From November 21-23, 2017 I had the pleasure of attending the Latornell Conservation Symposium in Alliston, Ontario. From start to finish, it was an incredibly action packed and fulfilling few days. I had been to a Latornell conference during my undergraduate days and loved every minute of it. However, as work brought me to Eastern Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador), I lost touch with this incredible world. I say a world, because being at Latornell feels like you have stepped into a special universe…kind of like COMICON for conservation nerds!
After learning a little bit about the instigator of the Latornell Conservation Symposium, Arthur Latornell, I can see why such a wonderful atmosphere has been fostered. Arthur Latornell believed strongly in the mentorship of students and young professionals involved in natural resource activities. This commitment can be felt within the conference, where there is a deliberate focus on the mentorship of students and young professionals.
I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a student moderator for the symposium. This role opened up a plethora of experiences that I would have otherwise missed out on. Being a student moderator allowed for unique opportunities to network with presenters and delegates, which facilitated professional development discussions, and the of meeting new friends. In fact, one of my peer student moderators (Cameron Curran, University of Guelph), and I have embarked on a new research study together.
This research study is exploring successes, challenges, and lessons learned with septic maintenance programs in rural municipalities in Ontario. The collaborative research team working on this project is made up of experts from the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association, Canadian Environmental Law Association, University of Guelph, and Memorial University of Newfoundland. This project has also received endorsement from the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, as well as funding from the Rural Policy Learning Commons. Latornell 2017 served as an important venue where this team was able to connect and discover our mutual interests in the role septic system maintenance has on surface and groundwater supplies in Ontario.
Many other great experiences were had at the 2017 Latornell Symposium, including presenting during the student poster competition. I was able to relay my findings related to source water protection in rural Ontario to a wide array of practitioners and academics in the conservation field. I even won third prize in the competition.
I am excited to come back next year for the 25th Annual Latornell Conservation Symposium. As a student of interdisciplinary studies, I look forward to a holistic discussion on initiatives to understand, protect, and restore water, and land resources.
Thank you to the 2017 Latornell Conservation Symposium Steering Committee for giving me the opportunity to participate!
Sarah Minnes is a Doctoral Candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland, a graduate of the Rural Planning and Development MSc program at the University of Guelph, and a registered professional planner with the Ontario Professional Planners Institute. Her doctoral research explores the implications of source water protection policies in Ontario for rural areas.