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Internet2 connects researchers around the world

Via Internet 2, Karen Rosenberg, chairperson and associate professor of anthropology at UD (top right) discusses fossil specimens with Jakov Radovcic of the Croatian Natural History Museum and Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan, who are both in Zagreb (bottom left), and Janet Monge of the University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Dick Sacher
9:19 a.m., Dec. 12, 2005--State-of-the-art videoconferencing technology coupled with access to a super high-speed Internet connection recently enabled researchers at UD to compare specimens and 3D-visualizations with colleagues close to home and halfway around the world.

This virtual sharing of ideas, images and research data occurred at the Internet2 member meeting evening gala, held in September at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.

The University of Pennsylvania was a major host for the entire conference, and Internet 2 staffers, whose home base is at the University of Michigan, also were extensively involved.

Participants in the featured program, “Bridging the Ancient and Modern,” included Karen Rosenberg, chairperson and associate professor of anthropology at UD; Janet Monge, an anthropologist at University of Pennsylvania; and Jakov Radovcic, of the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, Croatia; with visiting anthropologist Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan.

The museum in Zagreb contains fossils that are of interest to paleoanthropologists in other museums and universities worldwide. Researchers at UD and Penn work both with casts (replicas) of fossils at their home institutions and also travel to conduct research on original fossils.

“We showed the other participants the items that are in our collection,” Rosenberg said. “Our colleagues in Zagreb had 3-D scans of fossils in their collection that they were able to share with us.”

During a portion of the presentation titled “Globally Distributed Fossils: Old Problems and New Technologies,” Rosenberg and her colleagues also discussed new methods of comparing widely dispersed fossils, including recent discoveries in Flores, Indonesia.

“Generally, these fossils can’t be assembled in one location for researchers to make comparisons, so we have to rely on things like measurements of items, 3-D reconstructions and casts (high quality replicas),” Rosenberg said. “Paleoanthropology is a relatively comparative field, and videoconferencing technology coupled with UD’s Internet2 membership has allowed us to communicate with our colleagues and share widely dispersed materials.”

Rosenberg’s presentation, which originated from the University Media Services videoconferencing facility in Pearson Hall, was transported through Internet2’s Abilene network.

Internet2 is a consortium of about 220 universities in partnership with industry and government to develop and deploy advanced network applications and technologies and to accelerate the creation of tomorrow’s Internet. UD has been a charter member for nearly a decade.

Dick Sacher and Karen Rosenberg discuss the developement of Internet2 with seniors Abigail Rosenthalis and Emma Llanso.
Conference organizers introduced a new constituency to Internet2 activities by holding the mid-conference gala at the museum, whose anthropological holdings and diverse staff expertise facilitated a series of worldwide, multi-site discussions, Dick Sacher, a manager in IT-User Services, said.

“The gala is typically an interactive, collaborative event. This year marked the first time that anthropology was emphasized as a theme,” Sacher said. “Eventually, this theme led to the idea of asking Karen [Rosenberg] to participate in a discussion with her colleagues at Penn and Zagreb.”

Other aspects of the conference emphasized a variety of network developments and uses, including network research supporting distributed grid computing by Martin Swany, assistant professor of computer and information science. Swany recently was named Internet2’s first faculty fellow in recognition of the relevance and quality of his research, Sacher said.

“The Internet2 community also has made significant inroads in the K-12 arena, and student and faculty in one state can talk and work on joint projects with peers and mentors in other states and countries,” Sacher said. “Staff from UD’s Information Technologies also are in partnership with the state of Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information [www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2004/internet100803.html], to extend Internet2 capability to schools in Delaware.”

The new technology, Rosenberg said, also encourages students to interact with scientists and students from different regions without incurring potentially prohibitive travel expenses.

“The students loved our participation in the Internet2 gala videoconferencing program,” Rosenberg said. “They also were excited to hear the dialogue between researchers and appreciated the opportunity to ask questions and to interact with individuals whom, under ordinary circumstances, they might not have met.”

Rosenberg said that although she came to her first Internet2 experience with no preconceived notions, she now has several ideas about how students and faculty can use the evolving Internet2 technology.

“This technology will be useful for things like organizing a quickly planned informal conference to discuss findings current topics with other researchers around the world,” Rosenberg said. “We also need to incorporate the technology in a way that is productive and engages students.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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