This past May, I attended the first annual Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF) conference at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a trip that was funded in part by a travel grant from the Water Initiative, which was offered to support University of Alberta students whose abstracts were accepted for presentation.
The conference engaged graduate students from all corners of Canada who are passionate about water and are dedicated to understanding the complex and interconnected issues through various lenses, including policy, health, geography, biology, engineering, and social science. The WatIF conference was especially unique because activities were designed to maximize connections among students for cultivating communication and collaboration as we continue with our research and careers.
A number of well-established researchers participated and provided invaluable information. Many of them wished they had networking opportunities like the WatIF conference early in their careers so that they did not have to work in isolation on problems—like those we find in the study of water—that defy disciplinary boundaries.
Working across disciplines to address the multidimensional facets of water issues does not mean that everyone will see eye-to-eye and work together without challenges. Rather, as described by Waterlution, the organization that facilitated activities at WatIF, acknowledging diversity in perspectives and interests can enhance learning from one another for more creative and collaborative approaches to water management.
By attending WatIF, I was able to find out about research that I would not otherwise have encountered, as well as research related to my own topic that I would not have heard about until it was published a year or more in the future. I also had the privilege of meeting two leading experts who offered to provide assistance with my PhD research on the socio-political factors of flood management in Alberta.
It can be financially challenging for grad students to attend conferences in other provinces or countries. Between the registration fees, plane tickets and hotels, it all adds up. Thanks to the Water Initiative for the travel grant which helped me take advantage of this fantastic learning and networking opportunity.
About the author:
Eva Bogdan is in the second year of her doctoral program in sociology at the University of Alberta. Her dissertation topic builds on her MSc research on crisis as an opportunity for learning and change. Eva’s academic background in environmental science and environmental sociology, as well as her certificates in municipal governance, economic development and community-based research, provide her with a multifaceted perspective on the environmental, social and economic challenges of water and land use management in the context of Alberta’s floods.