Symposium Promoting research collaboration for the future of the environment



“We’ve heard great things, but what should we do now?” The time to act is now.”

Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, and complex problems now require collaboration and diverse solutions. To foster the partnerships and actions needed for a sustainable future, UConn researchers gathered to share their expertise at his Securing a Sustainable Environmental Future symposium in October.

Ashley Helton, co-organizer of the symposium and associate director of the Environmental Research Institute and associate professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, explains that the idea for the symposium came together when the deans of the Colleges of Agriculture, Health, and Agriculture met. The College of Natural Resources, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the College of Engineering will collaborate with Gene Likens, Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Environmental Research and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Chair Emeritus of the Cary Ecosystem Institute. , recognized the need to foster further cooperation for action.

“At this critical juncture for humanity and the planet, it would be a good idea to hold a symposium that focuses on faculty across universities, existing research, and the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration between universities in the area of ​​environment and sustainability.” “We decided together that it was an idea,” she says.

Rather than focusing specifically on their own research, Helton said UConn experts gave talks with a broader focus, including advanced solutions in their subject areas. Focus areas include climate action, land transformation and biodiversity, water security, and environmental justice.

“This symposium was designed to be an action-oriented conference,” said co-organizer Likens. “Now is the time for action, not just talk more. We are talking about climate solutions and climate action. In other words, we have heard these great stories. Come on, I What are we going to do?”

The keynote speaker was Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) President Fred Krupp, who spoke about EDF’s experience in solving environmental problems, actions to combat climate insecurity, and how we can come together to combat unprecedented climate challenges. We held a conference and gave a talk about what we can do to help. crisis. He says the potential for significant progress exists now more than ever. Krupp also stressed the need to listen and work together, and that environmental problems can be solved, but cooperation is key. Events like this symposium help foster this dialogue and encourage collaboration.

“Our goal was to foster interdisciplinary collaboration based on creative and forward-thinking solutions among faculty from these three colleges of the university,” Helton said.

Professor Anji Seth, Head of the Department of Geography and Head of the Atmospheric Sciences Group, will discuss emissions projections and progress towards reductions since the Paris Agreement, and the need for truly innovative solutions to combat exceeding reduction targets. Told. Professor Ugur Pasagirari from the Department of Mechanical Engineering presented on the current dependence on fossil fuels and current and future alternative fuels that can be used for a low-emissions future. Connecticut Sea Grant Extension Educator Emeritus Juliana Barrett spoke about the adaptation and mitigation needs of Connecticut communities already facing the impacts of climate change.

On the second day of the symposium, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Seohyun Park presented on the need to conserve biodiversity and opportunities on how to protect biodiversity through community land transformation. Davis Chacón Hurtado, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and human rights institute, spoke about the impact of development on environmental human rights and the need for sustainable and equitable infrastructure for this and future generations. David Wagner, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, will educate University students, faculty, and administrators about biodiversity erosion and its impacts, and how they can help conserve biodiversity locally and globally. He gave a lecture on the actions that can be taken. Penny Vlahos, professor and associate chair of the Department of Marine Sciences, spoke about the triple threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and its impacts on water, as well as adaptation and mitigation strategies. Jeffrey McCutcheon, his Centennial Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and core faculty member in the Center for Environmental Science and Engineering, will speak about water treatment technology, emerging contaminants, and solutions to current and future water treatment challenges. Did. Beth Lawrence, associate professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and core faculty member in the Center for Environmental Science and Engineering, presented on wetland restoration and strategies to enhance restoration efforts for these important ecosystems.

On the third day, Marisa Chrysoux, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spoke about tools and policies to guide environmental justice policy, focusing on steps that can be taken in New England. Eleanor Shoreman Ouimet, assistant professor of environment and human interaction in the Department of Anthropology, spoke about environmental justice, inequity, and the pressing need to develop disaster preparedness in Connecticut. Maira Rodríguez González, assistant urban and regional forestry extension educator in the Extension Office, spoke about the need for community engagement and the disproportionate environmental risks faced by marginalized communities.

The dean’s roundtable was an important part of the symposium and included Dean Indrajeet Chaubey of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Interim Dean Ofer Harel of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education. The dean was in attendance, Likens added. Lesley Scholl from the School of Engineering discussed opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

The symposium’s capstone speaker was Michael Lynch, professor of humanities and Board Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, who discussed how we can communicate about science and climate solutions, and how we can address denialism and political polarization. We talked about the challenges we face in this era of change.

In his closing remarks, co-sponsor Michael Willig, Distinguished Professor on the Board of Governors and Executive Director of the Environmental Institute, said that by striving for collaboration, we move forward and that as a university we are on the right side of history. I talked about guaranteeing that. , education, and deeper listening;

“The symposium clearly highlighted how climate change, land use change, and pollution interact to threaten human survival and the health of our planet,” Willig said. “The scientific evidence is incontrovertible: the period over which human behavior can bring about significant positive change is measured in decades, not centuries. We need action now – transformative action.”

If you would like to learn more or watch the presentations, the symposium was recorded and will be available soon on the Environmental Research Institute’s website.

This symposium is co-sponsored by the Institute for Environmental Studies, the College of Agriculture, Health and Resources, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the College of Engineering. The committee includes representatives from each of the three universities, including Marina Astisa, Ashley Helton, James Knighton, Gene Likens, Wei Leng, Kathy Sigerson, Mark Urban, Tim Vadas, and Michael Willig. Contains people.

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