By Kim Ootjers, 2011 A.D. Latornell Symposium Grant recipient
Before applying for the A.D. Latornell Conservation Symposium Grant I had no idea what to expect. Would this be another conference with dry, boring talks mostly irrelevant to my interests and job duties? Would there be too much free time and too little to do with it? Would any of the exhibitors have information I could use? Would the food be gross?
Thankfully, Latornell was the opposite of all these fears. From the minute I walked into the Nottawasaga Inn and checked into my room I knew I was in for an exceptional three days. There were moments of confusion – trying to get from the dining hall to my room and back down to a workshop without taking the wrong set of stairs – and moments where I was overwhelmed – walking into the exhibitors hall for the first time to swarms of participants and exhibitors exchanging information, all of which I wanted to participate in. But through all this there was the feeling of being part of a small-knit community of like-minded individuals. Whether it was eating breakfast with a Conservation Authority CAO, chatting with fellow grant recipients at a wine and cheese reception, or listening to a workshop on urbanization and aquatic ecosystems, every interaction was saturated by a desire to change, improve, and make a difference.
Latornell packs so much information into three days that there isn’t enough time to truly absorb and embrace it all. Each workshop period gave seven options, and I was always extremely excited about at least three, and disappointed that I couldn’t attend them all. The keynote speakers provided inspiration, amusement and interesting meal-time dialogue, while the exhibitors displayed a wide variety of information relevant to the diverse crowd gathered in the hall.
Like the conference itself, the grant application process was well run and straightforward. Although I wasn’t sure how stiff the competition was, I spent a long time crafting my application answers to ensure that the organizers knew just how much I would benefit from this experience. However, the effort more than paid off for the experience I received. The people I met, the presentations I heard and the discussions I had resulted in me having a much greater appreciation for how broad and far-reaching conservation efforts are. Beyond that it confirmed for me that the career path I’m on is exactly the one I want to be on.
If you are debating whether or not to apply for the grant, apply. Opportunities to attend a Symposium like this are few and far between and the benefits you receive from the experience are above and beyond what you will expect. And just wait until you see what they serve for lunch…
Kim Ootjers is a Natural Heritage Technician at Conservation Halton and a 2011 A.D Latornell Conservation Symposium Grant recipient.