International conference focused on climate change a huge success

Oct 20th, 2023

By Jackey Locke

This past August, the sixth annual Persistent, Emerging and Organic PoLlution in the Environment (PEOPLE) conference was held in Montreal.

The theme was Collaboration Solutions to Environmental Problems under Climate Change.

PEOPLE 2023 was a huge success. More than 300 delegates coming together online and in-person over a six-day period to discuss the ongoing R&D, collaborations, challenges and opportunities in environmental and climate change research, as well as the network’s vision, goals, future strategies and funding plans.

Dr. Bing Chen, professor and UArctic Research Chair, Memorial University and founding leader of the Northern Region Persistent Organic Pollution Control (NRPOP) Laboratory and founding director of the PEOPLE Network, co-chaired the 2023 conference with Concordia University’s Dr. Catherine Mulligan, professor and Concordia Research Chair (Tier 1) and Dr. Chunjiang An, an associate professor and Concordia Research Chair.

Dr. Bing Chen PHOTO: Chris Hammond

“We hosted more than 200 presentations from diverse disciplines representing 20 countries and 42 technical sessions in 21 themes,” said Dr. Chen. “This featured four plenary keynotes, one special talk, 15 technical keynotes, two workshops, more than 160 oral presentations and 20 poster presentations.

“Thank you to our co-host, Concordia University, and all of our partners, sponsors, speakers and participants,” said Dr. Chen. “The conference would not have been successful without your participation.”

Dr. Chen added, “We also want to especially thanks Memorial University and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science for their continuing support to the PEOPLE Network.”


Officially established in 2017, the PEOPLE Network is based at Memorial University. It is a unique pan-Canadian/global hub/platform for national and international researchers, industry experts and government regulators focused on the persistent and emerging pollutants particularly in cold marine and coastal environments. The network consists of more than 250 professional members (including more than 150 researchers from more than 50 academic institutions worldwide). It engages more than 50 partners from public and private sectors and communities (especially including Indigenous groups) across the five continents.

Under Dr. Chen’s leadership and members’ collective efforts, the network has received NSERC CREATE funding since 2019 to support the training of highly qualified personnel.

“To date, more than 370 highly qualified personnel have participated in and benefitted from PEOPLE’s training, research and networking activities, including this conference,” said Dr. Chen.

This year’s conference particularly focused on the environmental challenges under changing climatic conditions and called for collaborative research and education efforts worldwide. Shared concerns on new challenges caused by the rapidly changing environments, such as oil and chemical spills, water safety, coastal erosion and pollution, microplastics and other emerging contaminants in the northern lands and waters, were extensively discussed and potential opportunities and solutions were identified.

The conference provides an opportunity for researchers (particularly its network members) and students to disseminate their findings and gain a better understanding of the needs of key stakeholders.

PEOPLE 2023 sponsors included NSERC, Concordia University and Memorial University, as well as Eco-Environment & Health, ERA Environmental, Medicom and Innovation Seven. Partners included the University of the Arctic (UArctic), the International Water Association-Young Water Professionals Canada (IWA-YWP), as well as supportive journals: Environmental Systems Research (Springer Nature), Marine Pollution Bulletin (Elsevier) and Water (MDPI).

There was also strong support from the federal and provincial governments, the City of St. John’s, the local industry, as well as our communities in the north.

“Memorial’s deep understanding of Canada’s harshest environments is based on strong public partnerships with people, industries and organizations,” said Dr. Tana Allen, vice-president (research).

“As the lead institution for the PEOPLE Network, led by Dr. Chen, Memorial is mobilizing a dedicated team of researchers focused on creating a cleaner and safer environment for our world. It was so inspiring to learn more about this important work during this year’s conference.”

“Congratulations to Dr. Chen and team on another successful conference,” said Dr. Octavia Dobre, interim dean, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. “The PEOPLE Network is raising awareness and helping to protect our marine and coastal environments, particularly in cold regions and harsh environments.”

The next PEOPLE event is planned for summer 2025.