Student delegates gather to discuss land issues
Should species such as lynx, beaver and boar be reintroduced to northern Scotland? This is just one of the topics land managers of the future will be discussing at a conference in Carrbridge this week.
Organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands and industry partners, the Integrated Land Use Conference will bring together over 60 students from a range of land-based disciplines to collaborate, learn from each other and debate current issues in land use.
Delegates studying subjects such as agriculture, forestry, gamekeeping and environmental science will attend workshops, take part in discussions, develop skills through practical field trips and hear from expert speakers.
This year’s conference will focus on the ‘future of the uplands.’ As well as debating species reintroduction, the students will learn about topics such as deer management, upland farming and woodland expansion. Speakers will be attending from a range of organisations, including the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Land and Estates, the RSPB, the Forestry Commission, SEPA and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Jocelyn McLaren (24) from Canada, a forest management student at Inverness College UHI, is one of the delegates. She said: “I’m very excited about returning to the conference for my second year. When you boil land use down to its core, the question becomes what is land for? Depending who you ask, there are an infinite number of possibilities. As future land managers, consulting with various stakeholders and members of the public will allow us to garner what the feeling is towards certain areas of land.
“Talking to students of different backgrounds allows us recognize where there are opportunities for different fields to work together. For example, the reintroduction of lynx introduces many opportunities for collaboration. Lynx prefer dense forested areas as well as rocky outcrops for hunting. This would be a case of forestry, environmental science and geography coming together to map possible habitats and build connections.”
Dr Euan Bowditch, a forestry researcher based at Inverness College UHI, is leading the organisation of the event. He said: “As this is the Year of Young People, we are hoping that students will not only engage with one another at the conference to exchange views and learn about the management challenges of the uplands as a whole, but also go out to other forums to present and discuss what they have learned. The newly created National Trust for Scotland Dick Balharry prize is an example of this goal. The prize will give a student an opportunity to travel abroad and learn about new ways of approaching land use management, as well as bringing their unique experiences to the table.”
The University of the Highlands and Islands’ seventh annual Integrated Land Use Conference takes place from Wednesday 21 to Friday 23 March. To find out more about the conference or about studying land based subjects at the University of the Highlands and Islands visit, www.uhi.ac.uk