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Jul 11, 2017

“Guelph Scholar Shares Experience from Aspen Ideas Festival “

Contributed by Jonathan Kennel

Nestlé Waters scholars getting ready for the first session

Attending the Aspen Ideas Festival (AIF) as a festival scholar was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The festival, located in the beautiful city of Aspen, Colorado, promotes conversation by hosting sessions on a large variety of topics. I was primarily drawn to sessions that focused on climate change, creativity, and machine learning. While these three topics at first glance may seem disparate, and not related to my chosen field of study, hydrogeology, there was an underlying emphasis of being keen observers and data collectors to each of the sessions I attended.

Artificial Intelligence: Now, Next, and Never Gonna Happen, explained how the open-sourced machine learning methods become more predictive as more data is collected. The algorithms involved in machine learning are taking a back seat to having large, well curated datasets. The importance of high quality data is directly applicable to hydrogeology, and holistic approaches to collecting, managing, and sharing data must be a primary goal of our scientific studies and resource management. 

Nestlé Waters scholars at the Aspen Ideas Festival

Chasing Coral, a session that addressed coral reef bleaching due to ocean warming is an example of how to document changes in a difficult underwater environment. The Imagination of Leonardo Di Vinci stressed observing and recognizing patterns in natural systems and applying that to our creative endeavors. In addition, we know about his life because he stored the data he collected in formats that have lasted centuries (non-digital formats).

Meeting the other Nestlé AIF scholars was a privilege and we rapidly became friends as we navigated the festival and Aspen. Thank you to Nestlé Waters North America for providing us the opportunity to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival.

About Aspen Ideas:
The Aspen Ideas Festival is the nation's premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times. Some 350 presenters, 200 sessions, and 3,000 attendees comprise the annual Festival, launched in 2005, on the Aspen Institute's campus in Aspen, Colorado. Nestlé Waters proudly sent three scholars to the festival from communities across Canada and the United States. 

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