Amidst a global pandemic, Trent University faculty were able to connect, share environmental research and seek collaboration with scientists from across the globe through an International Institute for Environmental Studies (IIES) workshop, held over Zoom for the first time.
The science and policy workshop, which ran on January 22 and 23 with more than 140 registrants from various countries, offered a mixture of pre-recorded on-demand viewing and live sessions to accommodate various time zones.
“This unique year presented a great opportunity for us to figure out how to build our existing community, strengthen relationships and still offer an exciting program in a virtual setting,” said Julia Colley, IIES operations coordinator at Trent University. “Our workshop, which was shorter in length and spread out over two days, offered versatility and still managed to feel connected and intimate.”
Trent University and Nanjing University in China are founding members of the IIES, which has 21 member institutions with leading programs in environmental science, engineering and policy.
Dr. Cathy Bruce, acting vice-president of Research and Innovation at Trent University, delivered opening remarks to the workshop participants from various institutions, including University College London and National Taiwan University.
Trent’s research session focused on a cross-disciplinary approach to addressing social and ecological crises with presentations from three School of the Environment faculty members: Dr. Stephanie Rutherford, Dr. Michael Classens and Dr. Stephen Hill.
Grad students benefit from international team projects
Based on the success of the workshop, the IIES is now planning for its Graduate Student Forum to go virtual for the first time. The forum on March 18 and 19 will provide a mix of online/offline activities and offer students the chance to share research with an international audience and gain professional development in effective communication.
Participants will work in international teams on an environmental challenge from a selection of topics in three categories: Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Engineering, and Environmental Sciences and Policy.
“The objective of the team projects is to foster connections among grad students from around the world so each team will comprise students from different universities and countries,” Ms. Colley adds. “The intent is that students will bring their various expertise and backgrounds together to discuss the challenge question and to develop a response that will be presented live during the forum.”
Students can also participate in a live workshop that helps build effective communication skills.
“Effective communication is an important skill to have in any field,” Ms. Colley said. “Grad students, particularly students who are presenting science-heavy material, can benefit from building their communication skills to reach a wider, more diverse audience.”