Category Archives: education
Every week I get a summary of climate news, funding, short courses, and available jobs from DISCCRS, the DISsertations initiative for the advancement of Climate Change ReSearch (pronounced discourse). The summary includes both science media and popular media sources. They are funded by NASA and the NSF, and co-directed by oceanographer Susan Weiler and political scientist Ron Mitchell. I joined the listserv as a postdoc back in 2011 after attending a climate research training course at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. It made sense. My postdoc focused on climate change adaptive learning and my doctoral dissertation had included a climate adaptation component.
So where’s the hot mess in all of this? The global climate. The local climate. The short-sighted financial interests, political ideologies, and deliberate ignorance informing current US federal climate policy. The fact that I’m drafting a review article on the relationship between climate change and physical violence (one-on-one aggression, small scale conflict, and war), and all signs point to poor governance, structural inequality, environmental degradation, large scale structural shifts in society, and resource scarcity as key ingredients needed for the mix. Oh, and perhaps a pinch of identity issues thrown in too for extra flavor. The weekly DISCCRS summary has always included some bad news, like ice shelves the size of Rhode Island calving off Antarctic type bad news, but 2017 seems even worse than 2016 from a climate news perspective. There have been bright spots. The EU and China are moving full steam ahead on the 2015 Paris Agreement and China just ran a whole province for a week on 100% alternative, renewable energy production. US cities and states have joined them trumping the federal government’s inadequacy in addressing probably the greatest challenge our world currently faces. That’s great news! No denial from me on that. But here are this week’s emailed headlines…
- Evidence of “tipping points” turning climate change from gradual to rapid – New Atlas – June 26, 2017
- World has three years left to stop dangerous climate change, warn experts – Guardian – June 28, 2017
- One-Fifth Of Humanity Could Become ‘Climate Change Refugees’ – Peak Oil – June 27, 2017
- Climate change threatens to wipe some islands off the map – Washington Post – June 23, 2017
- Sea level rise isn’t just happening, it’s getting faster – Washington Post – June 26, 2017
- Greenland now a major driver of rising seas: study – AFP (via Yahoo! News) – June 27, 2017
- Sea level rise is accelerating due to Greenland ice melt. – Mashable – June 26, 2017 (related)
- The race to save Florida’s devastated coral reef from global warming – Washington Post – June 25, 2017
- Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize – New York Times – June 26, 2017
- 95-Degree Days: How Extreme Heat Could Spread Across the World – New York Times – June 22, 2017
- In Pakistan, scorching Ramadan month highlights chronic water, power shortages – Washington Post – June 28, 2017
- Study Shows People Are Hotter On ‘Climate Change’ Than ‘Global Warming – Huffington Post – June 22, 2017
- What’s In A Name? Global Warming vs Climate Change – Yale Program on Climate Change Communication – May 27, 2014 (related)
- How Climate Change Will Transform the Way We Live – Fortune – June 25, 2917 – By Laura Entis
- How we’re living with climate change and can beat it – New Scientist Special Feature – June 21, 2017
I debate whether or not to click and read any of this hot mess knowing that it will feed the twin monsters of depression and demoralization. I click and read anyway, knowing that hiding my head in the sand doesn’t solve the problem. The evidence is all around us that change is happening and I have to stay informed.
If you are interested in receiving your own weekly climate hot mess summary: http://disccrs.org/subscribe
Earlier this week a fellow anthropologist from Australia posted a suggestion to our environmental anthropology listserve that we “consider ways to move our posts and conversations online to Twitter. I am serious about this.” I giggled. Not at my colleague, because I think she’s absolutely right about the need to take our work to the people, but at the idea that anthropologists could condense their thoughts into 140 characters. Despite our ability to craft pithy interview questions and participant observe quietly for hours on end in far-flung communities, members of our chatterbox tribe tend to pontificate when provided the opportunity. We are a long-winded and multi-syllabic people. Yet a challenge had been issued. And that’s when I found myself reopening a Twitter account from 2009 to see how it had evolved.
My fellow environmental anthropologist raised some great points about how Twitter could be used by us all to reach a wider audience.
- Are you worried about the public understanding of how environmental anthropology can help respond to pressing regional and global issues?
- Would you like more people to know about your recent publications, job announcements, or call for papers?
- Would you like to expand your network of colleagues, potential collaborators, and co-authors?
- Is your university placing increased emphasis on rewarding scholars who seem publicly visible and engaged?
- Would you like an open-access forum to debate topics about environmental anthropology, one that includes public participation?
- Would you like to help build a database of searchable resources that secondary, higher education, and continued education learners could access on their smartphones and tablets within seconds of following a hashtag?
As a whole we are an invisible tribe. That is not to say that exceptions don’t exist. Margaret Mead, Temperance Brennan, and Indiana Jones are the most likely candidates for household recognition (well, at least those are ones my mom could name quickly), and two of them are fictional characters. Those of us who work at the human-environment interface should really be making our work more widely known. Sure a virus or an asteroid could wipe out life as we know it, but the majority of environmental problems we face as a species have their roots and solutions in human behavior and decision-making.
Engaging the public by relating what we do, how we do it, and what it means requires that we actually put something out there for consideration, recognize that people will respond, and commit to civil conversation that may take us in unexpected directions. Public environmental anthropology might not get counted towards tenure (if that’s your goal), but it takes a step towards building scientific literacy, public trust, and a community that works together to make the planet a more sustainable place for all living beings.
So, I accept the challenge and will give Twitter a try for the summer. #environmentalanthropology
For more information:
- Five ways in which Twitter can be useful in academic contexts, Raul Pacheco-Vega
- Twitter for academics, The Online Academic
- The academic benefits of Twitter, Carole McGranahan, Savage Minds
Just as March came to a close, Adriane Michaelis, a first year PhD student in the KRAC lab, received word that she’d been awarded a 2015 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The award covers tuition and provides a stipend for up to 3 years of financial support within a five-year fellowship period – a huge investment by the US government in its young STEM researchers. Essentially, a $34,000 annual stipend and $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the graduate institution for study leading to a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science or engineering. According to the NSF website, they received approximately 16,500 applications for the 2015 cycle and awarded 2,000 fellowships to a diverse group of individuals.
Adriane has proposed to study what factors contribute to effective, and ineffective, community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) of Mozambique’s artisanal fisheries. As part of her comparative ethnographic study she intends to work with local fishermen to develop a community-based monitoring plan and assess the efficacy of this activity in improving CBNRM. Within a broader framework, Adriane writes “[t]he motivation of this study is to enhance natural resource management dynamics by providing agency to those without. This need is not exclusive to Mozambique, and results can be applied elsewhere, including the United States. Important to this project will be sharing results with relevant groups, such as community fishing councils (CCP) or the Ministry of Fisheries.”
by Maria Sharova
As the end of the semester draws to a close, I am once again sitting down to try to map out my progress and figure out next steps. Over the course of the semester I have had meetings with a variety of amazing faculty who have told me about their research, I have selected my own methods for comparison, and I have selected my photos.
My methods for comparison include change in land use, change in sea level, erosion, and industry development. These speak to visual changes in environmental processes. Additionally, many pictures in the African photo database I accessed have descriptive metadata that provides, specific dates, photographers, and locations that could be further researched to locate a more specific modern photographic example.
I will compare the 8 historic images to pictures taken within the last 5 years to assess environmental change. My project will explore the applicability of using images collected from social media sites like Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram for citizen science of environmental change. Pictures posted online could be used in a variety of manners in future research endeavors. For example, there is potential to link social media to remotely sensed images or ground truthing. If changes in sea level could be tracked in pictures taken by tourists and supplemented with remotely sensed images taken over time, this could provide a more accurate and holistic view of change occurred. The potential to use photographs as a dataset in citizen science research projects is realistic, cost effective, and could provide valuable information.
Before the start of Spring Semester I will also need to finalize a list of committee members that will proof read my thesis, be present at my thesis defense, and finally provide final suggestions for edits that I will make to my paper.
I’m feeling really excited (and nervous) about my project! It’s coming together nicely, and I have to credit Dr. Shaffer with being the most amazing advisor ever! She’s been so patient with me and I definitely would not have gotten as far as I have without her expertise. I still have a lot of work to get through. I have to finish selecting my modern photographs, complete my background research on each photograph, actually write up my findings, and start thinking about future directions for the research (is there potential to use Landsat images of erosion and coastlines to study visual change in the environment over time?) Here’s to health, happiness, and getting this project done in the New Year!
Maria submitted this on 15 December 2015. My apologies for the late posting. ~J.Shaffer
by Sarah Strada
This week in our research lab we worked a lot of analyzing the data we have been coding. I am working on the Agency Project which is looking at the relationship between the government and the community on the issues of malaria and wildlife conflict. I quickly realized that analysis is a lot messier than coding! I started by pulling out major themes and separating those on an excel spreadsheet. Then I broke those themes down into more specific themes. I felt like I could have gotten even more specific but then I realized that 3 hours had pasted and I had 3 more codes to analysis. It is really easy to get lost in the analysis but I felt like I noticed things about the data I hadn’t seen before and I felt like I was really beginning to understand it. It was a really rewarding feeling.
After the agency team had gone through all their data once we met to discuss some of the themes we saw. As far as wildlife conflict goes, the overall theme was: fence. The government built a fence to deal with wildlife conflicts, the community felt this fence was of really low quality and it was pointless, and the community thought the best way to solve the wildlife problem was to build a fence . . . fence, fence, fence, so many things about the fence. It really made me want to organize a service trip to Mozambique to build them one the best fences this world has ever seen.
Anyway, after we met we all went through our codes again and started to combine them all onto a single excel spreadsheet for each issue (one for malaria and one for wildlife conflict). Now we were all separating the codes into the same themes so they can be easily combined later. Going through the codes this time, I left a lot more out because at the end of the day I just had to accept that not every interesting thing said adds to the purpose of our paper. This analysis has been difficult but I often found myself unable to pull myself away from it. It felt like a puzzle that I had to finish solving.
Setting boundaries in research is one of the toughest things to learn to do, and not easily teachable. There are all sorts of fun and interesting ways to look at data, and analysis is supposed to generate more questions. However, if a researcher doesn’t narrow down their topic the analysis and final writing can get unmanageable and frustrating. Sometimes the best way to learn is just to dig in and see. ~JS
Our work in the KRAC Lab focuses on how people, households, and communities use their environmental knowledge to respond and adapt to environmental change. We work with rural communities primarily in southern Mozambique. However, Ronga communities are not the only communities facing environmental change, potential natural disaster, and day-to-day emergencies.
Back home, here in the United States, here in Maryland, we face potential threats and deal with emergencies big and small on a daily basis. Heck, getting into the car to go anywhere in the DMV region is like a death wish with the way most people drive.
Rebecca Alberda, a masters student in the KRAC Lab, has been working with START over the past 6 months on the social science side of Maryland and U.S. emergency issues, potential disasters, and terrorist threats. Recently, she participated in an exercise to complete her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification. CERT is a FEMA program that trains local citizens to respond and assist in emergency situations. Prince George’s County has a CERT presence and soon so will the University of Maryland, College Park. It’s all part of UMD’s emergency preparedness plan.
by Maria Sharova
These first few weeks of school have been crazy—between family issues, the GRE, and my amazing new internship at the U.S. Global Change Research Program, I am finding it difficult to sit down and flush out ideas for longer than an hour at a time. But I have made some progress!
When I left off my Independent Project last semester, I had compiled a series of 10 photos from Angola and Mozambique depicting visual change over time—whether it be environmental, political, or economic. This semester, I am working on my honors thesis, which involves the same set of images, but with a different set of questions in mind. I will still be doing a comparison of old pictures to modern images, but I will be focusing on landscape photographs rather than portraits. The main idea I hope to address in my research is that of pictures being a legitimate source of information (in the way that quantitative measurements are). Can images created for non-research purposes be used as scientific evidence for identifying and quantifying environmental change? What changes can be measured based on images we have?
With this set of questions in mind, there are already several aspects of my research that I would like to identify more thoroughly. I would like to solidify my methods for comparing the images I select. What exactly will I be looking for between the old photograph and the new photograph? Erosion? Change in water? Change in crop yield? Change in crop type? This will of course depend on the images I select. Furthermore I would like to identify methods of quantifying that change. Will I be literally taking a ruler to the picture? Most likely not, but how will I quantify change in the photographs? Unlike last year, I am not confining myself to a specific country—instead I am working with the full range of images I have.
I have a few meetings set up with other faculty members who have done some visual anthropology, and I am excited to discuss their methods and projects with them. My project, I feel will be significantly different, since I am viewing my analysis as a form of citizen science, without the citizens knowing that they are participating in research. Social networks and social media can be regarded as an untapped data source. People are constantly taking pictures of the places they visit, so developing a methodology for using those photographs to analyze changing climates could be very interesting and useful to scientists. Here’s to hoping the next few weeks go well!