PhD Course Landscape Ecology @IALE2019 reflections

What happend on the PhD course in Monte Barro...

The IALE-Europe PhD Course Landscape Ecology is becoming a tradition. Since education in landscape ecology is one of the core objectives of the association, the organization of these courses are also included in the action plan of the Executive Committee.

The 5th edition was the first ((in its current format) to be organised in conjunction with a world congress. The day before the congress, the participants got to know each other by presenting themselves and the landscape they study. They were also introduced into the program of the congress and were challenged to talk with at least one (senior) landscape ecologist who was inspiring for their PhD research. 

After the congress, we travelled to Monte Barro, located in the regional park. We were all staying in the youth hostel located almost on the top of the mountain, with a view on the urbanised landscape between Milan and the Lake Como. This landscape was also an inspiration and the students discussed different landscape ecological problems and challenges of the area. 

This year, the course gathered 14 students from 9 countries: Belgium, Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenia, The Philippines, and The United Kingdom, who were coached by 5 mentors.

During the course, several lectures were scheduled in combination with interactive paper and discussion sessions and a field excursion. The first day started with a poster session, where the PhD students explained their topic to each other and the mentors. The different lectures gave them insights into the different perspectives of landscape ecology. Jacques Boudry gave them a general introduction in landscape ecology and started by asking the students ‘How would you define Landscape Ecology’. Andreas Aagaard Christensen focused on pattern analysis in cultural landscapes and a perspective on social science components in landscape ecology. Angela Colucci talked about landscape ecology and applications in planning. Veerle Van Eetvelde organized a workshop on paper writing, where Françoise Burel told the students about her experiences as past editor of journals. 

The most inspiring moments were the sessions where the students could discuss the paper they prepared in three thematic groups: (1) Habitats, species, changes, and distributions, mentored by Jacques, (2) Cultural landscapes, mentored by Andreas and Veerle, and (3) Ecosystem services, green infrastructure and urban planning, mentored by Angela and Françoise. Despite Isabel Loupa-Ramos was not able to join at the last moment, we organized two skype sessions with students that were working on green infrastructure. So she attended the course virtually. 

As a summary of the course, we asked the students again how they would define landscape ecology and where they would position themselves in landscape ecology. In three groups, they gave a presentation, which made clear that each of them progressed in different manners in their understanding. We closed with a final reflection using 10 key messages of landscape ecology, that were designed to communicate how IALE-Europe is describing landscape ecology.

Finally, the reason why we organize these PhD courses is also because of the experience of sharing knowledge, learning from each other also as mentors. The memories and sustainable collaborations with and among the students is unforgettable. The eager they have to learn and to hover all the knowledge from the books that we brought or during the different discussions encourage us as a mentor team to engage every time again. And this is also because the informal moments, where we had Italian wine, Chinese tea, Belgian beers, Brazil biscuits, and many more food and drinks we all brought from our own landscape. 

So: thank you all – Adriana, Alessandro, Annegreet, Annelies, Caleb, Gaoyun, Jabez, Laura, Leajim, Martine, Shoda, Xinguye, Xueying, Zhenkai and Andreas, Angele, Françoise, Jacques, Isabel – for the nice experience, once more! We wish you all the best.

Check also the blog of Jabez, who wrote a personal reflection after the course, so read more here.


More information about this edition of the PhD Course can be found here.