Friday, July 17, 2015

Shameless Self-Promotion and Interdisciplinarity

Speaking with as little bias as possible, I think this program is really cool.  Honestly, much cooler than I was expecting.  I knew vaguely coming here that we would be studying phosphorous pollution in the lake and that there would be several teams of students of different disciplines.  I did not expect us to work so closely with the community or with each other though.

They let me drive! (yikes)
Last week the biologists were kind enough to let me and Megan follow them around and take up seats in their boat.  They taught us economists how to take water tests and explained to us why they were measuring certain variables.  All summer they have been carefully collecting data on two forms of phosphorus, ammonium and nitrate (forms of nitrogen), turbidity, and cholorphyll.  I learned that they use chlorophyll measurements as a way to monitor algae growth, and that they look at nitrogen as well as phosphorous to gain a better understanding of whether nitrogen runoff is also a contributing factor to the problem.

While I had a great time cruising around with the biologists (especially when Steve let me drive), I did not appreciate how important understanding their portion of the project was until I was canvassing that weekend.  Last Saturday Megan and I set up a table at the farmer's market to try to lure people over and get them to take our survey.  In the process of doing this we answered a lot of questions that were completely unrelated to economics.  The ultimate question that everyone is asking of course is, what is the solution?  It was important that we be able to explain what the biologists were doing and how this was leading to a better understanding of the problem which would ultimately lead to a solution.  We then had to explain the same thing about our own and the other groups' projects.  Having gone out on the water earlier that week with the biologists and participating a little in their project made me much more confident doing this.  What's cool about this project and working in this community is that it forces you to do this-- it forces you to think about the interdisciplinarity of this problem and to convey the importance of this to other people.


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