Unfortunately, I did not attend the European Conference of Tropical Ecology that took place from Tuesday 7th to Thursday 9th June 2022 in Montpellier, France and from what I have heard you talk ‘To be a forest or not to be a forest: implications of forest restoration in India’s savannah landscapes’ was a success and, you even managed to get the audience to join in!
Trisha would you like to tell us a bit more about you and your project?
My name is Trisha Gopalakrishna and I am doctoral researcher in the lab group and the Oxford- Indira Gandhi 2019 Scholar at Somerville College, Oxford. My doctoral research is about the complexities of forest restoration in India, specifically focusing on the land area for forest restoration. See this link for more information.
The particular project I presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Tropical Biology 2022, Montpellier was about the drivers of the forest and savannah biomes in India and what this means for ecosystem restoration. Many savannah areas in India are being targeted for afforestation projects i.e. tree planting initiatives in the race to meet India’s ambitious goals and pledges to mitigate climate change via tree planting. The reason for this is that much of India’s savannahs are ‘degraded lands’ and ‘wastelands’ due to misclassification in many vegetation maps due to legacies of colonial management of land in India for timber. So this study looks into the afforestation and reforestation debate considering Indian savannahs.
Was this the first time you presented at an international conference? How was the experience?
Trisha: No, but this was my first in-person conference as a doctoral student, the last being in 2018. It was quite exciting to meet other doctorate students working in the tropics, other post-doctoral researchers, and professors and research groups from across Europe. I gained an idea of the wide variety of research themes, topics, methods, and applicability, which helped me gain perspective about my own research. I was also grateful to hear about the challenges that many researchers have faced during the COVID19 pandemic. It was also great to catch up with couple of fellow Oxford friends and colleagues who I have not seen in a while because they have moved on to exciting new projects!
However, being an introvert and because of long days of paying attention to all the great research, it was tiring, which I had forgotten about. Montpellier is a nice quant university town that was great to roam around in the evenings and feel energized for the next day.
I tried to make the best of this conference experience by following my own advice here.
Claudia: How did you come up with the idea of getting the audience involved?
Trisha: I knew that I wanted to try something different from the usual style of academic conference presentation but did not quite know what I would do and how (considering the logistics of an in-person crowd instead of online). I am also currently working towards the Advanced Teaching and Learning certification offered by the Department of Continuing Education at Oxford that aligns with the UK Professional Standards Framework Associate Fellowship, through which I am learning good practices of higher education teaching. So, I decided to use the tips and guidelines that I use in my classroom teaching for this presentation.
Specifically, I decided to design my presentation to grab people’s attention and situate their minds to the context of my talk in the first few minutes. This was useful because I presented in the second last session of the entire conference i.e. last day and the audience were exhausted after 2.5 days of information being thrown at them. Secondly, I am very aware of being inclusive in my teaching practice by accounting for different learning methods i.e. some people absorb information better via non-text content- images, videos, podcasts etc. Keeping this in mind, I opted to have video. Lastly, I included an interactive component to (a) wake people up and (b) get them invested in the rest of my talk.
I gambled by choosing this presentation style and I guess it paid off! I think I am going to continue to be innovative with my presentation skills in future academic conferences too. But not too wild, its still about the science after all.
Claudia: Keep up the amazing work Trisha and all the best for the future.