One of our early ideas for what became Observation and Ecology was to have the book be an edited volume of contributions from graduate students. Our thinking was that much of the change that we are seeing in the science of ecology—the greater interest in applied studies, the breaking of disciplinary barriers, and the use of networked technologies to share observations broadly—is being driven by students who don’t want to wait “until they’ve made a reputation for themselves” (as I was instructed by professors in my graduate program) until they could try to make a difference in the world.
Ultimately, we decided to write a through-written volume, but we continue to be inspired by fantastic graduate student works that take an observational, holistic, and applied approach to science. I am particularly well exposed to such works by being at the University of Arizona—which has a strong history of applied interdisciplinary science—and especially as a faculty mentor for our Carson Scholars program. The Carson Scholars are 8-12 graduate students in some kind of environmental science selected every year from across the entire university. They have to show in their application a commitment to interdisciplinary environmental science and a desire to communicate about their science broadly. Every year our Carson Scholars include a different mix of students but they have included optical engineers, ecologists, historians, civil engineers, climatologists, soil scientists, and English scholars.
Recently, I was excited to see the work of one of our scholars, Ashwin Naidu a wildcat ecologist, featured in a piece for PLoS Citizen Science blog that he wrote with another Carson Scholar, English studies Ph.D. candidate Kenny Walker. Ashwin’s work on endangered tigers combines so many of the things we write about in Observation and Ecology—citizen science, cross-generational learning, multi-directional knowledge sharing, and unbeatably stunning imagery of nature (tigers!) that will undoubtedly draw more citizens into this vitally important work. I could tell the whole story here, but one of the goals of our Carson Scholars program is to train early career scientists in various forms of communication, and I’ll think you’ll find in reading their blog, these two are as adept at telling a great story about science than just about anyone out there.