Lands to Great Lakes

Lands to Great Lakes

Monday, 27 August 2012

Great food and career affirmations: The musings of a Latornell Grant recipient

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.


  1. Wonderful blog post Kim! I've been eagerly awaiting this conference all summer. I look forward to taking away the same dearth of knowledge, networking contacts and passion for the environmental sector as you did last year.

    I've finished my draft Grant Application, complete with reference letter. I'm hoping the 2012 Full Program will be posted shortly so I can further develop my answers before the application deadline.

    I will also be applying to be a student moderator. Did you get the chance to talk with any of last year's moderators? Was their experience just as positive?

    I hope to ELC you there in November!

    1. Logan Juffermans30 August 2012 at 11:49


      I was a student moderator two years ago and would like to convey to you how positive my experience was. Similar to the emotions and knowledge which Kim was immersed in over the event, Moderators are also able to share in many of the same sessions and social opportunities. If you are interested in specific sessions you will be able to organize your moderating duties in order to attend. Moderators have a great deal of freedom throughout the program with access to experiences unique to that position.

      Additionally, you will be sure to gain valuable contacts and experience in the moderation of sessions which will likely serve you in any future career.

      I learned a great deal as a moderator and was able to share the wonderful experience with other individuals within the small Ontario environmental community. I would definitely recommend you apply for a moderating position and use the opportunity to its full potential.

      Good luck and enjoy.

    2. Logan,

      I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions about the student moderator experience.

      Your experience highlights the transferable skill of moderating a meeting and the networking opportunities that I'm excited to continue pursuing in order to round out my academic knowledge with the soft skills necessary to be an effective team member in the environmental sector.

      I'm also glad to hear that I may be able to still see some specific sessions of interest to me while attending as a moderator.

      All the Best.