Picture: Changing weather. Credit: Johannes Plenio (Pexels)

by Stephen Gray
Back in early February 2020 we shortlisted a small handful of workshop venues just outside Melbourne and settled on Ballarat for the 2020 CLEX workshop. Little did we know then how the rest of the year would play out. By mid-year hopes of an in-person workshop for 2020 had to be abandoned.

Undeterred, the workshop committee came together to set to work on creating an online workshop that sought to balance opportunities to share our current science, a look at future directions and to try to re-create opportunities for networking and serendipitous connections; all the while being mindful of the Zoom fatigue that became a significant part of everyone’s 2020 experience.

To meet these aims, the workshop agenda was structured around manageable blocks of time for talks in the morning by Zoom and poster sessions in the afternoon on the “Remo Conference” platform. Morning talks were split between “New Horizons” talks, which looked at challenges and opportunities in the scope of the newly proposed CLEX research areas – Weather and Climate interactions; Drought; Attribution and Risk; Ocean Extremes and: Modelling. An advantage of this year’s online format was that in addition to hearing from internal experts in these fields (Claire Vincent and Ailie Gallant) we were able to invite three international speakers who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to join us. We thank Bjorn Stevens, Emanuel Di Lorenzo and Daithi Stone for taking the time to be a part of this workshop.

We also heard from Dr Tom Mortlock from CLEX partner organisation Risk Frontiers who gave a fascinating talk on risk modelling. A final highlight of our morning Zoom sessions was the pair of breakout sessions that were developed and led by volunteers. Navid Constantinou led a very topical conversation around the experience of staff and students who spent 2020 far from their home countries, friends and families. Pete Strutton and Melissa Hart led an interactive session on concise writing and offering constructive feedback. Both sessions were well attended and feedback from participants was positive.

As always with the CLEX workshop, the week showcased the enormous depth and breadth of work being done in the Centre, especially by our students and ECRS. We had eight superb science talks from the current research programs, 27 one-minute lightning lectures and 62 posters. Our poster sessions took place in a virtual conference venue that enabled participants to freely move between posters and engage via video chat with the poster presenter and others at the same virtual table. The platform also enabled people to break off to chat one-on-one or in a small group of colleagues. The success of this platform was borne out in the post-workshop feedback and in the fact that poster sessions were extended by up to an hour each day because people were still engaging with each other. CLEX is grateful to this year’s workshop organising committee which managed to create and deliver an online workshop which exceeded most expectations. Congratulations to Lisa Alexander, Jason Evans, Stephen Gray, Amelie Meyer and Steve Sherwood.