Reflections on the iale 2013 European Congress from students awarded the Student Travel Conference Award (STCA)

The STCA provides postgraduate students with an amazing opportunity to attend conferences, which otherwise may not have been financially possible. From across the globe, 21 students were awarded the STCA to help cover the cost of travel or conference fees for the iale 2013 European Congress held in Manchester, UK.

In this second installment of a two-part edition across the spring and autumn newsletter we hear from these students and their experience of the conference, including particular symposiums they benefited from and enjoyed, as well as thoughts for the future. It is evident from these testimonials that attendance of the congress, made possible by the STCA, has been beneficial towards facilitating networking and enhancing awareness, understanding and ultimately research in the transdiscipline science of landscape ecology.

Fraser Combe, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

I have recently begun my PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University working on landscape genetics of the Hazel dormouse.  My research aims to identify key landscape features, which can act as facilitators or inhibitors to gene flow in a fragmented landscape.

After my first field season this congress came at the perfect time in order for me to share ideas as well as meeting and interacting with other students and researchers in my field. Of particular interest to my research was the symposium on the 10 year anniversary of landscape genetics, which is amidst the rapid confluence of theoretical, computational and molecular genetics advancements.  This was an opportunity to discuss up to date research on a wide range of fields and I came out of this symposium with some very important ideas for my own research including ideas on analysis and what genetic tools are available.  Another big part of my research is GIS modelling for which again I gained a huge amount of ideas not just from this symposium but others, such as Earth Observation, which I have been putting to good use in my own research in the months preceding the conference.  This is the first time I have attended a meeting of this scale and I was extremely impressed with how smoothly the congress was run and how each session was well planned, most importantly with interesting talks and friendly people willing to discuss ideas in an engaging debate.

Niels Dabaut, Ghent University, Belgium

I am a MA student in Geography and I am currently studying an Advanced MA programme at the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (KU Leuven). I am doing research on historic landscape and how to manage our landscape and heritage in a sustainable way. A good understanding of the historic landscape and the archaeology of the landscape are crucial for that.

The IALE 2013 conference was for me a good opportunity to meet and to listen to researchers that are working in the same discipline. The most interesting seminars for me were the Changing cultural landscapes symposium, chaired by Graham Fairclough and Jonathan Porter and the Collaborative research for the European Landscape Convention, chaired by Bas Pedroli and Peter Bezak. The latter gave me an idea of similar research to my project that is happening in Europe. Especially the interaction between policy makers and researchers was a positive side of this symposium.  Especially the gaps in decision-making and planning practice across Europe and the value of collaborative research approaches in landscape protection, planning and management were interesting for me. I hope that these symposiums could help to show that research can influence landscape decision-making and that there is a need for a good understanding of the landscape to make sustainable and sensible decisions.

Elżbieta Ziółkowska, Jagiellonian University, Poland 

My name is Elżbieta Ziółkowska and I am PhD student working on habitat fragmentation and connectivity at the Institute of Geography and Spatial Management of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. I am applying my background in both mathematics and geography to understand habitat and animal movements in the landscape. My work is both theoretical and practical, as I try to better understand indices and methods used to assess habitat fragmentation and connectivity, but I also apply this knowledge to provide evidence and threats of movement corridors of European bison and black bears in the Carpathian Mountains for conservation and enhancement of connectivity.

I had the great opportunity to attend the IALE European Congress in Manchester in September 2013 thanks to the Student Congress Registration Fee Award funded by ialeUK and IALE. During the event I presented my work during the symposium Ecological networks in real landscapes which for me was the most interesting one, as it provided some important insights on designing and implementing coherent and resilient ecological networks in practice in different landscapes, but also included presentation of some new methods and tools which can be used to model ecological networks, such as Range Shifter - a novel simulation platform which can be applied to assess habitat connectivity and species’ range shifting from a population dynamics perspective. 

Another interesting symposium Agent based models of landscape scale socio-ecological systems gave me a better understanding of agent-based modelling in general but also provided some interesting and sometimes surprising examples of applications of this method. During the last day of the congress, I participated in the symposium Land use change in Europe: new understanding, better modelling, and road mapping to a desired future, during which we discussed important issues of land use management in the context of climate change.

The IALE 2013 European Congress was for me an excellent chance to meet new people, and present and discuss my work with experts. All of this was possible because of great side events organized along with symposia, including the conference dinner, buffet reception and field trips, during which there was plenty of time for scientific but also informal discussions among participants. And don’t forget about Manchester and its great surroundings providing an excellent place for discussions on changing European landscapes and challenges for their future management.

Liwei Ma, Institute for Natural Research Conservation, University of Kiel, Germany 

Thanks for supporting me through the Student Travel Conference Award, which enabled me to take part in the conference and expand my knowledge about landscape ecology in various aspects.

My study focuses on carbon capture and storage and functions of ecosystem services based on land cover and land use, which is primarily on a landscape scale. I got a great deal of information on advanced research direction and study methodologies of landscape ecology in Europe via joining the conference. I believe it will be a great help for widening my further study.

I attended two whole symposiums during the conference, they were Land system change impacts on European landscapes and Ecosystem Services: building informed policies to orient landscape dynamics. Presentations of the first symposium which I mentioned above were mainly on studies of different kinds of land cover and land use, from agriculture to forest, and the changes among land cover and land use. These types of land cover and land use were related to my study, and I received useful information from it. Another symposium that I found interesting was Ecosystem Services: building informed policies to orient landscape dynamics, which paid much attention to policies and management. It made me aware about ecosystem services and policies in various landscape ecosystems, which might help me to find a new study area in the future.

Thanks again for your support and your work for the conference. 

Raffaella Bruzzone, University of Genoa, Italy

My name is Raffaella Bruzzone and I have just got my PhD in Geographical history for historical-environmental heritage conservation at the University of Genoa (Italy). The research project was about The De Paoli herbal manuscript (1598 ca.): excavating local naturalistic knowledge, supervised by a botanist (C. Montanari) and a geographer (D. Moreno). My research area is the study of botanical iconographical sources in relation to the circulation of naturalistic knowledge in the Eastern Ligurian Apennines, and I presented a poster on Local environmental knowledge and cultural landscape dynamics at the IALE 2013 European Congress in Manchester.

This Congress was a great experience because I had the chance to meet young researchers and academics investigating different aspects of the landscape. I found particularly interesting presentations dealing with scientific and technical aspects such as those in the Changing Mediterranean Landscapes panel (from GIS to soundscape).

I also particularly enjoyed the panel on Bio-cultural landscape conservation in the framework of landscape ecology: a European perspective, organised by Gloria Pungetti and Oliver Rackham. I found the discussion after the interesting presentations (starting from prof. Rackham and Gloria Pungetti and going on with the young researchers Kalliopi Stara and Fabrizio Frascaroli) really stimulating, opening new questions, networks and research focuses on bio-cultural landscapes. The next appointment will be the 9th IALE World Congress in Portland (USA) where I hope to be able to go.

Mita Drius, University of Molise, Italy

My name is Mita Drius, I am an Italian PhD student attending an international four-year PhD course in Management and conservation issues in changing landscapes at the Department of Bioscience and Territory of the University of Molise, in Central Italy. My research project focuses on the ecosystem functions and services of coastal dunes and on their spatial planning, thus being deeply connected with many aspects of landscape ecology. At the European IALE congress in Manchester I had the great chance to be actively involved in two (simultaneous!) symposia with two oral communications: a study describing an integrity indicator based on between-patch boundary types and a work about the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network at local scale. 

While the Changing Mediterranean landscapes symposium gathered varied works ranging from road ecology to bio-cultural issues and landscape quantitative analyses, with several contributions highlighting the common challenges within the highly populated Mediterranean basin, the Ecological networks in real landscapes symposium explored new approaches and analysed various tools able to describe and test landscape connectivity in different contexts. 

Overall I found the Ecological network set of talks a bit more sectorial and pragmatic than the Mediterranean session, as several studies analysed the efficiency of established ecological networks at different scales (from European to local) and using different indicators (habitats, plants, butterflies and so on). The following panel discussion on ecological connectivity was particularly stimulating in respect to my research interests.

Thank you for giving me this unique opportunity.

Rocco Labadessa, University of Bari, Italy

I am a PhD student in Environmental Sciences at University of Bari, mostly dealing with animal and plant community ecology in semi-natural ecosystems. Since I have been trained in the field of biology, I have always felt the concept of landscape as something artificial and far from my approach. My opinion changed when I realized how variegated and inclusive the perspective of landscape ecology was. I think that the last congress - my first experience with IALE - really fulfilled those concepts, providing a wide variety of contents and suggestions. For this reason I decided to enjoy both new and familiar issues. Among symposia I really benefited from was that on Changing Mediterranean Landscapes. Discussions went across very diverse topics and approaches, such as habitat patterns, species ecology, management and rurality, but all addressing those issues recurring in the Mediterranean.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to attend the PhD course organized by IALE Europe in Manchester and the Peak District. The deep and full immersion in the course activities has also been helpful in improving the ability to deal with congress topics. My overall impression about this experience is that of an excellently organized and really satisfying event!

Ying Hou, University of Kiel, Germany

As a PhD student studying in the Institute for Natural Resources Conservation of the University of Kiel, I participated in the IALE European Congress in Manchester last September. I would like to thank IALE UK for providing me with the award covering the registration fee, without which my participation could not come into being. During the congress I gave a presentation concerning my PhD research in the symposium The role of geographic location in the operationalisation of the concepts of Ecosystem Services and Natural Capita. My talk was entitled Linkages between ecosystem services and socioeconomics in urban-rural gradients— Case studies from Germany and China. In the presentation I showed the application of gradient methodology to investigate the relationships between several ecosystem services and socioeconomic dimensions in the context of the urban-rural area.  My presentation turned out to be successful as it drew interests and comments from the audience. One enlightening comment came from Professor Felix Kienast, who was curious about the practical implication of my research findings. He suggested the possibility to explore the relationships between different ecosystem services of a case area and transfer these correlations to other similar areas. With these relationships, the ecosystem services difficult to quantify could be predicted by the easily quantifiable ones. Besides the helpful feedback to my work, the new findings in the field of ecosystem service investigations at landscape scales from other scientists in this symposium also benefited me by bringing me new perspectives and ideas in this field.

In addition to the symposia, I found some other impressive parts of the congress. For example, by joining the excursion Socio-ecology tour of Salford and Manchester, I got to know the landscape changes from Manchester city centre to the suburban area, the water flow linkages between the urban and peri-urban areas as well as the green areas outside the city, which provides critical ecosystem services to the urban populations. Another unforgettable experience was the congress dinner in an old building, The Palace Hotel. I will always remember the historical surroundings, the unique decorations and the romantic atmospheres of the dining hall.  

Charlotte Carter, University of Warwick, UK

The European Congress provided the perfect opportunity to interact and meet other researchers and practitioners in the discipline of Landscape Ecology. The Student Travel Conference Award made my attendance at this exciting and rewarding congress possible, for which I am extremely grateful. I presented my PhD research in the Land system change impacts on European landscapes symposium chaired by Peter Verburg. This symposium was full of interesting and dynamic talks, and provided me with a valuable opportunity to discuss my findings and future work with other delegates.

There were many symposia of interest and relevance to my research, in particular the symposium on exploring the ecological Implications of the land sparing or sharing debate chaired by Simon Smart was particularly useful, with discussions on the quantification of landscape configuration and connectivity. Manchester provided an excellent setting for the European Congress and the opportunity to get out into the field and explore the landscapes of Greater Manchester was particularly enjoyable. Thank you for an amazing experience!