Organizing a conference that is out of this world

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Monique Bernier is never one to shy away from a challenge—no matter how complex it is. As a Professor at the INRSEau Terre Environnement Research Centre and member of Québec’s Ambassadors’ Club, she specializes in remote sensing applied to the monitoring and mapping of water resources, such as snow, river ice, wetlands, soil moisture and frozen ground using SAR, visible and infrared sensors. Through her research she actively works to improve the protection, conservation and development of natural resources. 

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In other words, she thinks big—and deep. And it is thanks to her enviable knowledge and can-do attitude that Québec City was able to host the prestigious International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS) and the 35th Canadian Symposium on Remote Sensing in 2014. 

Choosing Québec City

The event welcomed nearly 2000 delegates from over 60 countries. It was the first time in the event’s 34-year history that it took place in Québec City and was chaired by a professor from the INRS. It was also only the third time the event took place in Canada.

 Sponsored by the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS) and Canadian Remote Sensing Society (CRSS-SCT), the symposium’s main theme was to discuss scientific advances and recent applications in remote sensing as well as the critical issue of energy resources.

It was amazing at how members of the public and private sector worked and supported each other. Nothing was left to chance. 

How the event planning began

“It was indeed a major challenge to win the event bid and carry out such a large-scale event,” explained Ms. Bernier. “It was four years in the making and four years of hard, yet immensely satisfying work.”

It all started back in 2009. Ms. Bernier was called upon to spearhead Québec City’s bid for the event. “My first goal was to put together an all-star team,” she said. “As a professor and researcher, I had the right technical background—but needed to surround myself with experts in event planning, logistics, marketing and funding.”

Ms. Bernier turned to Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Circle, the Québec City Convention Centre, and the City of Québec—all of which quickly came on board to help pull the event off. 

Putting together a stellar event team

The symposium’s organizing committee was made up of a dozen people, each with their own unique expertise. “It was amazing at how members of the public and private sector worked and supported each other. Nothing was left to chance,” Ms. Bernier added.

Governing bodies made the decision to hold the event in Québec City in 2010. What sealed the deal? “We made a killer pitch,” Ms. Bernier said with a smile. “We had all of our bases covered, our presentation was slick and we presented symposium topics that were on par with the latest hot topics in our field. And we sold Québec City’s unique charm and culture.”

An award-winning event

The symposium went off without a hitch and generated over $4.3 million for the local economy thanks to the tireless efforts of the event organizers, speakers and logistical staff. “We would not have had such a tremendous success and attendee praise had it not been for everyone’s support,” Ms. Bernier added.

And that success was recognized further in January 2015, when the symposium won the 2014 Event of the Year during a special tribute evening held by the Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Circle. “It was an extremely proud and defining moment for me and the entire team,” Ms. Bernier said. “It was proof of how, when people come together, they can do things that are out of this world.”

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