Guest post: Pal(a)eoPERCS

Pal(a)eoPERCS Logo

June 2020, amidst a global COVID-19 pandemic where social distancing and isolation brought the world to a standstill, a grassroots seminar series (Pal(a)eoPERCS) was started with the aim to bolster scholarly engagement and create a convivial space through weekly virtual seminars for Early Career Researchers and Professionals (ECRs). 

Three years later, with June 2023 quickly approaching, Pal(a)eoPERCS will be entering its fourth year where we continue to support ECRs in Pal(a)eo sciences through weekly seminars. Whilst PERCS (Pal(a)eo EaRly Career Seminar) was initially created to fill a vacancy, we are excited to state that, we have had over 120 talks covering subjects related to all things Pal(a)eo -climatology, -biology, -chemistry, -oceanography, -anthropology (Figure 1). In the summer of 2022, we had a special speaker series themed around fieldwork, covering topics of  accessibility, diversity, accommodation and inclusion in the field, and inclusion and accessibility for at-sea research and education. Further, in May 2022, three ECRs sailing as shipboard scientists on board the JOIDES Resolution broadcast live from International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 390 (South Atlantic Transect I) and gave the PERCS community a behind the scenes view of ‘a life in the day of’ sailing on a research vessel. Asynchronous viewing of seminar talks through our YouTube channel further increases accessibility across communities, flexibility around schedules, reach to a global audience, and career stages. Since August 2021 we have also been working to secure financial support for the series, and are very thankful to be supported by seven learned societies and groups: The Royal Society of Chemistry, The Geochemistry Group, The Geological Society of London, The Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research, The Paleontological Society, The Quaternary Research Association and The Linnean Society of London. We were also given an exciting opportunity to interview with Communications Biology in September 2022 – you can check our article here: Roy Plotnick (Professor Emeritus at University of Illinois Chicago, USA) also highlighted the series in a book he published in 2022 entitled “Explorers of Deep Time: Paleontologists and the History of Life”.  Most recently, we also collaborated with super talented scientific illustrator Miranta Kouvari. Miranta produced some amazing artwork for some of our early 2023 talks – you can see these on our Twitter feed! We are really appreciative of the support and positivity the community has extended to us in so many ways.

Figure 1: A word cloud created with over 100 Pal(a)eoPERCS Talk Titles. The size of each word indicates its frequency of use in Talk Title. In the figure, CO refers to CO2. The word cloud highlights the sub-disciplines within the pal(a)eosciences and raises further need of cross sub-discipline engagement. We used the Free Word Cloud Generator online website.

The choice to focus on diverse Early Career Researchers is entirely deliberate: researchers in the early stages of building their career and networks were some of the hardest hit by COVID-19, and ECRs were in some of the most precarious positions even prior to the pandemic. Even though the world has slowly been transitioning back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle with higher education institutions, (scientific) institutes, and organizations in many sectors prioritizing in-person (departmental) seminars, PERCS continues to provide a platform to bring together ECRs from all over the world. It is by uplifting ECRs from diverse backgrounds and perspectives that we will build a more supportive, equitable, and diverse scientific community for the future. We have had speakers from all geographic continents except Antarctica (Figure 2)! We continue to solicit community nominations and self-nominations, to further diversify the speaker pool and create future sustainability. If you are working at the McMurdo Antarctica Station or Halley Research Station, especially reach out – we would love to hear from you! 

All Pal(a)eoPERCS organizers are committed to equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA) within their own respective scientific sub-disciplines and workplaces, and we extend this commitment to Pal(a)eoPERCS. We value the presentations and attendance of diverse scientists from a range of backgrounds and experiences, and centre EDIA in our speaker scheduling and seminar organization. We started the series with a Code of Conduct that all participants and speakers must abide by during the seminar. Our accessibility efforts include live-captioning of talks using auto-captions, after-the-fact edited transcriptions, making seminar recordings available to attendees with conflicting schedules for later viewing, and encouraging our speakers to use colorblind-friendly graphics. This is not exhaustive however, and if anyone requests any further accessibility requirements, we try our hardest to implement them and work with those who contact us to best facilitate their participation. 

PERCS aims to continue to provide a forum for fostering interdisciplinary collaboration within the different “flavours” of the pal(a)eo-sciences. The scholarly engagement across pal(a)eo themes creates an avenue for interdisciplinary connections, for example, ECRS from pal(a)eo-climate are able to engage with ECRS from pal(a)eo-biology. Each PERCS session is around 60-90 minutes:  a 30-40 minute seminar, 10-20 minutes Q&A moderated by a PERCS committee member, followed by a 15-30 minute “tea-time”. The virtual tea-time is an informal setting with the speaker which encourages networking and fun scientific discussions and interactions. Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are especially encouraged to stick around for “tea-time”, and the post-seminar discussion gives an opportunity for the speaker to interact more informally with the community as well.

Figure 2: Donut-hole representing speakers by country of research affiliation. The chart includes 133 talks scheduled till April 25, 2023. Pal(a)eoPERCS has had speakers from all geographic continents except Antarctica. The numbers within the slices indicate the frequency of speakers from a specific country. Slices without numericals are 1.

Whilst Pal(a)eoPERCS is created by a group of ECRs and will focus on featuring ECR speakers, we encourage folks at all career stages and spheres, from undergraduate to emeritus, industry to policy and the general public, to attend the seminars, join in on a conversation and learn about the excellent work being done by early career scientists. Pal(a)eoPERCS is hosted on Zoom at 1500 UTC (or 16:00 UTC depending on daylight savings status) every Tuesday. 

To be able to join the seminars, you must join our mailing list here and agree to the code of conduct. You can also follow us on Twitter or Instagram on @palaeopercs. If you would like to nominate a speaker, or self-nominate, you can do so here .  

We warmly invite you to join us for our weekly “PERCS”, and hope you enjoy the seminars as much as we do! 

Rehemat is a brown-skinned woman, wearing a globe costume depicting the Earth. Her hair is tied back in a ponytail, and she is standing on a wooden box in a pedestrianised shopping area
I am a micropalaeontologist and geochemist by training. I did my undergrad at Royal Holloway (University of London) and my PhD at University College London. My doctoral and subsequent postdoctoral research focused on using trace element and isotope geochemistry of Paleocene, Eocene and Miocene planktonic foraminifera to understand more about their responses to dramatic climate change and disentangling their palaeoecologies. I now work outside of academia, but I still keep geoscience in my life through community service endeavours (like Pal(a)eoPERCS) and doing science outreach in my spare time. On the Pal(a)eoPERCS Committee I co-ordinate our funding applications and identify financial support avenues. I am also the Co-Chair of Member Events for the Earth Science Women’s Network.

Photo of Jana, a white woman wearing a baseball hat and a pink jacket on a mountain in Flims, Switzerland. Her arms are outstretched and she is grinning, with clouds and mountains in the background.
I am a micropaleontologist and paleoceanographer working primarily with planktonic foraminifera, based at Michigan State University. I am particularly interested in the ways that individual organisms, species, and communities change in response to changes in their environment, which is probably a good thing given the transitory nature of ECR life. I first fell in love with the pal(a)eo-sciences as an undergraduate at Smith College and recently completed my PhD at Yale University. I am passionate about contributing to a strong, supportive, inclusive community of pal(a)eo-ECRs, and also am a fan of wise-cracking, handicrafts, and scream-singing at karaoke.

Pedro is a brown-eyed, dark-haired and bearded man, wearing a dark gray T-shirt. He is smiling and sitting in front of a blackboard, on which the names of two crocodylomorph species can be read. In front of him, on a wooden table, there are three skulls of fossil crocodylomorphs
I am a paleontologist interested in the evolution of vertebrates, currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of São Paulo, in Brazil. My research focuses on the systematics and macroevolution of different tetrapod groups, mainly reptiles. I did my undergrad and MSc in my native Brazil, also at the University of São Paulo. I obtained my PhD from the University of Birmingham (UK), with a research project focused on documenting macroevolutionary patterns of crocodylians and their extinct relatives. This was followed by two postdocs, one in the US and another one in Brazil, also working on the evolution of crocodylians. Besides that, I am also on the editorial board of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, as their sole Phylogenetics Editor. On the Pal(a)eoPERCS Committee, my responsibilities include video editing of the recorded talks, as well as maintaining our YouTube channel.

Chrissy is a white woman wearing a dark jacket. She is in a museum collections room painting liquid latex onto fossils, using a lamp to help them dry.
I am an invertebrate paleontologist interested in how past life has responded to changing climates and environments. I did my undergraduate degree at the College of William and Mary and my MS and PhD at the University of California, Riverside, and I am currently a visiting assistant professor at Lafayette College. My main areas of research have been Ediacaran fossils with three-fold symmetry, and ostracods (small, bivalved crustaceans) from different periods of environmental change throughout the Cenozoic. My main responsibilities on the Pal(a)eoPERCS Committee include scheduling the speakers we decide to invite and keeping our schedule up-to-date.

Natasha is a brown-skinned woman, wearing glasses and in a pink rain jacket, brown pants with a red backpack. She is wearing a cave helmet with two headlamps and nitrile gloves. She is standing inside a cave in southeastern New Mexico.
I am a terrestrial paleoclimatologist and use the geochemical proxies of stalagmite (calcite deposits in caves) to discern periods of past climate change. I received my undergraduate from the University of California, Irvine. Following which, I received my MS and PhD from the University of Texas, Austin. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University. For my postdoctoral research, I am interested in extreme climates events such as flooding events through the Holocene in the tropics (Colombia and Philippines). I have the great pleasure and feel very fortunate that I get to explore caves in remote parts of the world. My primary responsibilities on the Pal(a)eoPERCS committee is to keep the Pal(a)eoPERCS website updated.

Headshot of Elizabeth, a white woman with brown hair in a ponytail, wearing glasses. She is wearing a black jacket and has a gray 3D printed trilobite on her shoulder, which she is pointing to.
I’m a micropaleontologist and oceanographer, and I’m interested in how marine ecosystems respond to global change. I specialize in ichthyoliths, microfossil fish teeth and shark scales, preserved mostly in deep-sea sediments, and use these tiny fossils to reconstruct fish and shark evolution and their roles in marine ecosystems on long timescales. My work is inherently interdisciplinary, using geological tools to address fundamental questions in biology and oceanography. I am currently an Assistant Scientist in the Geology and Geophysics Department at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I did my undergraduate in biology at University of California San Diego, and my MS and PhD in oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. My first postdoctoral position was as a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows at Harvard University. I then spent several years at Yale University as a Hutchinson Postdoctoral Fellow through the Yale Institute of Biospheric Studies and then as an Associate Research Scientist. On the Pal(a)eoPERCS Committee, I manage the email list and send out twice-weekly seminar announcements. I also serve as the “catch-all”, develop leadership team meeting agendas, and keep track of all ongoing projects.

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