‘Ledge Talks’ kick off in Yellowknife

‘Ledge Talks’ kick off in Yellowknife
Steve Kokelj presents his research on permafrost, officially kicking off Ledge Talks: The Knowledge Series at the Legislative Assembly Great Hall last week.Photo: Vera Raschke.

On July 16, the Legislative Assembly Library in Yellowknife successfully launched a series of TED Talk-style lectures with a presentation from permafrost scientist Steve Kokelj in the building’s Great Hall.

Ledge Talks: The Knowledge Series gives researchers a platform to share their work with the public and other government workers, fostering conversation on a variety of Northern topics from arts and culture to science and nature.

“Security counted 62 people,” said Vera Raschke, the legislative librarian. The number exceeded her expectations, as she had only prepared enough seating for about 50 people.

“The idea for Ledge Talks has been around for a while,” Raschke said, noting that the lecture series is one element of a plan to create new programming to increase future library use.

“It surfaced again when people were talking about a number of government employees who were doing research,” she said. “It’s interesting research but it’s sort of hidden in the background…Nobody really gets to know what people are doing, and in a lot of cases these are areas of interest to people.”

Like the global Ted Talk conferences, the lectures are to be informative while remaining accessible to a wide audience.

“We had the chairs in a semicircle around trying to keep it more of an informal setting, a sharing of information rather than a sort of academic conference type venue that people are used to, to make it a more comfortable environment,” Raschke said.

Kokelj’s presentation was about the significant changes in Arctic ecosystems due to a rapidly warming climate, with a focus on the consequences and impacts of thawing permafrost – or as Kokelj calls it, “the glue that holds the NWT environment together.”

“I think the Ledge Talks provide an excellent, neutral venue to share knowledge and stimulate exchanges between scientists, traditional knowledge holders, Northerners (public), practitioners, policy makers and politicians,” Kokelj said in an email to The Journal.

“There is so much exciting stuff going on in the Territories, by Northerners and by others, that can be shared at this venue. It is important at this time, with devolution, increased GNWT responsibility for land, water and resources, to have a venue where ideas can be presented and discussed. This can stimulate important exchanges that will help bridge the gap that often exists between scientists, the public and decision makers,” he said.

Raschke and Kokelj both reflected that they received a lot positive feedback from the audience, for both the presentation and the Ledge Talks initiative. Kokelj was happy to answer questions from the engaged audience when he finished, creating an exciting dialogue among the group.

Raschke said while the Legislative Library is reaching out to other researchers to conduct presentations, they are also receptive to people in Yellowknife or those visiting the city who might want a platform to share their work.

The event was open to anyone, but because it occurred mid-afternoon, some potential attendees may have had work commitments.

The next Ledge Talk will be held July 30 at 7:30 p.m., with the hope that more of the public will be able to attend an evening lecture. The topic will be The Inconvenient Truth About Autism, presented by Dr. Scott Selleck.

Like the TED Talks, the presentation was filmed so people outside of Yellowknife can access the presentation. To watch Kokelj’s lecture, head to http://www.assembly.gov.nt.ca/library.

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