Where I’m Going

Apr 8, 2016 | 0 comments

Wren Loop trail _1.JPGThese days I often make the entirely false assumption that everyone else knows what I’m doing just as well as — if not better than — I do. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I’m beginning to think that the more I fill my head with academic information, the rest of my normal-functioning rationality is being ousted somewhere in the process, leaving me sometimes floundering to remember how to have regular-person thought processes.  See? Already, this opening paragraph is demonstrating my point. What I really came here to do was provide the short, in-a-nutshell, elevator speech version of my graduate thesis topic to enlighten all those who have been patiently asking me. I have been putting off blogging about it for two reasons. The first is partially confidentiality — I didn’t want to announce it until I was pretty sure it was actually happening, and what parts of it I could talk about at this stage. And the second is the fact that my topic is still in its very early, unrefined stages and WILL be changing a lot in the next couple months. But, that said, here is my 2-sentence abstract:
Successfully understanding and dealing with the effects of climate change in Alaska requires strong interdisciplinary collaboration between the natural sciences and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Using as a central case study a partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Native Village of Eyak managing the Copper River Chinook salmon fishery, my research aims to explore the role of environmental communication in the interface between Western science, and indigenous and local knowledge.
To unpack this a little, what I am looking to do is explore the connections between Western science and TEK/local knowledge using the tools and practices of environmental communication. I will be conducting qualitative research to determine:
  • How, why, and to what degree is communication working between indigenous knowledge and Western scientific research here?
  • Where does environmental knowledge come from in this community?
  • What are the varieties of the community’s values regarding climate change and scientific research happening around the area?
As if this job isn’t complex enough, I will be going up with a team of undergraduates and faculty from the university to produce short documentaries and multimedia pieces about climate change,  and will put these on an interactive map to spatially display the stories of the community. I’m also going to be employing decolonizing methodologies (as a non-indigenous researcher studying indigenous populations) and as much community based participatory research as I can. Wren Loop trail macro.JPGOf course, my two biggest critiques from my advisers so far are that A) the project is way too broad (but it’s better than it was about a month ago, trust me!), and B) the scope of it is fit for a PhD project, not Master’s level. Nonetheless, everyone has been incredibly supportive and encouraging, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be able to do this (with some more refining). Just today I got the travel portion of my project funded(!!!), and now just need to seek funding for the smaller costs that will be associated with the research. Things are coming together, and I am stoked. Also terrified. But mostly stoked. This is exactly what I want to be doing, and I am so fortunate to be in a position — academically, and personally in my life — where this is possible. I will try to provide updates when I have time, but the next 8 weeks are going to be filled with IRB applications, funding proposals, preliminary field projects, and work on an unrelated (but also really cool!) documentary film. Please someone send me super-human powers so I can get through these next few weeks! :-O


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