Inaugural DICE Twitter Conference (#DICECON20) a roaring success

DICE Conference 2020 banner with background image of sunlight streaming through tropical forest canopy

Over the 23rd and 24th July, 2020, the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) held their very first Twitter conference, entitled, and aptly hashtagged, #DICECON20. Led by postgraduate students Michaela Lo, Natalie Yoh and Anna Jemmett, all studying for a PhD in Biodiversity Management, this marked the inaugural Twitter conference for DICE. The event was part of the 30th Anniversary of DICE celebrations, with its purpose being to showcase and promote the recent and current research of DICE students, academic staff and alumni. The findings were all presented in one place in the Twittersphere, in threads dotted with images, infographics and links, with each tweet appropriately labelled #DICECON20.

The conference and its organisers intended to provide an opportunity for those with an interest in conservation, ecology and the climate crisis to learn more about the current and wide-ranging research conducted and published internationally by members of the research centre. Each presenter was given 15 minutes and 6 tweets to present their findings, which ranged in theme from biodiversity and human wellbeing to wildlife trade and sustainability.

The conference took off, attracting far more attention than expected. Using the site to analyse the tweets and impact of #DICECON20, we found that the reach the posts achieved was staggering. A total of 826 tweets made by 120 original contributors were retweeted 1,851 times, with a potential impact on 5,674,630 users. On the first day of the conference alone, interactions with #DICECON20 tripled from 440,000 to 1,500,000!

Statistics displaying that 2,677 total tweets using the hashtag generated a potential economic value of £8,380.63
Statistics over the use of #DICECON20 from Tweet Binder.

Among the most successful threads of research were posts by MSc in Conservation Biology student Shanna Challenger, outlining her research on the ecosystems of Redonda and the impact that the introduction of rats in the 1800s had on wildlife and vegetation. Her opening tweet gained 121 retweets and 225 likes! CEO of Save The Rhino, and speaker at the 2018 DICE Annual Lecture, Cathy Dean’s opening tweet about her efforts to save the Sumatran Rhino from extinction gained 139 favourites: we are thrilled with the positive response that the contributions were met with.

Cathy Dean's first tweet: "I'm Cathy Dean, CEO at Save The Rhino! Last year we joined forces with @RhinosIRF @Global_Wildlife @InsideNatGeo @IUCN @WWF on a ground-breaking collaboration to save Sumatran rhinos from extinction! #SumatranRhinoRescue #DICECON20"

Shanna Challenger's first tweet: "Hi, I'm Shanna! Conservation efforts typically take decades to show tangible species and habitat recovery. What success can be claimed in a short time? Enter Redonda, the remote, uninhabited Caribbean island that belongs to Antigua and Barbuda, 48km away #DICECON20"

The conference even had users creating memes about it – credit to postgraduate student Blaise Ebanietti for this hilarious example.

Tweet: "Our day in a nutshell #DICECON20" with accompanying 'distracted boyfriend' meme - boyfriend centre ('ME') distracted by passing female (#DICECON20) as his horrified girlfriend looks on ('WORKING ON MY DISSERTATION')

Professor Bob Smith, Director of DICE, commented on the conference, “This was an amazing way of bringing our 30th Anniversary celebrations to a close, with DICE students, alumni and staff joining together from around the world. We were particularly proud of our current and former students and the great work they are doing on such a wide range of conservation topics.”

Conference organiser Natalie Yoh made many important points about the success of the conference, offering a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the conference: “We feel it was a true DICE community effort! Everyone has been incredibly supportive and engaged, and it’s been amazing to see the outstanding diversity of research that DICE members are involved in around the world.” She also pointed our the benefits of the format of #DICECON20, explaining that, “We feel these sorts of events are so important for connecting us, now more than ever, and proving that networking can be inclusive, free, fun (and carbon friendly). We’ve had lovely feedback from staff and students, not only from DICE, but from across many conservation departments internationally. We hope this not only promotes DICE members but also inspires similar initiatives in the future.”

A prize comprising of Amazon vouchers for the best Twitter presentation was awarded to Caitlin Melidonis, student on the MSc in Conservation and Rural Development programme, whose work focuses on wildlife policy in Africa.

A PDF of the full statistical report from Tweet Binder is available to view.

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