EUROPARC Conference

The EUROPARC Conference is the event of the year for those working in Europe’s Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites.

Communicating in the 21st Century? Question your mindset!

From the 2nd to the 6th of May, nature experts from all over Europe came together in Neusiedler See – Seewinkel National Park to dive into the world of communication…

Communication is everywhere: from technical reports and social media posts to stakeholder engagement. Those working in Protected Areas need to be equipped with exceptional skills if they want to communicate effectively. How are we speaking to our audiences? What is our perspective on the numerous challenges Protected Areas face? Can technology help us understand and respect nature more? These are just some of the questions we will asked ourselves.

Our after movie expertly captures the atmosphere of the Conference:

This was the first EUROPARC gathering since the pandemic and it truly was an amazing reunion of friends and colleagues old and new. As always, the EUROPARC Conference was an great opportunity to share, learn and work together.

The programme

Reconnecting and exchanging ideas during the World Café © Sebastian Freiler EUROPARC Conference 2022

Reconnecting and exchanging ideas during the World Café © Sebastian Freiler

When delegates entered the room, they could already sense that something was going to be different… Instead of regular “cinema seating” in rows, the Conference Hall was set up in café style! This kickstarted the networking aspect of the event immediately. To support that even more, the Conference started off with our “World Café”. Facilitated with the help of Mary Alice Arthur, Delegates had the chance to move across tables and topics to speak from the heart on their experiences, wishes and hopes for the future. A great and interactive start to the Conference, especially following the many remote sessions during the pandemic.

Mind Factories

After the World Café and keynote speaker Noelle Aarts set off the conference to a great start, delegates then went into their respective “Mind Factories”. Every Mind Factory belonged to a overall theme: Youth, Transboundary, People and Culture, Biodiversity, Parks of the Future. From funding to digital communications, in groups participants worked on what Protected Areas need to communicate in the 21st Century. Every Mind Factory was then joined by a “Conference Ambassador”, young students who helped create the conclusions per theme. These conclusions were then presented through drawings, flipcharts and digital whiteboards on the afternoon of the second day of the Conference. We’d like to thank E.C.O. for their help in making this a success.

The second day started off in a more traditional setting, politicians Astrid Eisenkopf and Valerie Zacherl-Draxler welcomed delegates to the beautiful Burgenland, Austria and underlined the importance of nature conservation and Protected Areas. Our keynote speakers Matthias Schickhofer, Milja Vuković and Mary Alice Arthur then took the stage to provide thought-provoking speeches on the state of nature conservation today, and how we can use our communications to move forward.

What else?!

Watching birds during the Fieldtrips EUROPARC Conference 2022 Austria

Watching birds during the Fieldtrips © Sebastian Freiler

There were also opportunities for conference delegates to present their work during the Conference. At the EUROPARC Marketplace participants were given the possibility to set up at stall and present their Park, work or project. Additionally, the Speakers’ Corner gave participants 7 minutes on the main stage to present their work, project or idea. You can find all the presentations here.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a EUROPARC Conference without our field trips. Participants went on e-bike tours to Hungary, enjoyed some delicious wine-tasting or canoeing on the Danube river. No matter what trip participants choose, spectacular birdwatching was always included! A special thanks to Fertő-Hanság National Park for co-organising this with our host.

Award Ceremony

There was also time to celebrate success!

Réka Szilágyi and Rosie corner with Michael Hošek and Andreas Holz of the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung © Sebastian Freiler

In EUROPARC we like to recognise the great work being done, managing our Protected Areas around Europe. After two years, we were finally able to award the Transboundary Parks that joined the network, or renewed their commitment. The Parks (re)-awarded were:

  • Háldi Transboundary Area
  • Transboundary Area Julian Alps
  • Bavarian Forest & Šumava National Parks
  • Krkonoše & Karkonosze National Parks
  • Podyjí & Thayatal National Parks
  • International Naturpark Bourtanger Moor – Bargerveen

Additionally, we could finally award our Alfred Toefper Scholarship winners of 2022. We’ve officially awarded Anna Jennings, Rosie Corner and Réka Szilágyi. Of course, we finished it off with a great Gala Dinner and dancing.

Green event

The EUROPARC Conference in Austria was a certified green event! It received Austrian’s environmental label for Green Meetings and Green Events. This label is for organisers, participants and locations that are involved and committed in the greening process to create a really sustainable event. There are a lot of requirements to receive this label, like providing shuttle buses, using local products, have a waste management concept in place and use bio-certified products in the kitchen.  You can read more about the label here.

Please note that a second EUROPARC Conference will take place in Argelès-sur-Mer, France from 3 – 7 October. The conference will focus on Climate Change Adaptation for Protected Areas.