Testimonies of 2017 travel grant recipients

In 2017, Future Earth offered rolling grants to support the travel of early career researchers and other professionals in global sustainability. Here, the recipients of these grants talk about their backgrounds and next steps. These talented individuals come from Brazil, Kenya, India and other nations around the world and work on topics ranging from snow leopard ecology to gender justice. With support from Future Earth, they are travelling to sustainability events across the globe to share their expertise and learn from other leaders in research, policy, business, civil society and more.

The travel grant scheme came to an end in 2017 and will not be continued in 2018.

Future Earth provides diverse support to professionals beginning their careers in sustainability through the Early Career Professionals Network. You can learn more about this network and how to get involved here.

Mohammad Faiz Alam

About me: I am currently working with the International Water Management Institute in Delhi where my research focuses on the role and importance of groundwater for food security and disaster risk reduction on global and local scales.

What I am doing with my support: I will be attending the 8th International Young Water Professionals Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, during 10 to 13 December 2017. This conference will bring together water, environment and other related young professionals from around the globe to provide them with capacity building and skills development opportunities. Along with attending several professional sessions, I am helping to organise a team for the workshop  “Building the next generation of Water-Wise Leaders.” The aim of this workshop is to impart knowledge on the principles of water wise cities and to develop a network of connected individuals driving change in their cities and sharing experiences.

What’s next: The conference will provide a unique platform for me to deepen my knowledge, engage with diverse stakeholders and network with a diverse group of water industry experts and colleagues from around the globe for future collaboration. Being part of Future Earth network, I will be able to engage and promote its activities and mission among young professionals from all over the world that will potentially lead to future participation and collaboration.

Noelia Zafra Calvo

About me: I am a conservation social scientist who works to bring social justice into conservation practice and policy (Aichi Target 11 and Sustainable Development Goal 15).

What I am doing with my support: I got a waived fee to attend the 2017 International Conference on Sustainability Science in Stockholm. Attending this conference will allow me to integrate my work into a sustainability science framework and to participate in Future Earth’s Knowledge-Actions Networks.

What’s next: This new knowledge and network will be essential to develop my research interests within the frame of sustainability science and to foster social equity in the conservation of nature as part of the Future Earth initiative.

Leopoldo Cavaleri Gerhardinger

About me: I’m a post-doc researcher at the Oceanographic Institute of University of São Paulo and member of the Earth System Governance, one of Future Earth’s global research projects. I work on topics ranging from marine fish ecology and ethnoecology to, most recently, the theory and practice of multi-level ocean governance with a focus on Brazil and the Atlantic. I’m actively involved with various academic-based and societal knowledge-to-action networks. In addition, I’m also collaborating as science advisor to the Brazilian government in the early evolution of a national marine spatial planning process for the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (over four million square kilometres of ocean).

What I am doing with my support: June 2017 was a very special month for the global ocean agenda, and Future Earth’s travel grant allowed me to take part in vibrant meetings in Brussels and New York. First, I attended a two-day scoping workshop hosted by Future Earth and Belmont Forum at the European Union headquarters in Brussels to support the co-design of a transdisciplinary (TD) ocean research funding opportunity to be launched in 2018.

On the following week, and inspired by the Brussels meeting, I naturally carried a fresh and sharp sense of opportunity to a turning moment in global ocean affairs – the first ever United Nations Conference exclusively dedicated to the global ocean. The outcomes of this conference are helping the global community find out novel ways of partnering around the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14. Amid hundreds of highly relevant parallel meetings and topics, I joined other International Council for Science (ICSU) and Future Earth representatives to feed debates around science and technology (see here and here), small-scale fisheries (see here and here, page 39), pollution and ocean governance (see here). So far, 1393 voluntary commitments were publicly declared, 13 of which specifically highlighted the key role of early career researchers in the implementation of SDG-14.

What’s next: This series of meetings offered early career researchers and, in particular, the Future Earth Working Group of the Early Career Network of Networks, the opportunity to join forces with international research and policy communities, in what can be regarded the waking times of transdisciplinary ocean science. Back in Brazil, I am left with high expectations. I also have renewed enthusiasm and knowledge to support the connection of the global research and policy communities’ vast, but still largely fragmented, knowledge and action capacities into coherent narratives of change towards ocean sustainability at multiple levels. The upcoming work of Future Earth’s Ocean Knowledge-Action Network will offer a vibrant, international platform to leverage the contribution of early career researchers and professionals in the upcoming years.   

Abhishek Ghoshal

About me: I am a wildlife biologist working on understanding factors affecting distribution and abundance of snow leopards and their primary prey at multiple spatial scales in the Indian Himalayas.

What I am doing with my support: I delivered a talk at the International Mammalogical Congress (IMC12) in Perth, Australia. I have actively discussed Future Earth with the organising members of the congress, other eminent scientists and delegates and encouraged peers to join the Future Earth network. University of Western Australian and Curtin University will share the Future Earth website and information with their students. I have already shared the news of my association with Future Earth extensively with my peers at the Nature Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Trust, Wildlife Institute of India, National Centre for Biological Sciences and Indian Institute of Science through emails and on social networks (e.g. IMC’s Twitter and Facebook pages). I also shared with other networks of researchers working on ecology, conservation and sustainable development involving about 5000 researchers. They include Young Ecologists Talk and Interact (YETI), the largest group of early career ecologists and conservationists in India and Students Conference on Conservation Science (SCCS) in Bangalore.

What’s next: In the future, I will work on developing a post-doc in collaboration with a scientist from the University of Adelaide. Additionally, I would like to suggest that Future Earth become associated with YETI. This group consists of young researchers in the field of ecology and conservation in India. The next YETI conference will most likely be during December 2017 or January 2018. This will provide a wonderful opportunity for engaging with the vast fraternity of Indian sustainability researchers.

Gabriel Habiyaremye

About me: I am the Dean of Faculty of Environmental Studies at the University of Lay Adventists of Kigali, Rwanda. My research interests include climate change impacts on water resources and food security. I also founded the Integrated Sustainability Center in Rwanda in in 2016 after I was inspired by attended the Future Earth Young Scientists Networking Conference on Integrated Science in Italy in 2015. The centre seeks to contribute to national and regional development through environmental, economic and social initiatives and research for community welfare.

I have been involved in Future earth activities on evidence and policy, including around the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. I was also involved in the first scoping workshop organised by Future Earth on the development of an integrative Ocean Knowledge-Action Network in 2016.

What I am doing with my support: In June 2017, I highlighted Future Earth’s activities, including the outcomes of the aforementioned workshop, at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO Regional Training and Research Center on Ocean Dynamics and Climate in China.

What’s next: I will present on the Water-Energy-Food Nexus at the upcoming 5th iLEAPS International Science Conference in Oxford, UK, and its associated workshop on “Effective Communication for Effective Science.”  This will allow me to engage within the iLEAPS early career researchers network to promote and progress the Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network.

Maria Jose Martínez Harms

About me: I am a spatial ecologist researcher from Australia’s Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions interested in the science-policy interface for ecosystem services and biodiversity to inform land and seascape planning. I just completed a Ph.D. in Conservation Science, and my thesis focused on synthesising ecosystem services research to provide evidence that can be used to improve environmental decision-making. By applying decision support tools like scenario analysis and spatial planning approaches, I explore trade-offs and prioritise management alternatives that balance conservation, development and social objectives. My research aims to inform international and national conservation policy on best practices to manage multi-functional land and seascapes for the sustainable provision of ecosystem services.

What I am doing with my support: I will attend the Future Earth Natural Assets Knowledge-Action Network definition workshop in Bern, Switzerland, on 12 to 13 September 2017. I will attend to this workshop as part of a small team of researchers who are conducting a literature review on the terms “natural assets,” “natural capital,” “nature-based solutions” and “ecosystem services.”

What's next: This experience will be very advantageous for my career as an early stage researcher because I will have the opportunity to collaborate and network with fellow researchers and practitioners who are working towards global environmental sustainability.

MD Khalid Hossain

About me: I work for Oxfam in Bangladesh, which seeks to achieve a number of targets for different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the areas of economic empowerment, climate change adaptation and mitigation, water management, access to water and sanitation, gender justice and developing community leadership and learning for influencing.

What I am doing with my support: With the support of Future Earth, I will attend all of the sessions during the first day of the 2017 International Conference on Sustainability Science, which will be comprised of different SDG Lab sessions. As the Economic Justice and Resilience Lead of Oxfam in Bangladesh, I manage both rural and urban programs. Consequently, all the SDG Lab sessions are highly relevant for me to get ideas for Oxfam’s future programme design in Bangladesh. Interaction with early career and experienced researchers would pave the way for future collaboration. While attending the conference, I would promote Future Earth through social media where I have followers who are leading professionals on SDG issues in Bangladesh.

What’s next: My career would be strengthened through the new knowledge gathered and integrated into my work. I would use the new knowledge to design future programmes for Oxfam in Bangladesh and would explore collaborative work with the connections that I would build during the conference. 

Dhanasree Jayaram

About me: I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations and Project Associate in the Manipal Advanced Research Group (MARG) at Manipal University in Karnataka, India. My doctorate thesis is entitled “Military Dimensions of Environmental Security: An Indian Perspective.” I am also Research Fellow at the Earth System Governance project and Editorial Coordinator of the Science, Technology and Security forum (STSf). In 2011, I received the Outreach Fellowship of Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) – a defense think tank in New Delhi, India. Through that fellowship, I published a single-authored volume, “Breaking out of the Green House: Indian Leadership in Times of Environmental Change,” in 2012. With a deep-rooted interest in environmental security research, I mostly work on the military-environmental security interface (through an interconnected web of various frameworks and concepts like Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, HADR), particularly in the Indian context; geopolitics of environmental change; climate policy, diplomacy and governance; India’s environmental security scenario, along with its positions and policies on climate change; and South Asian regional environmental security complex.

What I am doing with my support: With generous support from Future Earth, I will be able to attend and present two papers at the 2017 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance: “Allocation & Access in a Warming and Increasingly Unequal World” to be held during 9 to 11 October 2017. My papers are called “The ‘Three Geos’: A New Approach to Study International and Environmental Security Scenarios” and “Environmental Governance and the Armed Forces: An Indian Perspective.” Both these papers are oriented towards a security perspective on environmental issues, particularly with respect to the role of the military in environmental security. This innovative angle will add to Future Earth’s extensive work on global environmental change and help develop a network of scholars interested in environmental security research, as well as promote that research through Future Earth’s Knowledge-Action Networks.

What’s next: The immediate outcome of the conference is a full-fledged research paper on one of the aforementioned topics. In the medium- and long-term, I would like to use the experience gained at the conference to step up my research through both teaching and non-teaching activities – instilling among students in India the penchant for environmental security research; providing policy recommendations through collaborative, transdisciplinary and transnational research that could integrate environmental security with security policy and strategy at the national and international levels; and working with the Indian military on the ground to enhance civil-military coordination on environmental issues (like environmental disasters).

Imran Shahid

About me: Currently, I am working at the Institute of Space Technology (IST) in Islamabad, Pakistan. Before joining IST, I received my Ph.D. in 2011 from the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. In 2007 I was a Young Scientist Summer Fellow (YSSP) at the International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA) also in Vienna. Here at IST, my research is focused on air quality monitoring, aerosol and cloud interaction, air pollutant emissions from traffic and biomass burning. We are working on the role of air pollutants in dense South Asian winter fog with the help of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal and other regional partners.

IST is an educational institution that imparts specialised education in space and related science to bring nations on par with the international community. The Geospatial Research and Education Lab (GREL) has been established at the Department of Space Science at IST with the vision of doing quality research and imparting state of the art education in emerging fields.

What I am doing with my support: Future earth’s travel grant will enable me to attend the joint assembly of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceana (IAPSO)-International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS)-International Association for Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA) to be held from 27 August 2017 to 1 September 2017. It's a great opportunity for me. The joint assembly is a mega event and will bring together about 1000 participants in the fields of atmospheric science, meteorology, geodesy, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), physical science and oceanography. I will give a talk on “Source apportionment of PM10 in South Asian Mega City” and highlight the problems associated with sustainable development in developing countries like Pakistan. Pakistan is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts in terms of extreme weather events like floods and heat waves.

What’s next: This event will not only enhance my knowledge and skills but also provide me with an opportunity for networking to bridge the gap between the developing and developed world and scientific and social communities to learn from their experience. By collaborating with international community, my colleagues and I will have the chance to promote sustainability science and devise adaptation strategies to combat climate change in Pakistan by organising workshops, seminars and capacity building trainings under the Future Earth umbrella.

Geoffrey Mwangi Wambugu

About Me: I am an Assistant Lecturer at Karatina University in Kenya, a researcher in Ecology and an Environmental Consultant. My principal activities include teaching at the university; ecological research in the East African Region; and advising development projects on environmental matters both in the private and public sector. I am in my final year of Ph.D. study at the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

What I am doing with my Support: My support from Future Earth will cover the cost of travel and accommodation from Kenya to Switzerland where I am co-organising a workshop on Natural Capital and related concepts. The aim of the workshop is to bring together researchers and practitioners involved in Natural Capital research and applications and to agree on a common definition of the term “Natural Assets” for Future Earth’s Knowledge-Action-Networks. This will help Future Earth align its objectives and priorities to the concept of Natural Capital.

What's next: Part of the workshop’s outcomes include co-authoring a paper on Natural Capital and related concepts. I will also become part of a network of Natural Capital experts, which will help me drive the sustainability agenda in Kenya and Africa forward. This network will enhance my capacity in this field and create a platform for future collaborations in research and outreach.