/Community celebrates research at virtual U-Links gathering
Trent University student and researcher Leanne Matthews presented at the Celebration of Research on her findings after studying benthic invertebrates at seven sites on Kennisis Lake. Matthews is seen here, left, with program coordinator/supervising biologist, Brendan Martin, holding a sample collected at one of the sites at Kennisis Lake./Submitted photo

Community celebrates research at virtual U-Links gathering

By Sue Tiffin

Each March, the annual U-Links Celebration of Research event fills a room with unadulterated excitement from a community joining to share in the research findings of the year.

A collective hubbub created by individuals meeting and greeting each other, asking questions of students and their work even before presentations start, and discussing whether their group or organization is involved this year or they’re attending out of curiosity typically precedes the event in which research projects are shared, discussed and appreciated.

Last year, the celebration, which invites the public to learn about research being conducted by Fleming College and Trent University students partnered with host organizations from throughout Haliburton County, was cancelled after the pandemic was declared just a few weeks before the event would have taken place and the province stayed home in its first lockdown. This year, the Celebration of Research went virtual, attended by more than 100 people including members of the Minden-based U-Links Centre for Community-Based Research management committee and staff, of local community groups and organizations, faculty supervisors, participating students and their family members, joining together from throughout Ontario. The research projects – of a scientific, historic, cultural, social, economic, or environmental nature – were showcased in three presentations in a main room on the Zoom platform, and in breakout rooms in which guests clicked from room to room or stayed focused in one room, having the opportunity to learn more about 30 community-based research projects.

As reported in the March 16 issue of the Echo, projects shared in the main room included Biodiversity Planning and Protection in The Land Between presented by Samantha Dunlop, Shoreline Stewardship – Capacity Building Through ENCO Programming and Local Partnerships presented by Mystaya Touw, and Benthic Program Overview, presented by Kiera Schweighardt and Leanne Matthews. Breakout room poster sessions featured projects ranging from Planet Haliburton Radio Show Ideas, Kennisis Lake History Book, Diabetes and Dental Caries, Blue-Green Algae Mitigation Strategies to an Abbey Gardens Municipal Composting Project.

Guests appreciated the unique set-up of the event, which kept people moving on their screen and also during a stretch-filled movement break.
Greg Wickware, of the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, was able to hear about four Haliburton Highlands Land Trust projects – one focused on Club Moss Monitoring, one on Dragonfly Monitoring, one on Bird Monitoring and one on Frog Monitoring.
“I thought the virtual offering was amazing and I would thank all those that made the Celebration of Research possible – maybe the best, since people like me who live many hours away were able to attend and applaud the work of students,” he said. “They really do pour their hearts and souls into the projects.”

Wickware said the students, professors, and U-Links co-ordinators involved have been a support for the community’s progress.
“As an organization we love looking for [or] suggesting opportunities for the student to expand their knowledge of the natural world and especially for them to know and understand their work is important to the future of the HHLT,” he said. “While their work is not always perfect that is not the point, their work offers the HHLT the opportunity to open internal dialog as to the opportunities for us to move forward. What an amazing contribution that U-Links and the university make to the citizens of Haliburton County and to the HHLT.”

Rachel Gillooly, coordinator for the Haliburton County/City of Kawartha Lakes Roundtable for Ending Poverty said the Roundtable collaborated on two research projects with U-Links and students: Sustainable Procurement in Haliburton County and City of Kawartha Lakes, and Factors Securing Employment in Haliburton County and City of Kawartha Lakes.
“I was really pleased to hear, first hand, the work our research students [and their academic advisors] undertook for their respective projects,” said Gillooly, noting she hoped that the newly created Fleming Service System Manager and local municipal governments would “pay appropriate attention to the findings and consider moving forward with some of the excellent recommendations.”

“It would be wonderful if some attention was paid to the research results, and appropriate systemic/policy and system changes/adjustments made to work towards making some changes in approach,” said Gillooly. “After all, poverty, economic and social exclusion is all about systemic inequities: an unequal ability to access services. I believe the preliminary findings from these two research studies may go a long way to enhancing our community’s resilience and build on and enhance what’s working but address what’s not. I hope that the powers that be are willing to take a look and listen, and work towards making our communities more resilient and prosperous.”

Linda Middleton of Crystal Image Studio recently worked on a design project with U-Links. She said she loved the virtual offering, though would have liked even more time to check in on each project.
“They do such great work here, we are lucky to have them and have people that pay attention to them and their work,” she said.

More information about U-Links Centre for Community-Based Research is available at ulinks.ca. Groups and organizations, businesses and municipalities with project ideas or questions of interest to members of the community should contact U-Links staff before June 30 if possible at 705-286-2411 or  aduncombe-lee@ulinks.ca to get started. To watch this year’s Virtual Celebration of Research video or review research posters and key findings, visit https://www.ulinks.ca/celebration-of-research.html