During the second half of the course I’m teaching at MSU this semester (FW852 Systems Modeling and Simulation) I’ve invited several colleagues to give guest lectures on the modelling work they do. These lecture serve as examples to the students of modeling and simulation in practice, and provide the opportunity to tap the brains of experts in different fields.

One of the speakers I invited was one of my former PhD advisors, Dr. George Perry. George is at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Rather than pay for him to fly half way around the world we thought we would save some CO2 (and money!) by doing the lecture via internet video conference. As you can see from the photo below we had a video feed from George up on a large screen (you can also see the video feed he had of our room down in the lower right of his screen) with his presentation projected onto a separate screen (at right).

George spoke about research he has done modelling habitat dynamics and fish population persistence in intermittent lowland streams in SE Australia [I’ll link here to his forthcoming paper on this work soon]. The emphasis was on the ecology of the system and how modeling combined with fieldwork can aid understanding and restoration of systems like this.

Everything went pretty well with only a couple of Max Headroom-type stutters (the stutters were purely technical – George’s presentation and material was much more coherent than the 80’s icon!). With the increasing availability of (free) technologies like this (I often use Skype to make video calls with my folks back home, and Google just released their new Voice and Video Chat) no doubt this sort of communication is here to stay. And it looks unlikely that eLectures will stop here. As highlighted this week, academic conferences and lectures in virtual environments like Second Life are beginning to catch on too.

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