My Research Stay: Report by Rachel Kelly

Rachel Kelly is a PhD Student in Marine Socio-Ecology at the Centre for Marine Socioecology at the University of Tasmania. She was awarded as a Green Talent in 2016 and conducted her three-month research stay at the Ecosystem Services Department led by Professor Aletta Bonn, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), both in Leipzig.

When I travelled to Germany last year to attend the Green Talents Awards and Science Forum, I had no idea what to expect. I was both nervous and excited, keen to meet, as it turned out, an inspiring and passionate group of fellow young researchers from all around the globe. Returning to Germany this May to join the Ecosystem Services (ESS) team at UFZ  iDiv, Leipzig, those same feelings returned. How would I work with this new team? How would the research progress? How would it all develop?

From the very onset, the ESS lab team, led by my supervisor Prof. Dr Aletta Bonn were fantastic. They were welcoming and inclusive, helpful and informative and especially interested in helping me develop my research topic. ‘Social licence’ was a new concept to most, and several of our weekly lab meetings allowed discussion and aligning the topic to their interests in ecosystem services, conservation and citizen science. Team support was a massive factor in my ability to develop the project so efficiently and effectively over the quick three months. I was highly encouraged to meet with researchers from other labs at the institute and participating in a iDiv course in June was one of the highlights of my stay. I also had the opportunity to attend the MARE Conference in Amsterdam during the stay (Germany is so near to everywhere), where I was awarded Best Student Paper. This could not have been possible had I not been a Green Talent Awardee.

Exposure and inclusion into a German research environment was a hugely eye-opening experience. Both research institutions UFZ and iDiv promotes collaboration and cross-disciplinary research and I had the chance to attend many seminars and have meetings and discussions with researchers from all across the EU. Sharing and hearing new ideas and research ideas provided me with great scope to develop and execute my project. We worked with marine citizen science projects from all over Europe and generated great data that we are currently analysing and compiling into a scientific journal article and report. There is still lots to develop in this space and I’m looking forward to completing this work and sharing it with others.

Leipzig itself is a fantastic city, full of music and art and culture - and beer! Conducting my stay over the three summer months, I had long, bright evenings to enjoy after work and sunny weekends to spend exploring the local lakes and parks. I really attribute the high quality of living and welcoming work environment to the success of my stay at UFZ/iDiv. My Green Talents Research Stay experience was more than I could have ever anticipated. I learned so much about German research and my own research and how great research can be conducted through great collaborations. I’m looking forward to continuing this project work with Prof. Dr Aletta Bonn and her team and hope to be back to Germany in the near future!

Read more about Rachel Kelly.