Home > Reflections on the ACDI's annual Early Career Researcher Conference
Reflections on the ACDI's annual Early Career Researcher Conference
20 May 2019 - 11:15
By Leigh Cobban
The ACDI hosted its annual Early Career Researcher Conference on 10 April 2019, at the Wolfson Auditorium on the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Medical School Campus. The conference brought together around 50 students, graduates and early career practitioners working on climate change issues from different disciplinary or sector perspectives.
The conference has been hosted annually since 2015, with a break in 2018 when ACDI hosted the international Adaptation Futures conference. This year’s conference was the first to have a theme, namely: “Generation Change”. The theme was motivated by the increasing urgency to respond to the climate change challenge, recognising that without widespread, systemic transformations, our younger generations will live in a drastically changed world. But how do we change systems that seem stuck? How do we challenge the status quo for greater social equity and inclusiveness? How do we ensure that evidence is used to inform decisions affecting our future?
Presenters at this event were asked to reflect on whether and how their research offered possible leverage points for addressing the climate change challenge.
The conference included two keynote speakers. The first was Nikiwe Solomon, a lecturer at UCT’s Anthropology Department, who gave a refreshingly different and philosophical perspective on ‘A politics of possibilities in the Anthropocene: inheriting and living with damaged landscapes’, which brought to light the value of the environmental humanities.
The second keynote speaker was Georgina Cundill-Kemp, a senior programme officer at the International Development Research Centre, Canada. Georgina’s talk focused on practical advice drawing from her own experience, responding to the question ‘If the future of climate change research is collaborative, how will researchers, universities and funders need to change?’.
The diversity in perspectives in the two keynotes alone was illustrative of the range of speakers across the course of the day.
Following the keynote addresses there were presentations from 13 students and graduates, research poster displays, and the screening of the video ‘Black Mushroom’ by local artist Zimasa May. There was also an optional Masterclass on becoming a ‘Fundraising Superstar’ led by ACDI’s Research Portfolio Manager, Zoë Boshoff. After a jam-packed day, the participants then joined in the ACDI’s monthly Development Drinks to unwind, reflect and network at the end of the day.
At each ECR conference the ACDI awards the best presentations and posters. This year’s winners were:
Sylvia Diamond (UCT) won the best speaker award (R5000 for conference travel) for her presentation on “Attribution-based parametric insurance: Towards Affordable Premiums”.
Tara Southey (University of Stellenbosch) won the runner-up best speaker award (R500 book voucher) for her presentation on “Assessment of the grapevine and environmental interactions in the context of climate change for improved adaptation strategies in South Africa”.
Best posters awards (R250 book vouchers) went to Whitney Pailman (UCT) for ‘Characterising the Variability of Rainy Season Characteristics within the Winter Rainfall Region of the Western Cape”, and Onai Mtengwa (University of Stellenbosch) for ‘An agronomic study of Bambara groundnuts response to drought stress in Limpopo, South Africa.’
The judges, Leigh Cobban and Marieke Norton, also made notable mentions: Prince Ansah for his innovative use of media in is presentation, which also resonated with the topic of his talk, ‘From Adaptation Research to Action: Using innovative solutions to communicate research findings at the Local level,’ and Isabelle Giddy for engaging with the conference theme in her talk on ‘Local futures, global voices: polar science in Africa’.
We look forward to many more engagements with early career researchers in the future. Watch this space for the announcement of our next event!