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Finnish Congress Heroes: EBRS2021 Turku

Credits: Markus Hyvärinen

Man wearing a lab coat in a laboratory holding a pipette.

European Bat Research Symposium EBRS2021

We spoke with Eero Vesterinen, Adjunct Professor in the University of Turku about hosting the EBRS2021 symposium in Turku.
Credits: Markus Hyvärinen

Why did you want to host the symposium?

Bat researchers have met each other regularly since 1977 and the EBRS conference is organised every three years. We decided to apply for the symposium in order to increase awareness of Finnish bat research and create new networks and opportunities for co-operation.

International congresses are especially important for young scientists for the networking and career opportunities they provide. Bat research and zoology have become more prominent in part due to the pandemic. And after all, we do have some top-level expertise in the field.

The EBRS was pushed back from 2020 to May 2021 and at the same time it was turned into a completely virtual event.

Close-up of a man smiling at the camera.
Eero Vesterinen, Adjunct Professor, University of Turku
Credits: Markus Hyvärinen

How was the event?

Although Finland was in charge, the event was an international effort. We also worked with Aboa Congress and Event Services. Our crew included people from the University of Turku and Finnish Museum of Natural History LUOMUS.

The content was curated by our Scientific Committee of 29 leading bat researchers from different institutes around the world. We managed to attract a fantastic number of experts to join us online. The symposium received registrations from over 200 delegates.

You might say we updated the symposium concept and methodology. We wanted to make the virtual event as inspiring and engaging as possible. We also wanted to be absolutely sure that the technology worked, so we recorded all the presentations beforehand. This had the advantage of the speaker being able to take part in the discussion and to field questions.

We also focused on hosting and moderating discussions. This new course of action received praise from the participants. We made a splash, I’d say!

You also included social programme in your virtual congress, how?

We find the social programme to be one of the highlights of these events. Although this was a virtual event, we wanted to maintain the social programme and include breathers among the hard science. We realised that more light-hearted content was needed in these somewhat grim times. The participants were invited to get up from their seats for highly entertaining yoga, tribal dance and burlesque exercise breaks. We also had a virtual pub where the participants could mingle in the evenings.

It’s an EBRS tradition that participants bring culinary treats from their country. Thursday is Finland’s semi-official pea soup day, so the Finnish organisers decided to carry out a virtual cooking session for pea soup and vegan oven pancake. The session turned into a comedy act and we all had a good laugh.

Are you planning to host more conferences in the future?

Hosting this event was a major effort, but I would like to organise a live event here in the future. Finland is a practical and reliable partner. Turku is a beautiful place and a small town compared to others. Here nothing is too far apart and it’s easy to get here by air and rail. We have plenty of room to roam, which is a huge asset for post-pandemic travel.

15th European Bat Research Symposium EBRS2021

Date: May 4-7, 2021

• Organiser: University of Turku
• Format: Virtual, RajuLive studio (Leaf Center), Turku
• Participants: over 200

Turku

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four universities of applied sciences
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