At the University of Bergen, the semester has in many ways been characterized by the shutdown due to Covid-19. biORACLE had a regular start before the shutdown, with quite a few people showing up to the weekly Wednesday meetings to grab a waffle, a coffee, and getting some help or inspiration. Since we could not arrange any physical meetings after the University shut down, we tried to keep the biORACLE meetings going on different platforms online. After trying this for a while, we decided that the attendance was too low, and we officially ended the “physical/online” part of biORACLE on the 13th of May (but kept the option to send emails to biORACLE open).
On the upside, students have kept sending reports for the biORACLES to give feedback on through the semester (we are still working on the statistics on the amount that has been sent in), and some general questions have also been sent by mail. If you take everything that has happened this semester into consideration, I would say biORACLE has still been both successful, and hopefully helpful for the students. We were also planning on getting some seminars started this semester, and were looking forward to arranging these, but unfortunately Covid-19 put an end to those plans.
In normal times, there would be two bioBREAKFASTs and two bioCEED student seminars during the spring semester at UNIS. However, just a week after our first bioBREAKFAST the Corona Crisis hit and students were spread out across the globe after most of them left Svalbard. After settling into our home offices, we asked the students if they would be interested in an online seminar. They were, so on April 17th, we organised our first ever Zoom bioCEED student seminar. About half of the biology class attended the very interesting presentation about funding, given by Pernille Bronken Eidesen. It was a very informative and interesting seminar!
During the first half of the semester, five students participated in the UNISprout project and helped a MSc student and a PhD candidate with their field work. All ‘sprouts’ have now received a certificate for their effort. Despite the fact that they had to stop their project earlier than expected, they still attained valuable field experience in Svalbard, and their help was much appreciated! We hope to accommodate more UNISprout projects next year when new students arrive in Longyearbyen.
Lastly, we pondered on the idea of a Zoom bioBREAKFAST. However, we are afraid that without the incentive of free breakfast and cinnamon buns, not many students will be motivated to open up their laptops in the early morning… But on the bright side, there will be plenty of stories to tell once we can organise a bioBREAKFAST again!
This has truly been a different semester – and getting through to the students with our projects has been quite challenging. We have learned quite a bit about what is working, and what is not working, and this is valuable knowledge that we can either use next semester to improve, or if a similar situation should arise some other time.