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

The STCA provides postgraduate students 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 recent iale 2013 European Congress held in Manchester, UK.

In a two part edition across the spring and summer 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.

Gillian Flint University of Stirling, UK

As a third year PhD student I was delighted to attend the IALE 2013 European Congress, and to present a poster outlining my work. Based in Scotland, my research takes a landscape genetics approach to investigate landscape effects on the genetic structure and connectivity of a key riparian tree species, Alnus glutinosa.

This was my first IALE conference and I found it to be very friendly. I was pleased to give a two minute flash presentation next to my poster which was useful for highlighting my key research findings and also helped to initiate conversation with other delegates.

For me the landscape genetics symposium was particularly relevant to my work and I found it valuable to hear about different analysis approaches, especially the successes and challenges posed (and that I experience)! In addition, I particularly enjoyed the field trip I joined - Socio-Ecology tour of Salford and Manchester; it was a varied trip and fascinating to discover more about the areas industrial heritage and more recent urban conservation and environmental projects, showcasing the broad disciplines encompassed within landscape ecology. I also enjoyed the Changing Urban Areas and Biocultural Landscape Conservation symposia for their variety of talks encompassing academia, policy, and practice.

I am grateful for receiving a Student Conference Registration Fee Award which enabled me to attend the conference, present my work, make new contacts, and find out more how science, policy and practice can interact all of which will benefit my future research and work.

Kremena Boyanova Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria

My name is Kremena Boyanova and I’m a second year PhD student at the National Institute of Geophysics, Geodesy and Geography – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. My research is in the field of geography and more precisely I’m interested in the methods for assessment and quantification of water related ecosystem services.

Participation in the conference gave me the opportunity to share my work with an international audience and to receive valuable feedback. The condensed overview of the newest developments in science concerning landscape changes and possible future politics and the acquaintance with researchers from all over the world and their work, gave me a more critical and full view on my own work.

The conference significantly supplemented my further research. My participation in the Ecosystem Services: building informed policies to orient landscape dynamics symposium increased my awareness of different methodologies applied all over the world for ecosystem services analysis and gave me many new ideas for my work. I highly appreciate the chance to participate in the conference. It raised in me the ambition to make my work part of the sterling contribution of the participants in the conference in the search for a better future.

Ana Beatriz Pierri Daunt Federal University of São Carlos, Brazil

When I arrived in Manchester, I was insecure to start my PhD, but after the conference, I could start to write my project, and I’ve been very successfully in doing so. I also could better correct my paper about one chapter of my master’s thesis and it has been accepted. In this way, the IALE 2013 European Congress has helped me a lot to go further on Landscape Ecology research. During all of the congress, the most difficult issue was to choose which symposia I would like to attend. Every field was amazing, interesting and helpful to develop my research.  I could advice for all Landscape Ecologist beginners like me to attend the congress to learn more, to focus their own research, and to meet and listen to some of the best professors in the field.

The symposia that I attended and presented my poster in, From survey to monitoring of landscapes and biodiversity, all the lectures were extremely helpful, and the opportunity to talk with Gabriela Hofer and Wendy Fjellstad about my research was exceptionally great.  Their approach and the ecological indexes used in their work make great improvement in my PhD methods. 

To end, I would like to empathize my complete satisfaction in attending the IALE 2013 European Congress, and I would like to congratulate and acknowledge the congress organization for all, especially for the Students Award provided.

Janice Astbury University of Manchester, UK

I am in my final year of PhD studies in Human Geography at the University of Manchester. My research concerns how urban landscapes facilitate citizen engagement in enhancing resilience of social-ecological systems, particularly through contributions to developing and maintaining green infrastructure. I use concepts from landscape ecology and cultural geography to explore the complexity of people’s interactions with urban environments. As a geographer, I tend to spend more time with other geographers and I have found it difficult to fully immerse myself in current thinking within the field of landscape ecology. As a result, IALE 2013 was a wonderful opportunity for me to get a broad overview of the state of the discipline.

I was struck by a statement in the opening plenary about there being 1000 landscape-scale initiatives in the UK: ‘landscapes for ants and elephants’. This gave a sense of the very broad range of applications of landscape ecology that were presented in the course of the conference. It also caused me to think more about the issue of scale within concepts of landscape. Landscape scales vary tremendously but landscape is always a scale at which a human being can begin to make sense of a complex ecological and socio-cultural system. This applies to researchers and it also applies to local actors who are trying to preserve and create landscapes that work well for nature and people. With respect to the latter, I particularly appreciated the opportunity to participate in the symposium on Community-based planning with landscape services where examples from various parts of the world were provided concerning how local communities were using landscape scale knowledge and action to make positive change in their environments.

I also particularly appreciated the focus on Manchester itself within the context of a European conference. I think that too often conferences miss the opportunities to learn from the place where they are held and share their knowledge with local actors. I very much enjoyed the Greater Manchester landscapes sessions because of the opportunities they offered for this sort of exchange and because they provided a good mix of perspectives from researchers and practitioners.

I thank ialeUK and IALE for the opportunity to attend this conference!

Teresa Batista University of Évora; ICAAM, Portugal

The symposium Biocultural landscape conservation in the framework of landscape ecology: a European perspective, was organized by Prof. Gloria Pungetti and Prof. Oliver Rackham, of the Cambridge Centre for Landscape and People, University of Cambridge, UK. It had about 50 participants, nine presentations, a round table with about 25 participants and three short poster presentations.

The symposium explored the ecological meaning of sacred places and groves with religious and spiritual connotation, in presentations related to Europe (Greece, UK, Italy) and also other parts of the world (Japan, and Ethiopia) and their significance for conservation and Landscape Ecology (Oliver Rackham, Kalliopi Stara, Fabrizio Frascaroli). One of the conclusions was that “sacred places support more diversity compared to other places”

Several cases of biocultural landscapes were presented, in Finland (Henrik Jansson) and in Lebanon (Jala Makhzoumi) that have taken to restoration in order to preserve their cultural and ecological functions. These presentations highlighted the multitude of values in biocultural landscapes, their natural and cultural heritage, with archeological, cultural, ethnic and biological character and the importance of time scale studies in order to understand processes and develop new approaches to achieve sustainable development.

A website for mapping sacred sites was also presented, as well as the Sacred Sites Research newsletter (Fabrizio Frascaroli), revealing the importance of information technologies in scientific research. Several of the presentations highlighted the importance of the link between the scientific community and policy makers, in order to adjust landscape planning and management of the requirements addressed by the presenters. Prof. Gloria Pungetti made a remarkable presentation on the state of the art of Biocultural Landscapes, concepts and applications.

The round table had quite an interesting debate on cultural versus biocultural landscapes and sacred places. In Jerusalem all is sacred (Linda Olsvig-Whittaker). One of the questions in this round table was “Should sacred sites from the past be functional for the future?” (Marc Antrop). Other questions about present and future of sacred sites were also debated.

The IALE Europe Working Group on Biocultural Landscapes coordinated by CCLP was set up under IALE Europe, aiming to report its results at the IALE World Congress in 2005, in the USA.

Annalie Melin University of Cape Town, South Africa

I am currently working towards a PhD through the South African National Biodiversity Institute, as part of the Global Pollination Project and through the University of Cape Town. My research focuses on understanding the landscape requirements of managed honeybees in South Africa. I recently attended the IALE 2013 European Congress which was held in Manchester from the 9-12th of September 2013.

Overall, it was a very interesting and diverse programme. I found the landscape genetics symposium of particular interest and enjoyed the talk given by Tonya Lander on pollinator travel paths and land-use resistance in heterogeneous landscapes. Other symposia I enjoyed were the application of agent based models of landscape scale socio-ecological systems. I presented a poster on my methodological approach of collecting and modelling baseline socio-ecological and resource use data in order to better understand the links between South African deciduous fruit farmers, beekeepers and different landscape resource elements supporting pollination services.

I attended the Forest of Bowland fieldtrip which provided an opportunity to explore the Lancashire countryside and gave our multi-cultural group a chance to chat and exchange ideas and experiences. There were also many opportunities to further network at the range of social events arranged by the conference organisers, which allowed everyone time to relax and gave further opportunity to socialise on an informal basis.

I would like to thank ialeUK and IALE for awarding me the conference fee award. The conference exposed me to a range of new and interesting fields of research and allowed me to connect with and learn from researchers investigating similar research questions to my own.

Stanislav Ruman University of Ostrava, Czech Republic

I am a PhD student at the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic, researching mainly about rainfall-runoff modelling, flood risk assessment and hydraulic modelling.  In the IALE 2013 Congress I attended the Symposium Climate change adaptation and landscape planning. My contribution to this symposium included a poster with the topic: Comparison of methodologies for creating flood hazard and flood risk map in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Scotland. In my work, I compared different methodologies for accessing flood risk according to European Union legacy primarily with interest in climate change. 

As a hydrologist I am primarily focused on the water cycle and as such I am looking at different problems from a hydrological point of view. But it was very interesting to meet with other scientists within different disciplines, and hear other talks where authors were researching non-hydrological problems, but still related to hydrology. It brought new ideas to my research and widened my horizons. Interdisciplinarity is very important in science and this symposium definitely highlighted it.  I liked the talk: A landscape approach to ‘Keeping Rivers Cool’, which was closely related to my subject. I appreciated the possibility to have a short talk about my work in front of my poster.

Mathias Kuemmerlen Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), the Senckenberg Research Institute and the Natural History Museum of Frankfurt, Germany

The last three years I have worked for the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), the Senckenberg Research Institute and the Natural History Museum of Frankfurt and was mainly involved in the project: Land Use and Water Resources Management under Changing Environmental Conditions in the Poyang Lake area, China. Here we adapted species distribution models to freshwater ecosystems by linking them with hydrological models and by including subcatchment specific predictors. Moreover, the models are fitted to freshwater ecosystems by limiting them to watersheds and by building them with high resolution predictors to provide more accurate results. This involves a thorough analysis of the surface within the boundaries of the watershed.

Until recently, my approach was exclusively ecological. This was probably the reason I had a hard time finding assistance while writing short scripts to analyze the landscape properties of our study catchment: most of my colleagues are rigorous ecologists. Although we consistently use the word 'landscape' in our research, we describe it with our models and we discuss it in our publications, it had never crossed my mind that we might be working – unknowingly - in the field of landscape ecology.

Recently an acquaintance recommended joining the IALE Congress, as our research would fit quite well in one of the symposia. It was a pleasant surprise to realize that there is much research going on elsewhere with probably similar challenges and difficulties as I have faced during the development of my work. I very much appreciated taking part in the IALE 2013 Congress as I got a good insight into the field of landscape ecology and heard how other scientists analyze the landscape, cope with the technical difficulties and interpret their results to reduce the anthropogenic pressure on the natural environment. I enjoyed presenting and discussing my results, gaining insight into how to improve my modeling techniques and how to produce information which may be useful to landscape planners and conservation practitioners.

I am a last-stage PhD student who intends to follow a scientific career. It is uncertain to me if my future lies in the more theoretical or the more applied environmental sciences. Participating in the IALE Congress certainly provided the applied ecology perspective I have been largely missing. In addition, I established valuable new contacts to pursue cooperation in the future or simply lead to inspiring conversations. I have great expectations: one meeting with a Professor has already been arranged!

It was a pleasure to participate at the 2013 IALE Congress!

Jess Neumann University of Reading, UK

I’m a 4th year PhD student researching the role of landcover composition and landscape structure on biodiversity in British woodland-agricultural landscapes. This is the third IALE conference that I have attended and every meeting has provided me with invaluable knowledge and the opportunity to discuss my research with like-minded people.

At the European Congress in September, I presented in the Ecological Networks in Real Landscapes symposia. It was a fantastic experience with presentations followed by interactive discussion sessions allowing people to voice their ideas, opinions and seek answers to questions. As a student, the opportunity to hear what other researchers, policy makers and practitioners thought of my research was very welcome and encouraging.

As well as the Ecological Networks symposia I attended numerous other sessions over the 3 days. I particularly enjoyed the Freshwater Ecosystems session as it allowed me the chance to engage in an aspect of landscape ecology with which I am not familiar. The wide-ranging variety of topics covered at the Congress was reflective of the diverse theme which is ‘landscape ecology’. Because of this, I would encourage anyone who is interested in any aspect of landscape ecology to attend IALE conferences and events in the future - they are always sociable, interactive and full-of-knowledge. For students particularly, it’s a great opportunity to meet with other early-career researchers.

Thank you to ialeUK for their generous support which allowed me to attend the Congress and I look forward to the next event.