Over the course of the summer the 10 REU students have the opportunity to explore not only their own research topics, but also each of the the other 4 topics. I have had the privilege of working with the sociologists and the anthropologists so far and each has been a great experience. Getting the opportunity to see how a social scientist conducts their research, as someone in the natural sciences, has been an enlightening and enjoyable experience. For the anthropology group, I assisted in some of the transcribing process. This consisted of receiving an audio file of an interview and transcribing it verbatim to a word document. Our anthropologists have made clear that this is the most mundane and trivial of the work that they do, but for me it was right up my alley. Though it may have been repetitive for those who conducted the interview and already heard it, I had the ability to sit in on important discussions that were happening regarding the topics of land practices and water quality. Additionally, due to the precision needed for accurate transcriptions, I got to hear the conversation thoroughly enough to understand it deeply. If I was confused, I could just re-wind the recording and hear the exact phrasing or inflection a second or third time. Hearing the social side and policy work mentioned in this interview strengthened what I am learning about, because whatever our findings are will directly impact the potential phosphorus indices for local citizens or other land maintenance ordinances.
Though this transcribing task may have been simple, its implications are not. The complexity of environmental issues are almost impossible to view from a single perspective. Luckily, multiple and interconnected perspectives only helps to strengthen it as an issue because it offers stronger, more pervasive, and hopefully preventative solutions with so many minds tackling the issue in so many ways. Today, we had the opportunity to meet with the Young African Fellows, a group of 25 young leaders from a variety of African countries. These individuals in my discussion group kept emphasizing the strength of our research, the science behind it, the nature of people, and the global pervasiveness of environmental issues. Ultimately, with interdisciplinary work, as most of these individuals were businesspeople and entrepreneurs, we were able to connect, receive feedback and suggestions, and encouragement in how to move forward. They provided multiple contacts and references to move forward and get our findings out there to hopefully influence others in a variety of fields. Regardless of what the problem or work is, having the interdisciplinary perspective that this experience has provided is important and something to be valued in any field.