Nearly 50 state legislators took part in the fifth annual Legislative Summit at the University of Vermont last week.
The theme of the event was “Water: How Will We Ensure That It Is Clean and Plentiful,” and the discussion was divided into three parts: groundwater contamination, causes and consequences of algal bloom, and Lake Champlain as sentinel.
The aim of these summits is to help inform lawmakers on details surrounding important issues that they will focus on in the upcoming legislative session.
“The goal of this year’s Legislative Summit is to maximize the exchange of information between scientists at the University of Vermont who study various aspects of water, and legislators from Montpelier, who have to make policy about these very issues,” said Richard Galbraith, UVM’s vice president for research, who attended.
UVM faculty in disciplines ranging from natural resources, geology and public administration to agriculture and civil and environmental engineering met with the lawmakers to share information from their research programs.
The elected officials appreciate the opportunity to study up on important issues. UVM graduate and former trustee Sen. Chris Bray D-Addison is chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.
He pointed out that Vermont’s citizen legislature is valuable but it also has its limitations. “I love the legislature, but I also realize that we don’t have the expertise for a lot of very complicated things that come our way,” Bray said. “I’m always up for opportunities to help us educate ourselves, and I think that’s where an event like the summit can really help.”
Mindy Morales-Williams, an assistant professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, whose work focuses on the relationship between blue-green algae blooms and carbon cycles, said the event puts her research into immediate practice.
“It’s so important for us to communicate our science, and getting our science out there,” she said. “Often we are in a bubble, and we just go about our business doing our science. But without communicating it and influencing legislation and policy, there’s no point in doing it.”
Bray said he hoped the summit would lead to even more collaboration in the future where UVM faculty can make an ongoing contribution. “I’d like to turn this into an ongoing dialogue,” he said. “They could be providing testimony or consulting with individual legislators.”
This year’s event was organized as a “slam.” Faculty presenters in each of the topic areas had four minutes to give an overview of their research. Afterward, legislators could meet with them for questions and discussion.