Great Lakes scientists and researchers were planning to meet in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the annual conference of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) until the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Like many other events, the IAGLR 2020 conference is going virtual. From June 9 through 11, and for a substantially reduced participation fee (and no travel costs), the conference will be broadcast through various webinar platforms.
COVID-19 continues to disrupt Great Lakes research and outreach activities. Winnipeg-based conference host, the International Institute for Sustainable Development Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA), is also adjusting its field research.
“The IAGLR organization’s response to ensure a meeting opportunity and its Herculean effort to migrate its conference to a virtual platform is laudable,” said Michael Twiss, IAGLR past president and member of the IJC’s Great Lakes Science Advisory Board. While hundreds of global lakes experts won’t be in Winnipeg, participants can avail themselves to new IISD-ELA backgrounds when joining virtual meetings.
On Wednesday, June 10, at 10 a.m. ET (9:00 am CT), IJC Canadian Commissioner Merrell-Ann Phare will present one of the conference’s three keynote plenary presentations.
Phare, an environmental lawyer and longtime Winnipeg resident, has spent much of her time in the Canadian West focusing on building collaborations between indigenous and non-indigenous governments. In her plenary talk, Phare will draw on the lessons learned from her time negotiating transboundary water agreements in the Mackenzie River Basin between the governments of the Northwest Territories, Alberta and British Columbia. Phare played a central role in implementing the concept of “collaborative consent” which is, according to a 2018 report, “an ongoing process of committed engagement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments.”
You can read more about Phare’s interests and experiences in a previous IJC quarterly transboundary newsletter article.
While it may seem strange to plan to hold a Great Lakes conference in Winnipeg, the IAGLR board is interested in expanding its focus beyond the traditional five Great Lakes to other large “great” lakes around the globe – including Lake Winnipeg, the African Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. Accordingly, in 2018 the IAGLR board added an “international” member to its ranks to represent a nation besides Canada or the United States; this includes indigenous and Metis governments. Current international board member, Richard Ogutu-Ohwayo, is a Ugandan researcher on African lakes, who wrote about IAGLR’s expansion of its international focus in the association’s Winter 2020 Lakes Letter.
The conference’s other plenary keynotes include Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System’s Chris Vandergroot on Tuesday, and United Nations Environment Programme’s Brenda Koekkoek on Thursday. For more details see the conference program, available online.
In IAGLR news, the IJC Great Lakes Regional Office (GLRO) is the recipient of IAGLR’s 2020 Anderson-Everett Award for its contributions to the association and the Great Lakes.
In addition to plenary keynotes, panel discussions and award presentations, the IAGLR conference is known for presentations by researchers. The upside to this year’s virtual conference is that registrants will have access to prerecorded presentations, meaning participants don’t have to miss out on any talks that might have otherwise taken place at the same time. Some of the IJC’s Great Lakes advisory boards are presenting recently completed and upcoming work, such as the Science Advisory Board’s forthcoming report on declining offshore productivity.
While prerecorded presentations mean presenters will not get the benefits of the typical post-presentation question-and-answer from an in-person audience, the IAGLR has organized virtual session hangouts. Participants can join a hangout by topic and meet and discuss issues of interest in an informal way. There are also several organized social hangouts to replace the typical in-person networking. The IAGLR Twitter feed and hashtag #IAGLR20 is another online avenue for participants to network and connect virtually.
The IJC will have staff members virtually attending IAGLR 2020, and we will be highlighting some of the research presented there in this newsletter over the coming months.
Allison Voglesong Zejnati is video-communications specialist at the IJC’s Great Lakes Regional Office in Windsor, Ontario.