Landrovers, researchers and penguins on a Falklands beach, January 2015 (photo: Carlos Andrade Amaya)
A Canadian program called Mitacs Globalink brings high-achieving upper-year undergraduate students to Canada to work with researchers for 12 weeks. Eligible countries this year include Australia (a new addition), Brazil, China, France, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Vietnam. Applications are now open here for North American summer 2016 (closing Sept 24, 2015). It is a great program: it is currently funding Joy Wang to work in my lab monitoring tree cover under grazing via Google Earth Pro. For Summer 2016 I have submitted opportunities for two students on my new sustainable tourism landscapes and seascapes research work in the Falklands (see also here, if you are looking for a Masters project in this area). Broadly, one project is on spatial science, land cover and ecology, and the other related to ecotourism, visual sociology and social media. I am looking forward to interviewing this year’s crop of applicants later this fall. A summary of the above project (#7229) follows, but for more details, go to the Mitacs Globalink website.
The Falkland Islands are a remote British Overseas Territory east of Patagonia with a limited and contested land mass, unique ecosystem (including five species of penguins), and a historical reliance on renewable ecosystem goods and services to support its people, particularly grazing and fishing. Cruise ship tourism has become an increasingly important part of the local economy, and more recently, oil and gas exploration offshore has led to development for extraction. These four sectors interconnect in interesting and challenging ways and all have impacts on the local community and supporting ecosystems. I am using social and spatial methods to explore these landscape issues.
Two research projects within this larger domain are based on existing and secondary datasets and appropriate for involvement by short-term undergraduate research projects. The first is the use of existing GIS and aerial/satellite imagery going back 60 years to explore the impact on land cover of increasing numbers of tours to the King Penguin rookery at Volunteer Point. Poor transportation infrastructure outside of the main town of Stanley means that such tours are undertaken in Landrovers, sometimes tens of them at a time, which often fan out to avoid becoming bogged in peat. Specifically, is repeated vehicle traffic increasing the amount of ponding in the peatlands being traversed, or otherwise changing vegetation cover? Can such patterns be linked to visitor numbers?
The second project will use social media to explore perceptions of the Falklands land and seascape as oil and gas exploration begins. Software can be used to extract rich observations in the form of text and photo from Twitter and Instagram, using either hashtags or geotags. These data can be analyzed to explore the visibility of oil and gas infrastructure, and understand perceived tradeoffs that this industry presents for the community, ecology and economy.
SRES is launching a new strategic internal scholarship scheme this fall that invites high quality MES applicants for potential September 2016 intake to offer up around a set of departmental priority research areas. Interdisciplinary-minded students with high GPA and a passion for independent research are being invited to get in touch with professors about individual projects. Mine is related to my new work in the Falkland Islands. The description is below. If you have similar interests and meet the above description, please get in touch with me. The full list of projects is online.
The Falkland Islands are a British Overseas Territory east of Patagonia with a limited and contested land mass, unique ecosystem, and a historical reliance on fishing and grazing. Cruise ship tourism is a growing part of the local economy, however, and oil and gas exploration offshore has led to development for extraction. These four sectors interconnect in interesting and challenging ways and all have impacts on the local community and supporting ecosystems. The project will use social media to explore local and visitor perceptions of the Falklands land and seascape as oil and gas exploration begins. Software can be used to extract rich observations in the form of text and photo from Twitter and Instagram, using either hashtags or geotags. These data can be analyzed qualitatively to explore the visibility of oil and gas infrastructure, and understand perceived trade-offs that this industry presents for the community, ecology and economy.
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.
Holistic management (HM) is an approach to grazing decision-making based on explicit goal-setting and careful monitoring, often characterized by native pastures and high-intensity but short-duration rotational grazing. Science is bitterly divided on its utility: experimental scientists see no benefits from the constituent practices in controlled experiments, while management-oriented agricultural scientists report benefits at the farm scale. To date, producer experience and perceptions have been neglected, but also untested in appropriate ways. My new project combines quantitative and qualitative social and information science methods, grounded with insights from agricultural science, to help resolve the schism: drawing a comprehensive picture of a polarized field of study; establishing the value of qualitative methods and producer perceptions in agricultural science; and, exploring HM as a viable climate adaptation strategy for the Canadian Prairies.
We have begun with some bibliometric work to understand the structure of the holistic management literature, and its many variants, which is being led by joint Masters of Resource and Environmental Management/Master of Library and Information Studies student Carlisle Kent as her summer internship. She is based out of Anatoliy Gruzd’s Social Media Lab at Ryerson – thanks, Anatoliy!
We are recruiting for other student roles, including one to be based at the University of Alberta, with John Parkins and Edward Bork, to study Prairie HM trainers, their students, non-HM producers and experts/scholars using quantitative methods and cognitive mapping to understand and compare world views and decision-making. Please contact one of us if you are interested.