Currents of Change: Inspiring, Creating, Transforming

Currents of Change: Inspiring, Creating, Transforming

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Interview: The 'Latornell Experience' through the eyes of a 2015 Grant Recipient

Jayme Hughes, Latornell Communications Coordinator Interview with Greg Bunker, Kawartha Conservation

With the opening of the Latornell Grant Program this year, the Steering Committee wanted to try and give the program a bit more profile, since it tends to (shockingly) be a bit undersubscribed.  Alas, I found myself on the hunt for a past grant recipient to chat with so I could find out what their experience was like, and hear some of the perks to applying (aside from the obvious financial benefits).  

I quickly realized that I actually had a 2015 grant recipient right downstairs- Kawartha Conservation’s Stewardship Outreach Technician, and the driving force behind our ‘BlueScaping’ program, Greg Bunker.  This guy is essentially a dream to have in the office- a new Associate Landscape Architect, a dedicated team member, and a fantastic person to bounce creative ideas off of.  I knew he’d be the perfect person to talk to about the grant program!

We casually sat down in a small meeting room at the Kawartha Conservation headquarters in the ‘dog days’ of summer so I could ask him what it is he loves about Latornell, and what it was like to attend the Symposium in 2015 as a grant recipient.  

JH: Thanks for agreeing to chat with me Greg! I know you’ve attended Latornell in the past through previous career roles, tell me what initially interested you in the Symposium and what made you interested in applying for a grant last year to come back?

GB: I first learned of and came to Latornell in 2004 as a student poster presenter, and was blown away by the scope and diversity of conservation work happening across the province. I remember meeting many like-minded students and professionals, and for the first time realizing that there were so many directions my undergraduate education could take. When my partner and I decided to make a documentary about the Greenock Swamp, we started working with the local Conservation Authority there and it just made sense to put the word out at Latornell – to both reach out to and get feedback from a broad environmental conservation audience. Now that I am working for a Conservation Authority, I was fortunate enough to receive a grant to return to the Symposium last year as an attendee.

JH: Sounds like you’ve caught what I call “Latornell Fever”!  That’s so cheesy I know. But seriously, once you’ve been a part of the event, and feel welcomed into the community, you just can’t get enough.  There’s something unique about it.

GB: Totally! If I could choose only one conference to attend each year, it would be Latornell for sure.

JH: So, after successfully applying for a grant in 2015, are there any tips or tricks for the application process that you can provide to those interested this year?
GB: The Symposium is always full of interesting topics to learn more about, but it’s important to take a good look at the program and figure out which sessions will provide you with the information and contacts you need to succeed at whatever you are pursuing.  Also, make sure to mention in your application how you will take advantage of the social activities on offer – there are many and they provide a great way to get to know others in a more relaxed atmosphere.

JH: Aside from the obvious financial perks, what benefits do you feel like you received as a grant recipient?  

GB: Meeting other grant recipients and the Steering Committee members at a special little wine and cheese networking session just for the grant recipients. It was great because a lot of the grantees are really starting to develop their careers, and it’s helpful to get advice and new contacts from more experienced individuals within the conservation community.  Plus they host it right at the beginning of the Symposium, so throughout the week you see familiar faces and it helps to get introduced to more delegates later on and make contacts.

JH: Ok, let’s say someone is attending the Symposium for the first time this year, how can they make the most out of their ‘Latornell experience’?

GB:  Best advice? And keep in mind this is advice coming from an introvert … just don’t be shy! It’s really important to put yourself out there in order to get the full experience.  The conference has so much built in programming that’s conducive to talking to people and making new connections in a natural way.  The sessions, meals, and social events are all perfect places to spark a conversation.  In my experience the conservation community is especially nurturing and there is a definite feeling of comradery in the air at Latornell.  I’ve always found that people within this sector are willing to go out of their way to help and to really support each other.

JH: I hear you’ll be coming back to Latornell this year as a session speaker! That’s exciting, tell me more about that.

GB: Yes, I’m definitely excited to attend again this year and to speak! I’ll be presenting about Kawartha Conservation’s ‘BlueScaping’ program, which is all about landscaping urban areas to manage storm water on-site.  I’ll be sharing what’s happened with the program in the past year, and also where it’s headed.  The session I’m speaking in is all about how stewardship initiatives can complement natural system functions.  I think it will be really interesting because we have speakers sharing insights into three different programs at different stages of development: our BlueScaping program which is quite new, one program which is a few years along, and another which has over 20 years history of implementation.  
JH: Thanks so much for filling me in on all of this! It sounds like your session will be really interesting and you’re all set to have another amazing experience at Latornell this year!

Greg Bunker is the Stewardship Outreach Technician at Kawartha Conservation.  He will be presenting about the Conservation Authority’s ‘BlueScaping’ program at Latornell 2016 in session WC2

Jayme Hughes has been the Communications Coordinator for the Latornell Symposium for the past five years, and is also the Marketing & Communications Specialist at Kawartha Conservation.

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