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
In foraging online, I’ve discovered a number on links to plant identification and information sites. In the effort to share I have posted these links below. As you can see, it isn’t an exhaustive list. These are materials that I and my student research assistants use regularly to check spellings of scientific names, determine if native or not, and verify growth form. Some of the sites give additional information about range, habitat, and use value to humans and other species.
World Collections Websites
- Kew Gardens – Plants of the World online – robust use section, particularly for medicines. Not a big focus on common names.
- Global Plants on JSTOR – digitized global collections, historic materials, specimens, herbaria
- iDigBio – Integrated Digitized Biocollections Homepage – more than just plants, although plants dominate the media records
- iDigBio Portal – online specimen record access
- Pl@ntUse – online wiki with over 50,000 plant species
- Botanic Garden Meise – BR Herbarium Catalogue – the herbarium has three main geographical divisions, the African (Central Africa focus), Belgian and General Collections
- Missouri Botanical Gardens
Southern Africa Focused Websites
- South African National Biodiversity Institute
- Flora of Mozambique
- Flora of Zimbabwe
- Flora of Botswana
- Plants of Namibia (Oxford)
- Flora of Zambia
- Swaziland’s Flora Database
- Dressler, S., Schmidt, M. & Zizka, G. 2014 + [continously updated]. African Plants – A Photo Guide
If you know of or regularly use other related websites, please send along. I would be happy to add to our list.
Last summer I challenged myself to use Twitter’s social media platform (@jin_verde) to get more information out about the work I do as an ecological & environmental anthropologist. I’m not sure I did a great job promoting my own work – mainly focused on climate change and biodiversity conservation. But I have been consistent in highlighting what scientists in my field do and how they contribute to supporting the well-being of individuals and communities. (And the work of scientists in related fields.) I love finding and sharing success stories, useful links, and serendipitous findings. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad news when it comes to climate change and biodiversity conservation. Finding these bright points I like to share is a little more difficult, but so necessary.
It is needed as part of our larger efforts as scientists to share our knowledge and results more publicly. If the federal government is no longer willing to promote science to the public, then we need to do so ourselves. Many already are, but more of us need to be involved because federal agencies are wiping important public information off their websites under orders of their new heads. My goal then this summer is to publish a short essay every two weeks about my research, ideas I’m working on, ecological anthropology methods and processes, and environmental/climate information. I posting this here so that I can shame myself when I don’t follow through.
But there are other ways for scientists, science teachers, and science supporters to get involved, be heard, and make our scientific work known for the benefit of all living beings on this planet. Last Saturday I Marched for Science with my husband and another scientist friend, a marine ecologist, in the cold rain. Yesterday, I braved record-breaking heat (91F, plus humidity) to participate in the People’s Climate March. It’s 2017. Why do I need to do this? The GOP-led Congress and Trump Administration are pushing our shared planet America first into a dystopic nightmare in the name of Free Market Capitalism. Or Capitalismo Brutal as my husband would say. Resisting actions that place our life support systems – land, air, water – at risk is important. For years we’ve been told to take personal action to reduce those risks at the individual level (e.g. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), but standing together as a public, as a community, and resisting short-sighted ignorance is equally important.
Last weekend, scientists around the world took the fight for science to the streets. We can also call our legislators, run for office, hold teach ins and give public lectures. Most importantly we can keep doing science. #ScienceNotSilence
There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest base of public happiness.
-President George Washington, 8 Jan 1790, 1st State of the Union Address to Congress
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
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 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!