Video: Going Global with Freshwater Science

GLEON fellowship students ask questions during the summer workshop. Photo: A. Hinterthuer
GLEON fellowship students ask questions during the summer workshop. Photo: Grace Hong

“Okay, now we’re going to do a little role playing,” the moderator announced to the room. “We need a customer and a shopkeeper, would anyone like to read a script?”
After a little coercion, two reluctant thespians assumed their roles and launched into an exchange, trading lines like “How much for that brass dish, sir?” and “You drive a hard bargain, young lady.”
The exercise is designed to help multiple stakeholders learn how to achieve what might be called “win/win” resolutions and is taken from the book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In.”
It would be easy to mistake this for some sort of corporate seminar. But it was actually a workshop for the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON), an international group of ecologists, hydrologists, information technologists and computer scientists all working together to answer some big global questions about our inland waters.
A map of GLEON researchers and their research sites.
A map of GLEON researchers and their research sites.

So why the corporate team-building exercises? Because GLEON was designed to embrace the new reality of science – one where remote-sensors like buoys can collect data all day every day across the world and where the questions scientists ask are increasingly ones that can only be answered at the global scale.
“The kinds of science we confront in GLEON are the kinds that have global relevance … and really require a diversity of lakes and a diversity of ideas and a diversity of people’s skills,” says current GLEON co-chair and research faculty at the CFL, Paul Hanson.

On August 19th, graduate students and post docs from around the world gathered in Wisconsin GLEON’s fellowship workshop, an event designed to help the organization’s first crop of “fellows” better understand how to collaborate on these global scientific projects. When you’re working with colleagues across different time zones, language barriers and cultural divides, just doing basic science can be tricky. This group had assembled to learn what they call “the science of team science.”

Learning how to collaborate is key to advancing global scientific studies. Photo: A. Hinterthuer
Learning how to collaborate is key to advancing global scientific studies. Photo: Grace Hong

“So much of [the genesis of GLEON] was organic,” says Luke Winslow, a graduate student at the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “and we’re always trying to put this organic process into a structured environment and that’s really hard. When you’re working in a big group, who decides when you’ve collected enough data? Or that your work is quality enough for publication? Who gets to be first author?”
“I’ve seen people almost come to blows about authorship,” says Kathie Weathers, a biogeochemist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies and GLEON’s other current co-chair. Collaboration, she says, is a skill that can be learned and will serve students well as they begin their scientific careers.
The GLEON tean assembles on the pier at Trout Lake Station
The GLEON team assembles on the pier at Trout Lake Station. Photo: Grace Hong

Besides the invaluable face time with their collaborators, attendees also got to really dive deep into scientific minutiae, like the latest in Bayesian Hierarchical Modeling, or swapping data on big-picture projects like the primary drivers of water quality in lakes or the roles lakes play as sources and sinks of CO2 in the global carbon cycle.  Of course, they were also able to just hang out with one another, build relationships with colleagues they’ll work with throughout their careers and enjoy the beautiful scenery (and just-barely-not-quite-too-cold to swim waters) of Trout Lake!

To learn more about GLEON fellowships, visit –