I had the immense pleasure and privilege of working with Will Steffen when I was a PhD student and postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies then Fenner School of Environment and Sustainability at the Australian National University, 2004-2010. He was a rock star in the world of climate science even then, innovating on the Anthropocene and planetary boundaries, but always had time to talk and laugh as well as to mentor and lead. So sad to hear that pancreatic cancer took him this week. A massive loss to the people and the planet. Vale, Will.
Term is well underway, now, with the third week of lectures done. Two great classes of students are spending 3 hours a week with me talking about Qualitative Data Analysis and the Socio-Political Dimensions of NRM (and one poor fellow is spending 6 hours as he is in both). In admidst there are the usual milestones being met. Proposal writing for some (Emily S and Paria), data generation for others (Brooke, Lara), knee-deep data analysis for Sam (see above), writing thesis chapters/papers (Yan, Kate) and comprehensives (Keahna) including MES defense prep for Emily W, and papers finally coming out for some already completed (Mehrnoosh, stay tuned for upcoming posts). It will be a busy term but nice to look forward to a research-intensive sabbatical year starting July 1.
In addition, and the real reason for this post, there has been a lot of great news coming about my lab members recently. I learned that current MES Samantha Howard was named one of Starfish’s Top 25 under 25. I also heard that current IDPhD Kate Thompson has been hired as a 3-year limited term appointment in the School of Planning, starting this term. It’s reference-check season so I can see lots of progress among completed lab members, and it’s always exciting to watch them launch so smoothly.
As the winter term starts, there is not a lot of time for me to spend reflecting on my wonderful Christmas holiday in Australia. A few landscape highlights are in order, however, so I will paste a few of them below.
One thing I saw that I particularly wanted to highlight here was the above plaque in Sydney. I’m always interested in landscape change, and this is the first time I’ve seen this kind of public record of past land uses of a particular site. In rural contexts, past landscape versions are usually still legible in later iterations, but in cities that is not the case, so making it explicit in this way feels interesting. I don’t know whose decision it was, but I didn’t notice any others.
This plaque reminds me of a great radio documentary by Craig Desson and Acey Rowe I heard on CBC a few years ago, called “Whose Condo Is It, Anyway?” (54 mins, a related CBC First Person article is here). Desson bought a condo and found himself wondering if he really owned it, and tracked all previous recorded uses of his land parcel, and ended up questioning the whole idea of ownership in a treaty context.