MTS Executive Director’s Column: June 2020

June 25, 2020

Going the Distance When You Can’t Go Anywhere

Kathleen Herndon, Ph.D., MTS Executive Director

Our world is often faced with problems that seem unconquerable. Our individual efforts do little to stem the tides of hunger, violence, and environmental degradation. It is easy to feel impotent in the face of the scale of human suffering. Emptying the ocean of injustice with a personal teaspoon seems pointless, and we give in to despair. But we are not alone.

The Marine Technology Society is home to thousands of scientists, technologists, engineers, educators, policy makers, and enthusiasts whose collaboration can address global challenges in powerful and unique ways. Together, our community has traversed the depths of the ocean, built the foundational knowledge used to send mankind to the moon and beyond, and measured and monitored the impact of human exploitation of our environment. Together, we have found new sources of energy, employed multidisciplinary approaches to shipping, medicine, and communications, and brought wealth and prosperity to communities around the world.

I am constantly amazed by the power of cooperation, and I am honored to serve the Marine Technology Society as it strives to create and expand a hub for our community. But what does that hub look like in the time of COVID-19? Our in-person conferences have been cancelled or postponed. Our lunch and learn sessions, our Board meetings, and our networking spaces have been moved from the real world to the virtual world. How do we stay connected? How can we collaborate in this new paradigm? How can we go the distance when we can’t go anywhere?

Many of us hope to return to business as usual as soon as possible. We long for the personal connections we make when sitting face-to-face with our colleagues. We yearn for our regular office environment, our daily pop in at the coffee shop, and the familiarity of the afternoon commute. I certainly miss putting my children on a school bus every morning, to have them magically returned every afternoon a little smarter than when they left. But the world was always trending more digital – this global pandemic has perhaps simply accelerated what was always on the horizon. Perhaps we have jumped forward in time, to an unfamiliar future.

MTS has chosen to embrace these strange shores, pushing forward into new territory. The visionary leadership of our Society is hard at work preparing a robust virtual OCEANS 2020 conference, replete with academic information sharing, networking opportunities, and insight into new and emerging technologies. Our dedicated volunteers have sprung forward to offer weekly webinars on topics ranging from Seabed 2030 to applications of bioluminescence in marine technology. MTS Sections and Committees are hard at work developing new events, publications, podcasts, and more – all to keep members informed, engaged, and connected. Our MTS office has transitioned to a fully virtual environment, and I congratulate staff on making the transition seamlessly. We have launched into this brave new world, and we’re not looking back.

Let’s look forward, together.

MTS would love to feature your efforts to excel in this new virtual workspace. Send your stories to Josh Speiser at

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