Science Communication and National Geographic

Sadly, it was not my research that was featured by National Geographic. As Dave recently found out, one of the benefits – or possibly curses depending on your perspective – of studying charismatic megafauna (particularly a species that is threatened by climate change) is that people actually pay attention to your research. A couple of weeks ago, while I was all excited about my lab’s work being published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environmental, Dave had to “one-up” me.

Dave’s Nightmare (from PhD Comics)

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Another Summer, Another Field Season

First new blog post in over a month!  My 6th round of grad school-related summer field work started on July 1st and I feel like June was sucked into some sort of field work preparation black hole.  For the last two weeks of June, I spent pretty much every waking minute preparing for one of the most involved projects that I have worked on thus far.  Usually the data collection needs on my projects require one or two protocols and a few weeks of work.  My latest project, however, requires 6 separate data collection techniques and since I will be leaving a (very capable) field crew up there for two months to take care of most of the data collection I had to be extremely organized this year.   But I will try to not complain about all the work too much – really I should feel privileged that I’ll get to travel to Grand Teton National Park every other week.

The Teton Range from Heron Lake (Coulter Bay area).

The Teton Range from Heron Lake (Coulter Bay area).

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The Life of Grad Students: Field Equipment Testing

My semester ended the first week of May. For many students, the end of a semester signals the beginning of summer and a time of relaxation.  For myself and Dave the end of the semester signals one of the busiest times of the year for both of us – the field season. Dave’s field work is a bit more intense than mine. As mentioned in previous posts, he spends his field seasons in a remote arctic field camp on the Hudson Bay studying various aspects of the ecosystem. Every year Dave leaves at the end of May and returns to Utah towards the end of August. Weekly, brief satellite phone calls are our only means of communication. Meanwhile, while Dave is trying to keep from getting eaten by a polar bear and/or swarms of mosquito, I spend chunks of my summer doing field work in whatever national park or protected area I have a project. This year, starting around July 1, I will be alternating my time between home in Logan and Grand Teton National Park.  I will be trying to not get eaten by a grizzly bear, gored by a moose, or driven insane by summer park visitors.

The lull between the end of the semester and the start of field work is usually taken up by days and days of field work preparations including ordering equipment, organizing gear, and testing equipment.  Most of the time this work is boring and a bit of a hassle but this year Dave made testing some of his field equipment a bit more fun. Dave will be taking more than few high quality game cameras into the field this summer to examine predator/prey interactions.  Having never used these cameras before, Dave brought a few home and decided a good way to familiarize himself with their use was to try them out on our cats!

Capturing Fern's inner demon at the food bowls.

Capturing Fern’s inner demon at the food bowls.

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Research activities as a means of protection?

My research focuses on the ecological consequences of tourism and visitor use to parks and protected areas. The activities that I am interested in are all legal uses of parks and protected areas and the negative consequences of tourism that concern me are those that are the result of carelessness or ignorance.  However, the integrity of parks and protected areas – both in the United States  and abroad – are threatened by illegal actions as well. Poaching, logging, and illegal encroachment are of great concern for protected areas around the world.  While researching issues of national security on federal lands, I came across an interesting opinion piece published this year (online only at the time of writing this post) in Trends in Ecology and Evolution by  William Laurance; a professor out of Australia with a research focus on conservation biology. In the piece, Laurance speculates that the mere action of doing research in protected areas may have the added benefit of safeguarding the area.

Evidence of illegal logging activities in Mt. Cagua protected area

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The Survey Experience: Perspectives from an Introvert

I have a confession to make. I am an introvert.  I did not always realize I was an introvert, I used to think I was just shy or maybe quiet. But a few years ago, I stumbled across the Caring for Your Introvert by Jonathan Rauch (I highly recommend reading the article in its entirety). The article described me perfectly:

“Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk?”

Yes! Me!

According to Rauch:

“Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic…rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.”

I know that sounds bad but it’s nothing personal. I don’t find individual people tiring, social settings are just draining for me. Honestly, sometimes I am as exhausted after a large-scale social situation as I am after a CrossFit workout (hopefully not as sweaty though – unless there was dancing involved).  I need at least a couple of nights a week to myself to even consider willingly attending social events and I am one of those people who after 2 or 3 hours at a party really just needs to go home and take a nap. But at the same time, I do not get nervous giving a presentation or teaching a class of 90 students and overall, I think that I am a pretty approachable person and very social in small groups. I do still enjoy large social settings, going to parties, and hanging out with friends, I just need a “rest” day in-between such events.

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Another year of field work completed

On Friday, after a 9 hr drive and a two hour stop in Fort Collins, I returned to Logan from my summer field work in Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest. The field work went amazingly well but it was hard being gone for three weeks when I have so much data analysis to do this summer.  Doing “real work” after a day of field work was difficult and usually I spent my evenings making raw/paleo dessert with my field tech, reading the ” A Song of Ice and Fire” series, or trying to work on the sweater that I am knitting myself.  As my first post back, here is a pictorial summary of how I spent the past three weeks. Enjoy!

View from the Mt. Bierstadt trail

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Desperate for Climbers in Joshua Tree NP

I just returned from another week of surveying visitors in Joshua Tree National Park. This project has taught me an important lesson – visit your trailheads before attempting to survey there! Unfortunately, I had never been to Joshua Tree National Park before the proposal for the grant was due and therefore I had to do my survey sampling design “blind”. I had no idea how many people visited the trailheads that I wanted to sample or how popular the trailheads were for climbers. All I had to go on when designing the study was a general ranking of the most popular places in the park.

Surveying ended a day early after a cold front and storm rolled into town.

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