Deb Wambach, ICOET Conference Chair
Montana Department of Transportation
Welcome to the 2021 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation themed Transforming Transportation Ecology in the Global Village. This year’s conference is hosted by the ICOET Steering Committee and brought to you virtually through the hard work of our lead organizer Fraser Shilling and staff from the University of California Davis Road Ecology Center, the Institute of Transportation Studies, and the National Center for Sustainable Transportation. While nothing compares to the in-person conference experience we all cherish at ICOET, we have created a virtual space that will foster the exchange of knowledge to feed your mind, provide a variety of presentation formats and interactions to capture your interest, and encourage the networking and peer exchange that invigorates and inspires your best work.
In reflecting on the past two decades of the 21st century, and the last two years in particular, the challenges that face humanity in our relationship with nature, in our response to the increasing effects of climate change, and in our ability to innovate and adapt sustainable approaches to infrastructure development are mounting. Yet it is crucial to understand that mounting does not mean insurmountable. Patrick Geddes, a Scottish planner and conservationist, is credited with the sentiment behind the motto, “think globally, act locally,” encompassing his theories on town planning which emphasized sensitivity to the environment with a sense of place. That was in 1915. Over 100 years later, we find ourselves still working towards that ideal in our local communities and now reaching across the global village. At no other time in our history does it seem more important to keep a global perspective while finding ways to make positive change at home. The next step is to ensure that our local actions are both shaped by and translate towards the realization of a greater good that affects progress at increasingly larger spheres of influence. Is it possible to develop infrastructure sustainably, to result in net-zero negative impacts, or even to the benefit of both the natural and human environments? ICOET is the celebrated forum for the gathering of scientists, engineers, planners, academics, practitioners, and policy makers that strive for innovation and adaptation in pursuit of finding a way to "YES!".
More than ever, working together across disciplines, across political aisles, and even across oceans is essential to achieving real transformation in transportation ecology. This year ICOET is pleased and honored to host the inaugural Global Congress on Linear Infrastructure and the Environment (GCLIE). The goal of the congress is to provide a platform to explore issues and policy on linear infrastructure and the environment at a global scale and to enhance coordination among the continental conferences. This first meeting will aim to set a foundation for shared understanding and more focused work ahead by discovering the similarities and differences in challenges, solutions, and innovative ideas among the continents. This congress will set the stage for collaboration and recommendations with real global reach and outcomes, allowing participants to come away with a true sense of community across the global village. We hope you will join us in this important conversation at the first-ever GCLIE!
With twenty-one countries represented at ICOET this year, the opportunities to make real global connections are many. We are pleased to welcome several keynote speakers throughout the conference who will help to frame the importance of our work in a broader perspective and share the power of human connection in achieving sustainable conservation. Mr. Roger Millar, the Secretary of Transportation for Washington State, Ms. Catrin Einhorn of the New York Times, Dr. Nandini Velho from Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology and Arunachal Pradesh in India, and Dr. Harvey Locke of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will share their unique perspectives to expand your thinking and inspire your continued good works. This year’s program will bring you nearly 200 podium, panel, and multi-media presentations, including many impressive student presentations, and showcase six virtual field trips. There will be live discussion with presenters, award presentations, and plenty of opportunities to interact with our generous sponsors and with one another!
As planning for ICOET 2021 began back in October of 2019, none of us imagined the global health challenges and uncertainty that lay ahead. But we’ve banded together, adapted to changing circumstances, and landed in this virtual place that continues the tradition and energy of ICOET albeit from the “cloud”. I wish to thank the ICOET Steering Committee for hosting and moderating this year’s conference, and Fraser and his team at UC Davis for their amazing conference organization and the development of our virtual platform. Special thanks are due to our Program Committee under the chairmanship of Chris Slesar, Vermont DOT and the nearly 50 abstract reviewers for putting together and supporting our superb program. Thanks also to Patty Cramer and the Awards Committee for their perennial energy in recognition of exemplary contributions to our field.
Sincere appreciation is due to our many public agency and private conference sponsors – please be sure to visit with them during the conference. And of course, immense gratitude for each of you – for the important work that you do and for your contributions to ICOET. It’s your participation that ensures ICOET continues to serve as an invaluable conduit for transportation and ecology professionals to share the latest research and best practices, and to transfer knowledge between experienced practitioners and future leaders, sharing this inspiration throughout the world. It’s up to you to keep asking the tough questions and seeking creative solutions to truly ignite the transformation of transportation ecology throughout the global village. I hope you have a rewarding and memorable experience at ICOET 2021. Thank you for being here. Enjoy the conference!