What lies beyond lectures? Seminars, workshops and talks that captured my interest and added to my Masters experience


It’s true that most of your postgraduate university life will be spent in lectures, reading or studying. However, it is important not to forget that there are so many other amazing things going on in the outside world, that do actually compliment your education. Many people will choose to join societies or athletic clubs, take up a part-time job, or volunteer. Often though, we forget about talks or workshops that exist either held by the university or from the wider community. Each week there are many fantastic events, so when the opportunity does arise for you to squeeze it into your busy schedule, GO!

Since starting in September 2017, I have attended a diverse range of talks, in a range of formats from webinars to seminars at the Royal Observatory to speed-dating style workshops. Much of the time, I have found these breaks really interesting, and find that I learn or gain something new by making the time to attend. For me, I find that these sorts of things remind me why I chose to study Marine Systems and Policies, and why I care about the things that I do.

I want to give you a bit of an insight into just a few of the seminar events I have attended, and tell you some useful places to find out about what is going on and where in Edinburgh! Most of these relate to the things that I am interested in, so do go out and search for yourself to see what crops up that you feel most passionately about!

George Monbiot: Out of the Wreckage

Back in October I attended a talk held by Global Justice Now and the Scottish Green Party where guest speaker George Monbiot spoke about his new book ‘Out of the Wreckage’. Here he talked about his views on the world and what this could mean for social and environmental justice. I enjoyed his enthusiasm for moving towards more imaginative processes to inform policies, such as grassroots movements centred around giving people the power. However, I must admit, at times I did get lost in some technical jargon but overall, I found the talk incredibly insightful and met some really cool people. I am interested in birds and noticed a man sat in front of me wearing an RSPB jumper so I had a chat to him. He had some useful information on which nature reserves and binocular shops to visit and gave me some other contacts to reach out to if I ever wanted to talk to some real birders! He also informed me about the work and events of the local RSPB group, which leads me on to my next event…

BirdLife International talk from John Croxall at the Dr Brian Nelson Memorial Lecture

The Dr Bryan Nelson Memorial Lecture held by the Scottish Seabird Centre and RSPB Scotland. You may have guessed by the organisers of the event, that this talk was centred around the status of seabird populations around the globe. Professor John Croxall from BirdLife International led the talk, providing information on what BirdLife is doing to conserve and sustain seabird populations. He spoke in great detail about the future trajectories of these incredible species, and what needs or can be done to ensure their survival. This seminar was incredibly interesting, I didn’t leave feeling heavy and is if nothing could be done, but rather inspired at what hope exists for the protection of seabirds through marine spatial planning or changes to fisheries management, and what role I might be able to play in this protection. The information even went on to inform a presentation I gave for my Marine Systems and Policies module. But further than this, that evening I learned more about the local Edinburgh bird watching group and got to speak to John about his time with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which was invaluable to my personal interests.

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Kristina Gjerde’s talk on Deep Seabed Mining
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Kristina Gjerde at an Edinburgh Blue Network event earlier in the year

Moving on to a seminar that before coming to Edinburgh I wouldn’t have thought I would have attended… an event organised by the Law School as part of the Brodies Lecture Series on environmental law. Here Kristina Gjerde’s talk ‘Deep Seabed Mining (DSM) in the Area’ addressed the developing legal, environmental and economic challenges of this deep sea extraction process. DSM is a new and emerging threat to our oceans that due to the nature of various complicated elements relating to UNCLOS III (that I won’t get into) is going to come to fruit in the coming years. The aim is to extract valuable mineral resources thousands of metres below the water’s surface, however there is little understanding of the wider ecological impacts. A good but scary quote often used to describe the unknown and potentially catastrophic impacts of DSM is that it has been likened to “standing on top of the Empire State Building on a windy night and trying to suck peas off the sidewalk with a straw”. The most interesting part of the development of this new activity is the fact that the laws on its governance are being created as we speak. As a School of GeoSciences student, making the connection with the Law school is fascinating, this is because you get to hear about what is actually happening in marine policies from the legal perspective vs. ‘what we think should be happening’ from an environmental perspective.

Although there are many events that I could talk about, I chose to pick a few that resonated with me the most. Before I move on to where you can find out about these insightful seminars in the future, I want to mention an incredibly exciting event that will be happening in little over a week!

Dr Sylvia Earle. Photo credit: Jason Heaton (https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/diving-with-sylvia-earle-dispatches-rolex)

This is, the University of Edinburgh and Pew Charitable Trusts event on the 10th April called ‘Saving our Oceans: Global Insights in the future of Marine Protected Areas’. If that isn’t enough to spark your interest, then perhaps the fact that Dr Sylvia Earle (whose name you might recognise from a recent International Women’s Day post on the GeoSciences Facebook account) will be speaking! Dr Earle is a true ocean pioneer who has spearheaded many successful marine conservation campaigns and devoted her entire career to learning more about our fascinating underwater world. Spaces at this event are sure to run out quickly, so use the link above to get a ticket now!

If after all that, you are now feeling inspired to go off in search of seminars, workshops and events that may be of interest to you, here are some of the places that I (based on my interests) would start:

  • Eventbrite (my go to)
  • The Social Responsibility and Sustainability events page (UoE)
  • The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation events page
  • The Global Environment and Society Academy (GESA) webpage (UoE)
  • The Chaplaincy’s events page (UoE)
  • The Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Inspiring People Talks
  • The Royal Observatory (Edinburgh) events page
  • The School of GeoSciences’ events page (UoE)
  • The Hutton Club’s events page (UoE)
  • The RSPB’s events page
  • The Scottish Seabird Centre’s what’s on page
  • The Scottish Ornithologists Club’s events page
  • Any relevant charities, NGOs, membership bodies or organisations you are interested in are likely to have an events page where you can find more about what is going on!

At this time of the year things will likely be quietening down, however, it’s a case of checking events pages as you would your emails each week! Although here I focussed on the content of the talks, attending these events provides you with; networking opportunities, a chance to learn new things, the opportunity to keep up to date with current research, and the option to have meaningful discussions with likeminded people!

I hope this has been useful, and that you find some events that resonate with you! If you know of any great events pages that I have missed, then please do leave a comment


P.S. Most of these events have tasty nibbles and refreshments!

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