The University of Georgia’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research (CICR) includes affiliated faculty and staff from over 19 academic units and research centers across UGA whose work addresses the complex, socio-environmental challenges that mark the Anthropocene. CICR has launched Catalytic Conservations, a research initiative for its faculty affiliates, in order to foster new inter- and trans-disciplinary collaborations to advance such work.
In a bid to strengthen the convening and catalytic role of CICR in integrative research, the Catalytic Conversations initiative was developed by Dr. Laura German, professor of Anthropology at UGA and Director of CICR, and Dr. Elizabeth King, a professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and CICR’s Strategic Initiative Lead. Together with Dr. Brock Woodson from the College of Engineering, ICON PhD candidate Angela Hsiung, and Talley Vodicka, CICR’s Program Coordinator, the Catalytic Conversation committee is designing and testing various facilitation strategies to support the growth of collaborations, starting from initial idea generation and sharing to ultimately producing grant proposals and publications.
The first Catalytic Conversation event took place on October 18, and offered a venue for CICR’s affiliates to share integrative ideas in their early stages; stimulate creative, collegial dialogue across disciplines; and explore faculty interest in continuing the dialogue through variable forms of follow-up support. The conversation included topics as diverse as collaborative forestry, river ecology, food system valuation, mountains as cultural landscapes, and the role of arts in environmental problem solving. Follow-up discussions to build collaborations around these topics are underway.
CICR is also planning future events focused on research themes that are strategically chosen for their urgency, potential policy impact, and need for multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration to arrive at deeper insights and more sustainable, equitable solutions. The organizers are excited about the prospects for these initiatives to leverage faculty expertise and interests in new ways, and thereby cement CICR’s role as a go-to resource for innovative conservation and sustainability research.