In GCE, we talk a lot about the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and how frustrating it is that these issues are often not prioritized in international politics. Yet, as students, we too have difficulties finding time to prioritize actual engagement with these issues while also juggling extra courses, guest lectures, and research. But sometimes, we get a great chance to put engage with our studies in the real world—and we take it.
So in the spirit of engagement, on January 14, 2015, we, an enthusiastic delegation of 31 Global Change Ecology students, Alumni, and Instructors from University of Bayreuth, convened in Bonn, Germany to be official Observers of the third session of the plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Our group is comprised of 19 first-semester students, eight third-semester students, one fifth-semester student, several Alumni, and led by Professor Dr. Thomas Koellner, Chair of Ecological Services. And of course, I, Helen Sitar, am also part of this cheerful gaggle of young faces at IPBES. As a third-semester global change ecologist focusing on land-use changes and their human impacts, I am particularly interested to hear international debates surrounding deforestation and habitat loss, as points of conflict often illuminate where the most interesting work can be done.
It was an energetic journey from Bayreuth to Bonn on Wednesday evening. Some 25 of us took the train together, in the name of ecological and low-impact traveling, to meet others already in Bonn.
When we arrived, we met up with Yrneh and Ervin, classmates also in the third semester, who are volunteering for the week at IPBES. They are administering check-in, distributing papers to delegates, recharging head-sets, and generally doing all the behind-the scenes help to keep the Platform going smoothly.
It was exciting to meet GCE alumni in Bonn, who share with us the common experience of studying in Bayreuth. Hanna Skiba, who started GCE in 2007, gave us a warm welcome at the World Conference Center on Thursday morning, where she is currently working as a scientific advisor to the German delegation at IPBES. Later in the day, we met Heera Lee, from South Korea, who started GCE in 2010, and is now doing her Ph.D. in Bonn, in a group which “seeks to bridge the gap between ecosystem science and practice” (http://www.operas-project.eu/). We also met Daniel Kachelriess, who started GCE in 2008, and was working at the United Nations in New York, as a scientific advisor for the island nation of Maldives. We enjoyed dinner with Heera and Daniel on Thursday evening, and listened to their adventures in working in ecology and ecosystem services.
Having gotten to know our own group, we were excited to see representatives from around the world debate about how to prioritize biodiversity and ecosystem services. And to hear about our impressions from IPBES itself, you’ll have to have to keep reading!