The Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies is a division of the Faculty of Health
Andrew MacDonald earned the Top Student Research Poster at the 2018 Latornell Conservation Symposium in Alliston Ontario for his poster presentation title, "Fostering environmentally informed visitors through smartphones in Ontario's protected areas."* The Latornell Conservation Symposium is one of Ontario's premier annual environmental events and aims to address challenges and opportunities that Ontario's conservation field faces.
The networking and opportunities to share my research were far greater than I had hoped.
The competition was open to Undergraduate, Master's and PhD students, with over 600 people in attendance. The event draws in practitioners, policy makers, non-government organizations, academics and businesses each year. Among those in attendance was Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, who was the keynote speaker for the event and is recognized for her work relating to sustainability, and environmental stewardship.
When asked about the experience, Andrew described the incredible research and networking opportunities as follows:
"I discovered the Latornell Conservation Symposium through a friend who had attended and said it was a fantastic networking opportunity. Having nearly completed my graduate degree, I wanted to expand my network and meet as many people in the conservation world as possible. I submitted an application to the 2018 symposium to be a student moderator and to present a student research poster. To my surprise, I was accepted in both positions which meant my expenses were covered for the conference including printing my poster. The poster presentation was on the second night of the symposium, and so I stood by my poster as attendees wandered around the venue. It was really exciting to share my research with people who had very different backgrounds and skills. Many people asked questions I did not expect, and many also asked how my research could benefit them.
Overall, it was a great opportunity to connect with working professionals in the field of conservation and bounce ideas off each other. The keynote speaker, who was scheduled after the poster presentations, happened to be the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell. She arrived early and got to see many of the student posters. When she arrived at my poster, we had a deep conversation about the importance of having youth connected to the natural environment, and how innovative approaches are needed to introduce tech-savvy children to the natural world. After the poster presentation had finished and the votes were tallied, I was fortunate enough to have the most votes and received first place in the student research poster competition. As if that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth Dowdeswell reiterated our previous conversation and my research to the 600+ conference attendees in the room during her speech. For me, the 2018 Latornell Conservation Symposium was a surreal experience that blew away all expectations. The networking and opportunities to share my research were far greater than I had hoped, and was a big start to my career."
*For a copy of Andrew's poster or to connect with him about his research, contact Andrew MacDonald. For those interested in applying for the 2019 conference, more information can be found through Latornell's website.