U-Links Centre for Community Based Research wants to turn questions about Haliburton County into academic studies.

The organization connects community groups and organizations with research teams from Trent University and Fleming College. They’ve completed local studies on topics from climate change to littering.

In November, they opened the call for 2022 research topics that may be picked up by winter or spring classes at each school.

Sadie Fischer, U-Links program coordinator, said she encourages anyone to come forward with an idea. Then, U-Links can help narrow a research focus or reach out to others who may be able to host research.

“We need a host organization, but that organization can be a business, it can be a volunteer group,” she said.

U-Links can help develop project ideas and “define the appropriate research questions,” a press release stated.

Fischer mentioned how many 2021 projects, such as benthic biomonitoring as well as monitoring trees in Land Trust forests, were centered on climate change.

“A major need in the community is looking at the environment and factors there,” Fischer said.

However, U-Links has facilitated a range of projects on everything from community development to healthcare outcomes to a wetlands assessment of Gull Lake.

Fischer has already received a number of project proposals this year. For example, Abbey Gardens wants to incorporate indigenous knowledge and practices into its facility, and Fischer said U-Links is developing plans to study the County’s youth employment patterns.

Ideas or questions are passed on to research groups or classes within the schools. Sometimes an idea can spawn multiple academic projects.

In 2021, Fleming College students dove into waste management practices and common themes surrounding roadside dumping.

U-Links also conducts community learning activities, such as the HaliburtonMuskoka-Kawartha Children’s Water Festival coordinated by Trent environmental science students.

Fischer said the community’s passion for learning and change is motivating.

“Because it is such a small community there are so many people who are trying to make a difference and trying to research and learn,” Fischer said. “I think that’s really inspiring.”

To contact U-Links about a research topic, email Sadie Fischer at environmental@ ulinks.ca or call 705-286-2411.