Tiger Beat

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.



About Rafe

Rafe Sagarin is a marine ecologist and environmental policy analyst at the University of Arizona. In both his science and policy work, Sagarin connects basic observations of nature to issues of broad societal interest, including conservation biology, protecting public trust resources, and making responses to terrorism and other security threats more adaptable. Dr. Sagarin is a recipient of a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship and has recently published two books, Learning from the Octopus (Basic Books, March 2012) and Observation and Ecology (Island Press, July 2012), which show how nature observation--when extended across large scales and enhanced with both new technologies and greater deference to traditional knowledge sources—is revealing profound new insights about our dynamic social and ecological world. He was a Geological Society of America Congressional Science Fellow in the office of U.S. Representative (and later U.S. Secretary of Labor) Hilda Solis. He has taught ecology and environmental policy at Duke University, California State University Monterey Bay, Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles and University of Arizona. His research has appeared in Science, Nature, Conservation Biology, Ecological Monographs, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security Affairs and other leading journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the editor, with Terence Taylor of the volume Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World (2008, University of California Press).
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