My Research Stay: Report by Elizabeth Law

Elizabeth Law is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland, Australia. She was awarded as a Green Talent in 2016 and conducted her three-month research stay with the Conservation Biogeography group, led by Professor Tobias Kümmerle, in the Geography Department of Humboldt University Berlin.

Three months goes really fast when you’re having fun! It’s been amazing, the whole experience, and I’m extremely grateful for being chosen as one of the 25 Green Talents for 2016.

As a researcher in the trade-offs involved in managing landscapes for multiple, and often conflicting objectives, this time has been really valuable for me. There are many complexities involved in the data that I use and analyses that I do. Face-to-face time with the biogeography group at Humboldt University Berlin (led by Prof. Tobias Kümmerle) has given me a great appreciation for the data that they’ve painstakingly collected for the Chaco in Argentina, where rampantly increasing soy and beef production is threatening some of the most amazing biodiversity and cultural landscapes in the world. I’ve been able to work with them in developing some innovative methods to analyse the social, environmental, and economic implications of different land use options for this region.

Working in conservation and sustainability is super fun, because these problems are fundamentally interdisciplinary, and there are so many different avenues to explore. But this also means that we need to challenge ourselves – to get out of our little bubbles, and experience different approaches, and most importantly, collaborate with others. By combining our talents, we can achieve something really big. I feel like we’ve managed that here, not just through the project that I’ve been working on, but also by increasing the links between our research networks, and setting up for more collaborative work involving a broader range of people in the future.

It hasn’t been all work, though. I was lucky enough to get out almost every second weekend to sample the German National Park system: from the historic Elbe Sandstone climbing and caves in the Saxony-Swiss, to Goethe’s witches on the Broken and in the Bodethal of the Harz Mountains, and from heights of the alps in the stunning Karwendel mountains on the Austrian border, to the gorgeous ancient beech forests above the chalk cliffs of Jasmund on the island of Rügen, on the Baltic Sea. And on the other weekends sampling the equally diverse and amazing nature, history, culture, and craft-brews of Berlin.

And luckily for me, while my Green Talents journey is ending, this is really just the beginning! I’ll be back with the Humboldt University crew next year, to continue working on the Chaco data. And there’s an application in the works for an Alexander von Humboldt and Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship, to continue on these themes of integrating their amazing new remote sensing know-how with my skills and experience in environmental decision analyses.

I would really like to thank the Green Talents Team and funding for making this possible, the amazing staff and students at Humboldt for making the visit smooth, productive, and fun.

Read more about Elizabeth Law.