Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center Fellows Retreat
As a first year PhD student, being a part of the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center is a spectacular learning opportunity. Each month, I’m able to participate in meetings and seminars, to learn about the work of other researchers and students, and to improve my own research and engagement. Being a student at the University of Minnesota and part of the NE CASC, I feel particularly fortunate to learn about work spanning both the Great Lakes states and the Northeast. For a few days this May, I joined other fellows and researchers associated with the NE CASC at a retreat, where I had the opportunity to meet and connect in person. Among the themes of our retreat were learning about impacts of climate change in the region, developing actionable science, improving science communication, and building community and collaboration.
Our journey started at UMass Amherst, where a handful of fellows came together to head to Mirror Lake in New Hampshire next to Hubbard Brook, where we would be staying. Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (hyperlink to the website) in North Woodstock is a famous experimental forest particularly well known for its long-term studies on watersheds. Despite a few pesky bugs it was a serene setting. As a Minnesotan – and someone who studies trees and forests, no less – I must also interject here that the forests and landscapes of the Northeast are beautiful and it was a privilege to spend time there. I also wish to take a moment, as should be done in any region, to express acknowledgement and gratitude of the Native Nations whose traditional lands we were on. In this case, I would especially wish to thank and acknowledge the Abenaki People.
That first evening, we started a round of lightning talks to introduce ourselves and our work—with a twist. We drew random audiences from a bag, ranging from governors, academics, elementary schoolers, and airplane row-mates, and our task was to introduce ourselves as if talking to that audience. Not only was this a creative way to learn about each others’ work, it was also a surprisingly good exercise in flexibility and communication. It emphasized an important lesson: science should be communicable. In the NE CASC’s goals of fostering actionable science, it is all the more important that knowledge be transmitted stripped of jargon and ego, and in ways that are respectful and genuine in creating conversation. So the exercise was welcome, both to participate in and to hear others adapt.
The next day, we were joined by more researchers and practitioners of climate, forest, and wildlife related sciences—and a bit of rain. We began our discussions by sharing ways our own work is or can be actionable, and how to further involve stakeholders. After a lunch where some of our hosts shared their own experiences in science and reaching their current positions, we headed to the Bartlett Experimental Forest. In contrast to Hubbard Brook, the Bartlett Experimental Forest has historically been oriented towards silvicultural and management work. Despite the rain, we persisted and had the chance to visit a variety of different silvicultural studies. After a thoroughly soaking day, we finished up our second round of lightning talks, and had a chance to hear more on career experiences from respected professionals in our fields.
The next day, as I’m told is in true NE CASC fashion, was packed with more learning, presentations, and discussions. We headed into the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest for a glimpse at their extensive ice-storm study and a quick glance at one of the many infamous weirs. Then we were treated to talks on actionable science and climate tools used at Hubbard Brook and in the region. We also had a creative opportunity to play out a stakeholder conflict scenario, taking on various roles in a fictional watershed dispute. Finally, we ended the day with a paddle down the Pemigewasset River, and a dinner where we reflected on important lessons we had taken from our experiences.
The NE CASC retreat condensed a huge amount of learning into a few days. As an early-career scientist, opportunities like the NE CASC fellows retreat help to form important connections and platforms for growth and development. It also serves as a medium of cementing vital lessons, like the necessity of pursuing actionable work and insuring that questions reflect genuine conversation and communication with stakeholders. I took home many new lessons, a sense of reinvigoration for my own work and goals of supporting actionable and collaborative science, and new friendships. I feel very lucky for the experience and look forward to many more years of learning with the NE CASC.
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