Over the past year, like many of you, I’ve attended numerous online meetings and events. I love the platform because I can cover these events from home. I hate it because you don’t get the personal touch and hours behind the screen are mindnumbing. I find them challenging when my internet, or my host’s, isn’t up to speed. Council meetings, for example, are often paused for 10 minutes so that someone who has dropped out can re-connect or call back in by phone.

I attended the virtual U-Links celebration of research this past Saturday, March 27 and I can honestly say it was the best online presentation that I have seen to date. The folks at Trent University in Peterborough really strutted their stuff in a seamless two hours that attracted more than 100.

The introductory speakers were brief. Three students were chosen to share their research projects with the entire audience. Then there were three sessions of breakout groups whereby attendees could pop into a research project of their choice and listen to a short presentation from the student before being able to ask questions.

There was not one glitch in the entire operation. My only complaint – and it is a mild one – is that I wish the breakout sessions were longer than 15 minutes because I had to pick one, and maybe two projects at most, to pop into.

I was disappointed by that aspect since, as usual, I was overwhelmed by the number of very good projects that students from Trent and Fleming College worked on with Haliburton County organizations.

There was a decided focus on the environment in a lot of this year’s projects.

Lots of people popped into the ‘benthic’ presentation. Benthics are aquatic, spineless organisms that live on the bottom of water bodies. The use of benthics as an indicator of water quality is now used throughout the world. The students looked at a number of County lakes.

Other topics included: biodiversity planning and protection in The Land Between; Planet Haliburton radio show ideas; a Kennisis Lake history book; a number of projects with the Land Trust, including GIS database migration and development, and bird, frog, moss, dragonfly monitoring; natural shoreline stabilization and shoreline stewardship and blue-green algae mitigation strategies. There was research into a composting project at Abbey Gardens.

There were also a few social servicetype projects, including sustainable procurement and factors securing employment in Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes as well as diabetes and dental decay.

It wasn’t just the technology that blew my mind (and I have to say, I liked the midway mark stretch). The work the students do with County partners provides valuable information every year that can lead to real change in the Highlands to make this a better place to live, work and play.

So, we congratulate the U-Links team, including committee members, faculty and students for the work they continue to do and offer kudos to the first-ever virtual celebration of research, the 30th, for tackling the challenges of delivering students’ finding in a pandemic world – and acing it.


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