The first International Wolf and Carnivore Conference was held in Thompson on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
An impressive collection of guests and keynote speakers were on hand to discuss topics such as wolf research, wolf management, tourism, and conservation ethics.
The information shared by some of the top minds that gathered in Thompson from as far away as Russia and Finland was invaluable, but on a larger scale, the conference itself means big possibilities for the city of Thompson.
Dave Mech from the University of Minnesota and International Wolf Centre has 54 years of wolf research under his belt; Mech says that the conference was a giant step forward in Thompson’s exposure.
“Thompson already has such a good start with the wolf sculptures and a 10-storey high wolf mural,” said Mech, “that’s something that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. The interest in the city is already there, but a conference like this exposes it to people all around the world.”
Mech admitted that many people attending the conference from outside of Thompson may not have known where the city was or even have heard of it at all.
The conference was held at Riverlodge Place and both days had over 100 people in attendance. What will come from the prestigious new event is open to interpretation and in many ways is back in the hands of the citizens of Thompson.
Paul Paquet, a professor at both the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Calgary believes that the event has elevated Thompson internationally, at least as far as the study of wolves and carnivores is concerned.
“There’s something unique about this and it may be a community characteristic, of acceptance and tolerance of people and viewpoints because there aren’t many venues that would have been able to host this event,” said Paquet, “I think this is just the start for Thompson and this event itself is the catalyst for that.”
Volker Beckmann was instrumental in the planning and execution of the event and was beaming with pride in the afterglow of the two-day symposium. Beckmann was especially pleased with the timing of the event and how it coincided with the latest place branding initiative of the Thompson Economic Diversification Working Group (TEDWG).
“It’s almost a serendipity for these two things to come along at the same time,” said Beckmann, “my area of expertise is as a design consultant and I’m working with them as a sub-contractor to say that over the next year if those professionals who are in charge of the branding are doing their job, this will be part of the bigger picture.”
The bigger picture Beckmann was speaking about is a brand for Thompson as far as how the city is perceived by both those in the community as well as outsiders. Much of that image lies in the hands of residents now and Beckmann was steadfast in expressing that the residents know about what a success the conference was and what doors it could potentially open.
Alistair Bath, an associate professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland echoed Beckmann’s statements, saying that Thompson is now on the verge of something special.
“When a small community puts on an event like this, it’s a real indicator that something special is happening,” said Bath, “it shows that there is value here, and that’s how networks are built. We saw so much enthusiasm from school kids who were involved with this conference and it’s exciting to see these things happening. The challenge now is where do we go next and that’s really up to the residents, there is a momentum here now.”
Bath explained that many important premises were brought forward over the course of the conference and that some things would even impact provincial policies.
“The listening process has begun and lots of exciting things are happening,” said Bath.
The economic benefits could not be left out when speaking about the upside of such a large event.
“There are a lot of economic benefits whenever you bring over 100 people into a community” said Bath who could not praise the city and its residents enough for their hospitality, “the Thompson residents that I encountered were very friendly and open and I certainly appreciated the well organized nature of the conference as well as the northern spirit that you hear about, it was certainly demonstrated.”
Beckmann was quick to shirk much of the credit, saying that the event would not have been possible without such a great group of supporters.
“There was about 12 different groups who helped put this together and all of the organizations and support groups were just tremendous.”