Friday, 2 May 2014

Post 16: PICS Symposium and Sharing Research

I am one of the fortunate graduate students to be funded by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, and almost two years into the funding, I feel really appreciative of the annual Fellowship Symposium, which this year was held on Tuesday, April 29th in Vancouver.

While I felt the amplified though usual nerves I face when readying for a presentation (it's been several months since I've had to formally present on my research), the sense of relief and enjoyment I felt half way through the day, having spent my 10 minutes at the centre of attention, was delightful. I very much relaxed into being able to laugh freely, and listen to other fellows' research, see students, some of whom I recognized from last year, another who I'd worked with for CONFORWest, and another simply a PhD student who's quirkiness caught me last time, and this time made me cheer for him: he was submitting his thesis in two days' time.

I think the best part of the day was getting out of my skin to listen to the ideas others had. It was such a treat to hear Geoff Dembicki speak: his excellent Tyee series "Are We Screwed?" has him writing a compelling group of articles, trying to answer what he sees as the question of our times. I also heard from Cara Pike of the Social Capital Project, and James Glave from Clean Energy Canada, both of whom had projects conducting qualitative research trying to understand some aspects of rural Canadians perspective on climate change, energy, the environment, related policies, and the future.

After a well-charged morning those intriguing talks that left me feeling more clear-sighted and as though I were more squarely facing climate change and feeling decent about the direction of my research, it was time to face down the mental and physical challenge of staring down my talking slot. And, as always happens when slipped into a group of speakers, that time came altogether too quickly, and the next thing I knew, I was staring at the mike, trying to keep my breathing in order so that I could speak.

Not quite at the symposium, but presenting my poster at the Western
Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers (WDCAG), Spring 2014

At this point in time, I am glad for the many times I've gone over my talk. By this time my reliance on what I've written on my piece of paper (thankfully not shaking because it's glued to the podium at the front), has usually diminished, so I feel I can risk looking up a few times, or, as Dr. Tom Pederson, the director of PICS, encouraged me: think of the back of the room.

And, all at once, all that I planned and practiced came out in less than 10 minutes, and I was sitting back in my seat, waiting for the last two speakers before questions. All good.

So, looking back on the day, I feel lucky to be part of a research community filled with so many bright students! And I'm grateful that PICS takes the time to set aside a day in the year where we can all meet (being from different institutions, that doesn't always happen.) I can also wonder exactly about how to write my own thesis, and question what elements of 'developing stories that other people can see themselves in' I can incorporate into my research adventure. How to tell the story of scientists, climate change, and the mountain pine beetle? I'm trying to figure out just how much and how far I can use Actor-Network-Theory, or ANT, to do just that, and write a different kind of accounting from the human-dominating-nature kind of mythologies we see around us all the time.

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