MET Student Wins Best Presentation Award at 2019 International Conference

Current MET student Jamie Dimitra Ashton attended the 15th annual European Ecological Foundation conference, ‘Ecology Across Borders in Lisbon, Portugal, this summer, with travel fund support from the MET program. Her accepted paper presentation was an adaptation of a course project Jamie developed while completing the MET course ETEC 530, and focussed on constructivism in conservation education. Impressively, Jamie was awarded the Best Oral Presentation Award, sponsored by the Portuguese Society for Ecology, out of a field of more than 300 presenters at the conference.

In her own words…

“Earlier this year I received the exciting email that a paper of mine had been accepted into the 15th European Ecological Foundation’s conference on Ecology Across Borders, a week-long event discussing what role ecology has in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Having freshly completed ETEC 530 under the guiding hand of Dr. Diane Janes, I had proudly adapted a course project into a paper on how Constructivism can serve Conservation Education and science communication and I was thrilled at the fact that others seemed interesting in hearing about the ideas and connections I had developed. My application for the MET Travel Grant was swiftly approved as well and before I knew it, flights and accommodation had been booked and I was ready to be on my way to Lisbon, Portugal for a full 5 days of idea and research sharing. As the time neared and the final schedule was released, I was suddenly filled with nerves due to it becoming apparent just how ecologically and scientifically focused this conference was. I was left second guessing why my humanities and education perspective would be valuable to this community and their ongoing conversations. Despite this, I held my ground and decided that a bit of social science never hurt anybody. Upon my arrival I realized how fruitless all my stress had been, as the opening discussion and panel – hosting speakers from universities and the UN – emphasized how ecology would be unable to properly impact current global practices unless it worked with other fields and how many of the interrelated social and environmental issues being identified required interdisciplinary collaboration.  Cue Jamie and her educational, philosophical, sociological, science communication research!

My slot for presenting my research was at the very end of the second day, and I spent the whole morning and afternoon before my presentation attending talks and panels. The conference had a packed schedule with three or more talks happening at all times, regular snack breaks, and Ecology and Art exhibits to visit as well. The first three days of the conference heavily featured science communication topics and I was inspired and awed by many of the projects and insights brought forward by other speakers. Two that I found particularly inspiring were keynote presentations given by Dr. Dawn Sanders and Leen Gorissen on the topics how media in science communication can flip scales and give usual perspective scales, and the amazing opportunities for natural intelligence to educate human design. Whilst being presented by ecologists, they tapped directly into many of the topics we discuss within education; storytelling and narratives, knowledge hierarchies and legitimacy, media as a tool for new communication, and building novel perspectives and literacies that are better suited to the 21st century world and it’s many features. You can view both these talks in the video clips linked to their names, above, and all other keynote speeches from conference on the associated SPECO YouTube channel.

The rest of the week flew by and can be tracked well via the Twitter Channel @eeflisbon2019 and the hashtag #EEFLisbon2019. Not to be all work and no play, I spent the free Wednesday afternoon out taking trains across the city to see some of the sights (and food!) it had to offer.  The week flew by in a flash and before I knew it, I had eaten all the palmier I could find and was getting ready to return home. All in all, this was an exceptionally enriching experience in which I got to participate as a knowledge sharer and consumer, and I learned so much that I feel will make me a better thinker, researcher and writer in the future. It seems my presence did not go unnoticed, however, as it was announced in the closing ceremony that I had won the SPECO Best Oral Presentation Award out of the 300 odd speakers from that week! Sadly, I was at home frantically packing for my departing flight and did not get a snapshot of me on stage, but the honour of the recognition still stands. This was one of my first big international conferences and will certainly not be my last. Thanks to the conference organizers and participants for hosting this event, as well as the UBC’s MET program and the UBC Faculty of Education who were invaluable in both helping me build something to say and funding me to get me onto a stage to say it!”