Artwork by Mariah AlexanderThe University of Windsor will host the inaugural Ecosystem Approach Conference from Aug. 22 to 24. Artwork by Mariah Alexander

Summer conference to take stock of ecosystem approach to environmental stewardship

The COVID-19 pandemic put planning for the inaugural Ecosystem Approach Conference on hold, but the global event will proceed at the University of Windsor, Aug. 22 to 24, says co-chair Catherine Febria.

“Perhaps now more than ever, there is growing awareness and motivation to secure a more secure freshwater and climate resilient future in the Laurentian Great Lakes and beyond,” says Dr. Febria, integrative biology professor and researcher with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER).

“Never before has our connection with natural ecosystems and society been more inextricably connected with access to the Great Lakes offering vital support to our health, vitality and well-being.”

The ecosystem approach has long served as a collaborative framework for governing, researching, and stewarding the health of the Great Lakes.

GLIER researchers Doug Haffner, John Hartig, and a broader steering committee from across the region envisioned a conference and synthesis workshop as an opportunity to bring together people working in science and management to manage ecosystems at a large scale, Febria says.

“We’ve seen that virtual gatherings can be an incredibly powerful tool for bringing together local and global communities, but that in-person gatherings are also incredibly important, too,” she says. “Thus we are launching the event as a hybrid global conference for all, with a more focused in-person synthesis workshop the following one-and-a-half days.”

The one-day virtual conference features plenary speaker Hugh Possingham, an expert on the science and practice of ecosystem-based management of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, former chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, and currently a professor at the University of Queensland and the Queensland Chief Scientist in Australia.

Following the one-day global virtual conference is a two-day in-person work summit, entitled “The Ecosystem Approach in the 21st Century: Guiding Science and Management.”

A steering committee identified key thematic topics being led by experts in these areas. Informed by the conference and the synthesis teams, participants will work on writing a white paper and other outputs.

Febria says everyone is invited to register and there is also a call for local experts and early career fellows to reach out and apply. Conference registration is now open for participants and presenters, and equity rates are offered to ensure broad participation.

To learn more about the ecosystem approach, read the Winter 2022 issue of Lakes Letter.

“We also wanted to acknowledge the incredible amount of support from the University of Windsor: ORIS, GLIER, and IT have been financial and in-kind supporters of this effort since before the pandemic,” says Febria.

“We are excited to finally have it come to fruition here at the University of Windsor.”

—Sara Elliott

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