A Meeting of Minds, about Microbes

Last month, after a two-year hiatus due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, scientists with the BIOS-SCOPE (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science – Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology) program were able to convene a much-anticipated data workshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. BIOS-SCOPE, a cross-disciplinary investigation into the microbial oceanography of the Sargasso Sea, has team members from institutions in four countries; a program-specific meeting such as the data workshop can lead to powerful opportunities for research collaboration and advancement.

In early May, scientists and research technicians with the BIOS-SCOPE (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences – Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology) program met for their first data workshop since 2019, after two years of cancellations due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. BIOS-SCOPE, a program for the study of microbial oceanography in the Sargasso Sea, started the workshops in 2018 as a way for team members to share their research progress, collaboratively evaluate data, outline manuscripts for publication in scientific journals, and identify new research directions.

“Given the nature of BIOS-SCOPE, it is important that everyone involved sees all the various pieces that folks are working on and how they can potentially be put together or where synergies lie,” said Craig Carlson, professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and BIOS-SCOPE program director and co-principal investigator (co-PI). “As individual groups we all get excited about our own discoveries, but the power of a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary program like BIOS-SCOPE is the ability to attack common questions from multiple angles and approaches to help advance a discipline like microbial oceanography.”

For two days, May 4 and 5, over 30 BIOS-SCOPE team members met in Cambridge, Massachusetts bringing together expertise from diverse fields, including biochemistry, marine chemistry, marine microbiology and bioinformatics, microbial oceanography, physical oceanography, and zooplankton ecology. The workshop’s packed agenda incorporated science presentations categorized within broad research themes; three-minute “speed talks” for research posters; breakout groups to facilitate targeted discussions, such as cruise planning; and a final report-out from the breakout groups.

“It's an important learning experience for students to attend this type of workshop, both to take advantage of the access to world-class expertise and also to see examples of how PI-level scientists interact,” said Hilary Close, assistant professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and BIOS-SCOPE investigator. “We have a great group and the students get to see the level of respect and courtesy we give each other, the fearlessness and depth of our scientific conversations, and the wide variety of personalities that are all welcome and valued.”

“These workshops and scholarly discussions help build the ‘sum is greater than the individual parts’ philosophy that we strive for in BIOS-SCOPE, and nothing is better than a face-to-face meeting where people work together for long stretches of time,” Carlson said.