Friday, July 24, 2015

Updates on 2014 LAKES REU Alumni

We have received many inquiries about how all of last year's students are doing now.  They set the stage for all the amazing research we are doing this summer, and we are very grateful.  I asked them to send along updates that I could put on our blog.  They are all quite busy, but those who were able to send an update (in the quick week turnaround I gave them) are offered here.  We are so proud of all of them!!  

Alison Anson

When I first received a spot in the LAKES program, I was overwhelmed with pride and excitement. The program has offered so much more for me than I could ever imagine.
When this summer started, I began to miss the time I spent in Menomonie and the great work we did. But I wasn't worried for too long, because I knew the program would be in good hands with a new batch of brilliant students!

A lot has changed since my time at the LAKES program. I graduated in December 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Sociology and Political Science. I was accepted to the Master's program at Colorado State University for Sociology, and will be starting this fall (along with being a Teaching Assistant and on a stakeholder committee for the City of Fort Collins, I will have a very full plate).

Having six months between my undergraduate and graduate degree has given me time to better understand what I can do with my academic and research experience.

I have been working at an Energy Institute as a project coordinator and research assistant. The project I'm working on is called the Smart Village Minigrid Team and we are building a laboratory to test minigrid technology (electricity that is harnessed and distributed off-grid in a remote location). Most minigrids harness renewable energy such as solar, wind, or hydro.  Ultimately, the goal is to distribute the technology that is developed here to rural areas in developing countries where new energy solutions are needed most. Our project team is also conducting a interdisciplinary household survey. So not only do I get to learn new things in the energy field, but I also get to apply my sociology experience with survey work and questionnaire development. 
Much like the LAKES program, our team gathers people from many disciplines (in this case we are working in the fields of engineering, economics, communication, sociology, anthropology, business, and design) to try to find the most effective solution. If you're curious about the project you can find it here:

It has been great for me to continue to see the direct connection between people and their environment.

On a more personal level, I am pleased to announce that following a very serious bike accident in April (a broken leg in three places), I am back on the Colorado trails and am recovering very quickly. I am also co-captaining a kickball team through my work building in the fall (it still remains to be seen if I am recovered enough for that).

1. Back on the trails of Colorado, hiking Mills Lake in Estes Park, Colorado.

2. Working with a coworker, chopping metal frames to build structures for the Smart Village Laboratory.

Matthew Flyr

A year after finishing LAKES, I’ve just finished another summer research program. This time, I focused on how to better communicate economic ideas through writing. I studied some of the great current nonfiction writers, read about the craft of creative nonfiction writing, and then incorporated that research into some of my own economic writing. As part of this, I actually rewrote a white paper I had done last summer summarizing the results of my LAKES research. My final presentation, which I gave just last week, was titled "Writing Economics: compelling storytelling in a world of facts.” Nice title, right? I’m going to try to use some of the honors program budget at my home institution to take this research to conferences next year. 

I’ve been up to a lot, but the LAKES work has never really stopped. Soon after the program ended, I presented my work at a symposium of other REU students. Then, this last March, Ali and Cassie and I all presented our results at the Association for Applied Anthropology Annual meeting (which I will never forget because they email me a LOT. Also it was a lot of fun. Pittsburgh is better than you think).

Looking to the future...I am about to take the GREs, and then will be filling out my applications for PhD programs in environmental economics and public policy (thanks to LAKES for helping me find my passion for environmental policy!). Still narrowing down the list, but George Washington, American, and maybe Johns Hopkins will likely be the ones. We will see. 

Other than that, I’ve been running and biking for miles and miles and miles, reading a ton, writing page after page, looking after my two zebra finches (Leopold and Ulysses, who are still babies—picture below), and sailing and kayaking. 

I’m REALLY excited to see all the results from this year’s round of projects. Especially those econ ones. I might be biased, but econ is definitely the best discipline. And most interesting. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Kyle Corcoran

I am now a senior Western Carolina University studying Geology with a focus in hydrology. Currently, I am working on my second REU at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest located in New Hampshire designing my senior thesis that I will then conduct in the southeast.

I plan on studying the sources of Dissolved Organic Carbon in shallow bedrock areas and potentially nitrogen isotopes and DOM quality.

Lauren L'Esperance

I am so impressed with all that the team has undertaken and also very happy that you are continuing the farmer project within the watershed. I read through the surveys and they look great. I'm applauding everyone that's out canvassing because we know how difficult it is to get people to take the surveys, but I have to say I must also applaud my group for getting the name out there. It was amazing to see the turnout at the Raw Deal, as you know.

Aquidneck Land Trust is the local land trust that conserves approx. 2,500 acres of forest, farmland, parks, and other types of open space with vital conservation values (i.e. properties with prime farmland soils, adjacent to water resources, biodiversity, etc.). The mission of the organization is to preserve the natural and scenic character of the Island (are you familiar with Newport, RI? That is our territory). ALT purchases the development rights to parcels and places a conservation easement on the land. Surprisingly, many farmers like conservation easements around here, unlike Wisconsin.

I am doing two things with ALT. First, I am monitoring their conservation properties to ensure that the conservation values are being preserved. Second, I am working as a contracted researcher to help develop a Farmland Protection Plan for the Island. We are aiming to determine how farmers use their land and how we can keep this farmland in production, inevitably strengthening the local food system. I am using my LAKES skills to develop a survey that inquires about farmers' BMP usage, incentives, succession plans, and values. My coworkers think I'm some sort of Survey Goddess and Farmer Whisperer...well, I'm not going to disagree with them ;).

So, in short, everyday I'm moving closer to my goals and hope to be living on a tropical island soon (just kidding.....?).

Keep me posted and let me know how I can help out!! I haven't strayed far from the topics you're working on, so my head's still in the right place. Perhaps I'll consider writing something up this Fall, depending on if I start a graduate program in GIS or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment