Each year our department hosts a student research conference, Anthroplus, at the University of Maryland. Only graduate and undergraduate students may participate as presenters of either papers, speed talks, or posters. It’s kind of nice to sit back and see what the students can do – both the awesome and the cringe-worthy*. It is good practice for students in a safe setting, and I generally encourage all the students who work with me to participate.
From PASA’s soliciting email:
The Practicing Anthropologist Student Association will be hosting its 6th Annual Student Conference, Anthro+ on Saturday, 11 April 2015. The theme of this year’s conference is A World Made Safe for Differences: Addressing Diversity in the Discipline. For those unfamiliar, this conference is an opportunity for students of anthropology and related disciplines to present a broad range of research, often in nontraditional ways. Registration is free. Abstracts should be submitted by 1 March 2015. As the conference develops, we will post updates on the Anthro+ website. If you should have any questions, concerns, or comments, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Bear in mind that the cringe-worthy can be because of bad research, bad presentation, or that the individual just chokes getting up in front of people and you feel awful for them. And as an adviser/research supervisor, if my student is cringe-worthy, that means I need to step in with my mentoring of their learning and research.
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 Bryan Gerard
As the summer ended and the fall semester began, it was time to begin our research with Dr. Shaffer. The research team began to meet to discuss the direction of the study and learn what would be expected in this lab. During the first two weeks we were provided the opportunity to practice both inductive and deductive coding. However, this past Friday, 9/26, we decided to break up the research into several projects (Wildlife Conflict, Health, Indicators of Change, and Agency — also Local Mapping of the Social-Ecological System and GIS). Dr. Shaffer differentiated these projects to enable the research assistants to gain experience in fields that interest us. More importantly, the various projects, while seemingly diverse, also exemplify the interconnectedness of the challenges in an area experiencing a plethora of social and environmental changes.
However, before we focus on the varied projects, we are all coding interviews about wildlife conflict. This has become a major issue for the local population and Mozambican government as elephants from the neighboring reserve have wreaked havoc on the local community, destroying crops, homes, and in several cases killing humans. This work will then be used to write a report for the Mozambican government – which will ideally highlight where and how to make changes.
Our lab’s masters students have begun their summer research projects.
Rebecca is close to home at START. She is based out of College Park, but will be working in Washington, DC. Rebecca sent me an updated proposal last week with an extensive section on risk, vulnerability and risk communication. The work she does now on the lit review will come in handy for discussion at her internship but also during her internship write-up.
Alyssa has left the continent. She is posting to a blog, Seahawk in the Gambia, while in the field. I hope she enjoys herself. Alyssa’s proposal was ambitious – always good – but Africa is Africa. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. I look forward though to reading about a place I have not been to but have heard much about.
Jordan is still with me in College Park. With my dad’s illness and death, our departure date was set back two weeks. In the end it has all worked out because it gives us a little more time to prep. We’re both going to try and post from the field to this blog over the June/July field season.
Both Katie Chen and Raquel Fleskes successfully defended their honor’s theses. Katie’s thesis explored food security and how differences in data sets at the national and local levels could affect food aid. Raquel’s thesis involved the creation and analysis of new lab activities for a new course in our department – ANTH 222: Introduction to Ecological and Evolutionary Anthropology.
Chen, K. 2014. A comparison between local and national data: how food security definitions, dimensions and interpretations can impact aid. Honors Thesis written for the Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland. 38 pp.
Organizations around the world define “food security” in a variety of ways, but usually derive their version from the World Food Summit in 1996. Food security from this meeting is defined “as existing when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. This definition varies from organization to organization, and in this thesis I to compare the definitions from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to understand how the definitions are shaped and how this impacts the information they collect. In an extensive search through documents, survey data, reports and published works, I found that the surveys conducted may not give an adequate idea of what food security is. I also compare Dr. Shaffer’s socio-economic household survey conducted in Tanzania to the information collected by the FAO to see if the datasets are comparable and representative of food security definitions.
Fleskes, R. 2014. Facilitating a deep learning approach for university students in an interdisciplinary lab setting: a case study approach to the formulation of the Introducation to Ecological and Evolutionary laboratory course at the University of Maryland. Honors Thesis written for the Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland. 171 pp.
In interdisciplinary higher education, the challenge for educators is to understand how to design a curriculum that teaches course material effectively, while still encouraging deep learning and interdisciplinary thinking in the classroom. We present a case-study illustrating how this was accomplished for the Introduction to Ecological and Evolutionary Anthropology (IEEA) laboratory course at the University of Maryland. Laboratory session styles varied between activity-based, discussion, station, and out-of-the-classroom formats and contained critical thinking and application-based questions. A pre- and post-test on learning objectives were distributed at the beginning, middle, and end of one academic semester to assess if students were learning course material. Additionally, student opinion surveys on the quality of the laboratory course were distributed to assess student-perceived effectiveness of the course. Over three academic semesters, laboratory activities were either modified or implemented, leading to improvement in the student opinion survey. The IEEA curriculum design provides framework for how educators in higher education can enhance course effectiveness and student opinions to facilitate deeper learning and interdisciplinary thinking for in their classrooms. [a good portion of the thesis is appendices containing the labs and related materials]