Michigan Engineering News

Example of Research during COVID-19

Doing science at a social distance

The research part’s cancelled, but an international Arctic workshop moves online.

Our campus, like the global community, is contending with COVID-19 and working to adapt to a new normal. Many are rapidly working on solutions. See all COVID-19 developments from University of Michigan Engineering.

They were set to leave for Siberia next week. Tyeen Taylor, a research fellow, and Valeriy Ivanov, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, had multifaceted plans for their climate change research. 

They’d conduct field work measuring how it’s affecting vegetation and permafrost in the Arctic. They’d visit ethnic reindeer herders and local government officials to discuss how the region is changing. And they would lead “Navigating the New Arctic,” an international workshop for 30 researchers from all over the world. 

Travel bans and the worsening pandemic forced them to cancel the research trip. But they vowed to hold the workshop remotely. It will start March 25, roughly on schedule. 

“I’m pivoting to doing science at a social distance,” Taylor said.

“We are re-structuring to a virtual format that accommodates the realities of humans at home in a less than ideal situation—for example, the workshop is less time intensive and we’ve identified more focused and efficient objectives. We must accommodate time zones spanning about 12 hours of difference and the distribution of scientific disciplines across those time zones.”

Follow Taylor’s updates: on Twitter, @TyeenTaylor, Instagram @ttphilos and Facebook @TyeenCTscience. He’s planning to make a film about the experience.