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  • WATERLINE - December, 2020

    WALPA annual conference a virtual success

    by Sally Abella, immediate Past President, WALPA

    Conference attendees during a session of the 2020 WALPA Conference

    WALPA’s first-ever online conference was held October 14th and 15th with an amazing total of 173 registrants for the free offering! The University of Washington-Tacoma Information Technology Department provided a team headed by Mark DePaul to handle the technical portions of the program, which was broadcast on the UW YouTube channel, with live participation by session chairs, panelists, and some presenters occurring via Zoom. Questions were fielded through email to the WALPA address or live chat on YouTube, with the presenters available to reply on Zoom.

    The program was both varied and interesting, starting off with a plenary on racial and social justice issues in freshwater ecosystems. That session offered a presentation from Melissa Haefner of Portland State University, followed by a panel discussion chaired by Angela Strecker of Western Washington University.

    After the plenary, President Sally Abella chaired WALPA’s annual business meeting. Topics included thanks to WALPA sponsors, registered voting members, those who made donations to WALPA, and all those whose expertise made the online conference possible. Grateful thanks went to Rachael Gravon, retiring after TWO stints as President followed by a year as past-President, as well as to three Board members who all served the maximum of four years, including Jenifer Parsons, Lizbeth Seebacher, and Darren Brandt.

    The slate of candidates for 2021 included Jennifer Oden for the incoming President position, Rebekah Stiling for Treasurer, and four new Board members to fill open positions, including Matt Colston of Island County, Paula Cracknell of Thurston County, Wafa Tafesh of King County, and Shannon Brattebo from TetraTech-Spokane. The slate was confirmed at the end of October through an e-vote conducted among those who paid to become voting members of WALPA when they registered. Learn more about the WALPA Board at: https://www.walpa.org/about-us/board-committees 

    The 2020 student scholarship winners were also introduced, including Katherine Swensen (WSU Vancouver), winner of the Nancy Weller Memorial Scholarship for a doctoral program, Salvador Robb-Chavez (WSU Vancouver), winner of the Dave Lamb Memorial Scholarship for a Master’s program, and Hana Haakenstad (University of Idaho), winner of the Undergraduate Scholarship.

    Jim Gawel (UW Tacoma) was awarded the annual Secchi Award for 2020 for his many contributions to WALPA, student mentoring, outreach, and lake science in the Pacific Northwest. His UW colleague Avery Shinneman delivered a heartfelt toast to Jim.

    The business meeting concluded with remarks by outgoing President Sally Abella on the progress of the Board during 2020, and the challenges presented by the covid19 pandemic. New President Rob Zisette gave a look forward to the coming year.

    The four sessions on Wednesday featured the topics of Restoration (three speakers), Water Quality (three speakers), Algae (four speakers), and Lake Ecology (three speakers).

    On Thursday morning, University of Washington faculty Avery Shinneman and Jim Gawel co-chaired a panel discussion considering issues around public access to Washington lakes. This was followed by the presentation of four student posters: they were available for viewing on the WALPA website and each student gave a ten-minute talk on their work.

    The conference wrapped up on Thursday with three sessions covering Health Risks (three speakers), Invasive Species Management (three speakers), and Waves and Source Tracking (four speakers).

    The large number of contributors made for nearly two full days of presentations and discussion, covering many topics and offering thought-provoking ideas. Attendance remained high, numbering between 70 and 105 attendees throughout both days.

    There were a few technical glitches during the conference, which is not surprising considering the novelty of the platform and WALPA’s determination to host a complex conference comparable to one of our in-person events. However, the team at UW Tacoma was creative and attentive, and the presenters were flexible, which meant that everyone was able to present their material. THANKS TO ALL!

    For a more detailed look at material from the conference, including the conference program, presentation abstracts, recorded sessions, and student posters, please visit https://www.walpa.org/annual-conference/ .