Written by Gabi Sonderegger, ESR 09

In late April, the Early Stage Researchers, supervisors and many other partners of COUPLED travelled to the beautiful town of Bern in Switzerland to attend one of the most important conferences in our field, the 4th Open Science Meeting Global Land Programme. Hosted by the University of Bern, the conference was held in the University’s magnificent main building, located on a terrace overlooking the old town, a UNESCO’s World Heritage site full of architectural treasures that offers stunning views of the breath-taking Swiss Alps.

How to transform land systems and society to address the current climate and biodiversity crises? Can and should we give half the planet back to nature? Which role does the GLP community have in the quest for sustainable development? How can we better engage with public and private actors? Almost 700 fellow land science scholars and practitioners from more than 60 countries came to meet, discuss, exchange and reflect upon these and many more questions, over the three days of the conference.

The dense programme offered plenty of inspiring moments. Each day started with insightful plenary debates and keynote speeches, triggering us to deliberate the grand challenges ahead. After that, we would all disperse into different thematic sessions to learn about new cutting-edge research and inspire our own PhD work. A common dilemma that many of us faced on multiple occasions – having to choose one out of the many relevant parallel sessions! No wonder, the sessions covered many themes and methods that we are working with, such as supply chains, large-scale land acquisitions, illicit economies, land-use modelling, and participatory methods.

On top of that, the conference included several activities for telecoupling aficionados: The official launch of the Telecoupling Book edited by Jonas Østergaard Nielsen and Cecilie Friis, the kick-off of the Global Land Programme Working group on ‘Telecoupling Research Towards Sustainable Transformation of Land Systems’ coordinated by Julie Zähringer and Cecilie Friis, and several telecoupling-specific conference sessions.

Dr Cecilie Friis and Professor Jonas Nielsen during the book launch
Panel displaying the research focus of the abstracts presented to the OSM-GLP 2019 regarding the SDGs.

Moreover, we were very proud of our fellow Early Stage Researchers presenting their work in several thematic sessions and the poster session. To make us even prouder, Perrine Laroche was awarded the Best Poster Award for her poster showing preliminary results of her study titled “Observing telecoupling shifts driven by dietary changes in western countries” and Siyu Qin was awarded the Best Student Paper Award for her presentation titled “Land competition and the downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement of protected areas”. Congrats to both of them!

ESRs presenting their work – starting from top-left: Nicolas Roux, Tiago Reis, Simon Bager, Johanna Coenen, Perrine Laroche, Siyu Qin

Let’s not forget to mention another important part of our conference experience: the many breaks in between the sessions and the social activities in the evenings! The highlight there was certainly the exquisite conference dinner hosted in one of Bern’s most interesting building, the Kornhaus, an outstanding example of Bernese High Baroque style that was formerly the city’s granary and nowadays hosts an important cultural centre. These occasions offered plenty of opportunities for us to catch up with fellow COUPLED members, establish new connections with other researchers, and set the stage for the next two years ahead in the COUPLED project.

Conference dinner & mingle at the stylish Kornhaus

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