The earth environment is a complex system, in which collaborative scientific approaches can provide major benefits by bringing together diverse perspectives, methods, and data, to achieve robust, synthetic understanding (Fig. 1). Face-to-face scientific meetings remain extremely valuable because of the opportunity to build deep mutual trust and understanding, and develop new collaborations and sometimes even lifelong friendships (Alberts 2013, Cooke and Hilton 2015). However, it has been argued that ecologists should be particularly sensitive to the environmental footprint of travel (Fox et al. 2009); such concerns, along with the time demands for travel, particularly for multi-national working groups, provide strong motivation for exploring virtual attendance. While not replacing the richness of face-to-face interactions entirely, it is now feasible to virtually participate in meetings through services that allow video, audio, and file sharing, as well as other Web-enabled communication.