’s control room, I was able to provide a similar experience to the audience on their own computers.

The second event, Studying the Sea – Accessing Ocean Research Careers, was a question and answer-based panel featuring five marine scientists at different career stages. On this panel there were researchers from the Solomon Islands, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. We had all studied at institutions across the globe from Africa to Australia to Europe to North America. The audience demographic at both events was just as international with people tuning in from several time zones, waking up early or staying up late to be part of the conversation.

Studying sea + speakers

Hosting the panels on Zoom meant that we reached people around the world! It was exciting to know I was able to connect online with attendees who would not have had the chance to see this event if it had happened in-person. Though I, like many others, am currently working from home, I feel more connected than ever before to the deep sea community. Every week there are a number of relevant free events and webinars, making science widely accessible and available. There is no longer a need to wait for a large annual conference to listen to experts speak about their research. Instead, we all have the opportunity to listen to talks from the comfort of our living rooms.

I’ve enjoyed my previous outreach experiences and these were no different. I am very grateful to One Ocean Hub for providing ECRs like myself from across the Atlantic with a platform to share our experiences with others and develop skills required to be successful research professionals. I felt my opinions and experiences were valued by the attendees and fellow panellists. I urge more panels in the future to consider having an early career panellist to feature fresh perspectives and to give ECRs the experience of being involved in larger-scale events. After each successful outreach event, I find myself more inspired than ever to be working in marine science. Answering questions about what motivated me to become a marine scientist serves as a great reminder to be excited by your own research. It was nice to hear other people’s stories and paths taken as well and learn how so many of us have been drawn-in to explore the ocean’s depths.

While the topics of the two panels were different, I ended up sharing the same story in both. It was a story I have told before and I know I will tell again. It was about the moment that inspired me to pursue a career in marine science. I was motivated to become a deep sea scientist because of a TED Talk by Dr. Robert Ballard I had seen in my community college Introduction to Oceanography class. A skilled speaker, Dr. Ballard spoke about how little we know about the seafloor and how important it is to involve the next generation in ocean science. Enthralled with the idea there was more in this world to be discovered and that I could become an explorer, I decided to pursue a career in marine science. After both panels ended, I wondered, perhaps, just as I had been inspired by a talk so many years ago, if something I said may have struck a chord with a young audience member to encourage them to pursue their passion for discovery.

Both panels are available to watch here: Wonders of the Deep and Studying the Sea – Accessing Ocean Research Careers

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