Bioneers conference back on campus this year


Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit is holding its annual for the third time on the McNichols Campus.

On Oct. 15 and 16, Detroit Mercy will host the conference, just as it did in 2018 and 2019 (before being moved online in 2020 with four one-hour Zoom calls due to the pandemic).

Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit is a part of the Bioneers Resilient Communities Network, which seeks to highlight innovative approaches to environmental and social challenges.

Conference co-chairs Dr. Gail Presbey and Dr. Nicholas Schroeck anticipate a strong but safe showing at one of the first major in-person events on campus since the pandemic.

 “We already have over 100 students confirmed from six different Detroit area high schools,” said Presbey, “and we are hoping for another 100 or so non-students.”

The conference attracts local high schools as a way to help students learn about a “sustainable community that fosters life-giving relationships, nurtures connections and celebrates solutions for restoring and healing Earth’s communities,” as the mission states.

The Bioneers also are aware of the dangers of an in-person event while pandemic pressures still loom.

“Because of Covid, I wanted people to have a choice,” said Presbey. “We will have walking tours to Fitzgerald Park, and the new developments along McNichols and Livernois, and Gesu Church and School and see all of the updates they did to their buildings to make them more environmentally stable.”

The indoor portions of the event will also feature social distancing, half-capacity bus rides to the other tours, mask requirements and spaced seating at tables.

Both Presbey and Schroeck are delighted at the possibilities offered by an in-person event.

“This event works really well in person,” said Schroeck. “It really is designed to be a collaborative type of event.”

The Bioneers wanted to tackle both environmental justice and racial justice this year.

The theme is “One Earth Community,” tying various societal issues into the environment and how environmental problems can add to these issues.

“In addition to focusing on climate change in Detroit, we wanted to make sure we included some of those broader social issues as well,” said Schroeck.

“The goal is just to get everybody together,” added Presbey, “to learn more about the environment and what we can do together.”

Most of the events will be held in the Fitness Center.

Various tours around the Detroit area aim to educate what the community is doing to identify and combat a diverse array of environmental issues in Detroit.

A meal is included with the event, prepared by award-winning chef Phil Jones, who has provided food for the conference for over ten years.

The conference is free for all Detroit Mercy students and faculty with registration available at

“There is a lot of variety at this conference and something for everybody,” said Schroeck. “The opportunity to get out, take a walk and see some innovative projects in the neighborhood or just the learn shops provides just about something for everybody.”