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AESS 2011: Confronting Complexity

Two weeks ago, I was in Burlington, Vermont to present my research work at a conference held by the Association for Environment Studies and Sciences. All in all, this conference has been a wonderful time, meeting new people, exploring the area, and of course, discussing environmental research with other scholars.

One of the things that is different about the AESS conference is the number of field trips and workshops offered in addition to traditional panel sessions or symposium discussions (though, of course, there is that too). For example, as part of this conference, I was able to hike Camel’s Hump, part of Vermont’s Green Mountain range, and one of the oldest mountains in the world. While the hike itself was amidst pouring rain and even hail – limiting the views – I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about and see the vegetation in the area.  We were led on the expedition by a University of Vermont PhD student, who has been doing her research work in the research forest there, studying forest change in the understory. One thing I was surprised to see were the hefty nettle patches in the area – I hadn’t expected to see something so familiar to the West Coast on the other side of the continent.  In addition, there was also an afternoon trip to see Shelburne Farms – another trip chosen from options ranging from canoe and helicopter tours to learning about LEED buildings, renewable energy, and/or environmental justice.

These trips are a nice way to get a sense of place in a new area, especially given that conferences are generally quick “in-and-out” affairs. Therefore, I really enjoyed getting to know more about Vermont and New England, in addition to learning from the array of interdisciplinary panel sessions.  I’ve been able to attend sessions ranging from renewable energy policy, environmental psychology, and environmental justice and ethics, among others.

Of course, one of my principal reasons for attending was to present my own research – which I did – once as part of an urban environment session, and again to compete for the outstanding student presentation award, which I was fortunate enough to be nominated for. While I didn’t win, the feedback I have received thus far has been very positive, both in terms of praise for my research design and methods, as well as with respect to feedback on the actual subject area and results. Given that I’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to have the most rigorous research design possible, (given resource and context limitations, of course) I’ve actually been really happy to hear the feedback.  Having a strong methodology in your research is critical so that people are able to trust your results and conclusions, and to be honest, it’s not always necessarily present.

Lastly, through this experience, I’ve also been able to get over any stage fright about presentations.  In one of my previous posts, I mentioned my anxiety about presenting, but this – along with a great MITACS presentation skills workshop which I attended earlier this month – has helped me get over any lingering concerns.  One of the best realizations gleaned from the workshop was that the audience wants you to succeed just as much as you do.  So all in all, I’m very happy with the conference, if not to getting back to the work grind afterward!

Darlene Seto is pursuing her master’s degree at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. A keen student of environment policy and governance, her current graduate work revolves around diversity and engagement in alternative food systems.

Posted on: July 5, 2011, 9:26 am Category: The Life of an Environmental Studies Student Tagged with: , , ,

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