I have just submitted a post-doc and PhD opportunity for Europeans from partner universities to come work with me in 2016 on multifunctional agriculture, ecosystem services and/or climate adaptation. The academic mobility funding scheme is Nova Domus, a four-year (2013-2017) trans-atlantic consortium under Erasmus Mundus. European partner universities include Bologna, Lund, Glasgow, Leuven and three in Barcelona. These fund six-month post-docs and ten-month PhD visits with travel, health cover, and stipend, all starting Jan-April 2016. Applications open June 15th and close in October. Please get in touch if you are interested in applying to this scheme, based on my statement of interest below.
I do research to understand the intersection of people, landscape and change. At the heart is my interest in improving the natural and cultural function and sustainability of human-modified landscapes (e.g. farms, cities, dam reservoirs, etc.), through understanding how perceptions and values of citizens and managers mesh with ecosystem service provision and trade-offs. The largest vein of my work is in multifunctional agricultural landscapes, towards which I have used quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand farmer landscape values and management in relation to habitat and biodiversity, and trends in global climate. I am interested in working with scholars who are similarly interested in interdisciplinary approaches to the above, using methods such as (but not limited to) decision analysis, statistical modelling, meta-analysis or quantitative surveys. Specific areas of interest include: linking habitat and ecosystem services to farm production and/or rural competitiveness; linking habitat restoration to climate adaptation; and, exploring cultural barriers and conduits for both.
How many of us can fit into a little car?
Yesterday we saw our most recent class of Master of Environmental Studies (MES) and Master of Resource and Environmental Management (MREM) graduands across the stage. Simon Greenland-Smith was among these, receiving his MES for SSHRC-funded research with Annapolis Valley farmers about their wetland perceptions and management practices. I was also pleased to see shining lights from my teaching of environment into the first year of the Bachelor of Management, like Rodney Small, finally receiving their degrees. All six SRES professors were on the stage, an uncommon event. The turnout was caused in part by the reception SRES hosted afterward, marking the graduation of our tenth MREM cohort. Wonderful to welcome our graduands and their friends and family as well as MREM alumni and past employers. We have just completed a survey of MREM alumni with a 37.5% response rate, undertaken to inform a curriculum review. A decade is a great time to reflect on what we do, and how we do it.
What am I doing today? I’m re-interpreting Q-method output for my dykeland study because of a late discovery about how PQMethod identifies ‘defining sorts’. Q-method uses statement-sorting (or photo-sorting, viz Milcu et al. ) to understand the public discourses that exist around a given issue. I seem to be doing quite a lot of it of late with students and colleagues, but this is the first time that I’ve been the analyst. Near-ubiquitous freeware program PQMethod does an outstanding job of providing statistical output that is easily interpreted, but it is important to dig into the manuals to understand the steps it takes along the way. Once factor analysis identifies various discourse ‘types’ based on sorting on a forced-normal distribution, PQMethod helpfully identifies ‘factor-defining’ sorts, which you can use to characterize each one. These are the individuals who sorted similarly, driving that particular ‘archetype’. Using the demographics of these defining sorts to be reflective of a discourse is particularly useful when you have a lot of sorts, which is a new use of Q-method which is not entirely consistent with the rationale behind its design. PQMethod identifies as ‘defining’ those sorts where: (1) The factor explains at least half of the common variance, that is, the factor loading for that particular respondent on a particular factor must be at least half of the variance explained by all factors pulled out of the model for that respondent; and, (2) the loading must be significant at p < .05. However, it also includes in that mix those for which the correlation (the loading) is negative, that is, the complete opposite. Perhaps for a qualitative interpretation of the factors this would be irrelevant, but I designed my concourse of statements such that scores could be derived to summarize perspectives on a range of themes. As folks like me push the method and the software to places it was not intended to go, it behooves us to be careful that we fully understand the tools we are using.
I was reflecting last night about a recent transition that has occurred in my research. After ten years of predominantly qualitative research, albeit increasingly of a semi-quantitative bent (e.g. using theme counts to filter significance), I am currently leading five quantitative surveys. I just finished writing up last year’s Nuisance Nature survey in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and am in the middle of writing up the online Q-method survey undertaken this spring about the future of Acadian dykelands in Nova Scotia in the face of climate change. The new multiple-reminder survey about farm management on marginal land in Nova Scotia is in the design phase, and I am also writing a proposal for baseline social research to be undertaken prior to the restoration of the Big Marsh Bog on Brier Island, drained back in the 1950s. Finally, as Academic Program Coordinator here at SRES, I am leading a review of our internship-based Master of Resource and Environmental Management, and our alumni survey is still in the field. This doesn’t include my peripheral engagement in quantitative survey and Q-method work led by others, for instance, around energy knowledge and discourses. If this is not a methodological blip, I will need to polish up my stats skills.
I just finished a week at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, which Dalhousie was lucky to host this year thanks to some SSHRC funding. This was a spur-of-the-moment decision, faced with an underspend in my personal development allowance. The course was on Knowledge Mobilization and Digital Media, which is certainly not limited in relevance to the Humanities. In recent years I have been increasingly looking to ‘new media’ to provide useful summaries of scholarly work and other useful tools to the public. I’m not getting corporate money, but public, so this only seems fair. Yet it has been difficult to tell the story of how these connect to my scholarly work, and make them available in a centralized place. Our instructor for the week, Irish writer, publisher, and general digital media-whisperer James O’Sullivan, converted me to the art of self-curation after he recovered from his surprise at having me in the room (‘You mean you’re not a humanist?!’). This website was my first project, a welcome opportunity to convert my painfully compiled tenure package to a professional profile. Thanks, James and fellow students, for the learning and good humour. I hope this is able to be offered out east again.