A group of people sit in a shaft of sunlight, listening.

Alumni, students, water equity experts gather for River Basin Center Policy Symposium and Celebration

From Sept. 16 to 17, over 100 people gathered in person and online to hear from experts in water policy, to celebrate the career of Laurie Fowler—former River Basin Center director of policy—and to brainstorm the future of UGA’s Environmental Practicum. 

Na’Taki Osborne Jelks of Spelman College, Linda Mendez-Barrientos of the University of Denver and Josiah Watts of One Hundred Miles shared their expertise throughout the morning on Sept. 16.

Hal Robinson, Georgia-Alabama Land Trust and John Sheesley, Region 4 of the Environmental Protection Agency led an ethics- and law-focused session in the afternoon.

In a segment titled “Using Infrastructure Projects to Advance Equity,” Haley Selsor, Cydney Seigerman and Marshall Shepherd spoke about research conducted here at the University of Georgia.

Laptops and water bottles are visible as people listen and take notes.
Day one was hosted at the Delta Innovation Hub.

Two women pose, holding awards.
Beth Gavrilles and Susan Kidd were two recipients of the inaugural round of the River Basin Center Special Appreciation Awards.

Many of Fowler’s former students attended. In her keynote address, the retired attorney, professor and director reminisced on some of the most memorable moments of her career.

From shutting down Broad St. on a football weekend to dam removals, she and her Environmental Practicum students saw eventful decades. 

The graduate-level course provided opportunities for students to apply what they learned about environmental law and the natural and built environment in the classroom to solve critical environmental problems for governmental, corporate and public-interest clients.  

And for Fowler, some main takeaways underpinned all the policy wins and losses she saw through teaching the course.  

“We need to integrate the input of the people who are going to be most dramatically impacted by our climate recommendations,” said Fowler. “What I really do think is that to change corporations, governments—no matter what level of people—to change what they do in their yards and houses and what products they buy, we’ve got to be kind.”

That—kindness—is something she hopes continues in the next iteration of the Environmental Practicum.

The interactive program on Sept. 17 invited participants to think critically about what worked well for the practicum in the past, and what opportunities for improvement faculty members face as they redesign the course.

The day was designed as a workshop: breakout groups discussed focused prompts in a series of sessions, conversing casually throughout the Odum building and courtyard and reporting back to the larger gathering. Participants’ input was recorded for use in planning the next Environmental Practicum.

The two-day event was originally scheduled for the fall of 2021, but was postponed due to COVID-19. The event was co-sponsored by the Odum School of Ecology, the School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Law.

View talk recordings here.

Phillip Bumpers presents his research wearing sandals, jeans, and a white collared shirt. A screen displays the image of a stream and text. Above the screen in black and red lettering reads the words Innovation District.

University units collaborate to host Climate and Water Research Slam

Great minds don’t necessarily think alike—and the River Basin Center feels that’s valuable.  

That’s why it partnered with The Office of Sustainability and the Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society to host the Climate and Water Research Slam on May 12, 1 to 5 p.m. 

Twenty-two speakers—including lawyers, engineers, ecologists and social scientists—from organizations across the University of Georgia campus gathered to present lightning presentations in their areas of expertise. The event featured talks from students and faculty alike.   

Presenters distilled years of research into bite-sized pieces: Talks lasted five minutes, with time for a handful of questions after each. Topics ranged widely, from melting Antarctic ice sheets to economics and irrigation, to hydrosocial concerns, to the impact of policy on Georgian wetland.

“Personally, I was very excited to see this exchange of ideas between our RBC affiliates, who mainly work in freshwater and coastal systems, with colleagues working on climate-related project in other realms,” said Seth Wenger, director for science at the River Basin Center. He co-facilitated the event alongside Cory Struthers, affiliate at the Georgia Initiative and Tyra Byers, director of the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Sustainability.  

Struthers agreed with Wenger. Collaboration encouraged by interdisciplinary events is not only useful—it’s necessary.

“Cultivating community, including friendship, is so important for fostering intellectual creativity and innovative scholarship on epic challenges like climate change. Events like the Research Slam help us re-energize on these fronts,” she said.

Struthers was hired two years ago at the School of Public and International Affairs. She’s been motivated to work on climate issues and organize climate faculty ever since, and she wanted to host a networking event through the Georgia Initiative.

So she reached out to Byers. When they in turn reached out to Wenger, to ensure that the River Basin Center wasn’t hosting an overlapping event, he let them know the center was optioning a research slam.

“We decided to all join forces,” Struthers explained.

And for the three organizers, climate and water were a natural thematic fit. “That kind of cross-sectional issue space between water and hydrology and climate is so joined together. It would be hard to just study water without talking about climate,” Struthers pointed out.

The venue for the event was the newly renovated Delta Innovation Hub. Presentations were followed by a networking reception for participants to exchange ideas and to brainstorm new collaborations.  

“It was an opportunity to socialize and just get a feel for everybody’s research and personality,” said Struthers.

For those who missed that opportunity, not to worry. The organizers plan to make the research slam a recurring event. 

Climate and Water Research Slam

Save the date: Climate and Water Research SlamThursday, May 12 1:00-5:00

The River Basin Center, the Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society, and the Office of Sustainability have joined forces for a climate and water “research slam” — a series of five-minute lightning talks by faculty and students on climate OR water (or both) followed by a social.

We have an awesome lineup of 24 5-minute lightning talks from a diverse group of speakers from across the UGA campus. Join us to hear about the wide range of water and climate work at UGA, to network with colleagues, and to celebrate the end of the semester. After the talks we’ll have a social with beverages and heavy snacks. Please join us!

Location: Innovation Hub, 210 Spring Street 

Schedule of Events:

  1:00 – 2:40  Session 1

  3:00 – 4:20  Session 2

  4:20 – 5:00  Social with beverages and snacks

Registration is free! But to help us plan for enough food and beverages, we ask you to please fill out this registration form by Monday May 9.

To see the full lineup, check out the draft detailed schedule (subject to correction for the next couple of days).

Third Wednesday Game Night with Dr. Karen Bareford

Last week Dr. Karen Bareford, the National Sea Grant and Water Resources Lead, delivered a Third Wednesday talk on the water resource efforts of the Sea Grant Network and its key partners, as well as the publicly available National Water Model. Afterwards, she presented the new Watershed Game: Coast Model, an engagement tool allowing players to take on the roles of policy and decisionmakers and collaborate in the management of water resources. Thank you to Dr. Bareford for speaking and showing this community-engaging activity!