Thursday, November 08, 2007


The name of my degree is really long and weird: Human Dimensions in Ecosystem Science and Management. The goal of the degree (this is what I think so far...) is to really study and consider the interactions of humans and the environment. I am interested in water issues, both water quantity and water quality (but I haven't really defined my dissertation project yet...).

This degree is pretty different from my geology degrees, which consisted of straight-up biophysical science. Sometimes I feel a little out of place in the more social science aspect of my new degree, but I have noticed (at the GSA conference, for example) that I am most attracted to research projects that have a human element to it - projects that work to solve human problems with the environment.

I was reminded today of a conversation I had at GSA with a very interesting, dynamic woman geologist. We were talking about climate change and somehow we got on the topic of New Orleans. In her opinion, we should not be spending so much money to "rebuild" New Orleans, because the city is below sea-level (our doing since we do not allow the Mississippi River to be connected to its floodplain and resupply the land with sediment) and it's in a hurricane prone area (climate change or no climate change). Instead, she believes that we should be spending our money to help the people of New Orleans adapt and move away from this poorly planned city.

To a group of geologists, this makes total sense. But then I started thinking about New Orleans and its uniqueness. To the people who are from there, their identity is embedded in New Orleans - this weird, crazy place that probably only natives can really understand. Take away New Orleans and we take away who these people are. It's a difficult problem. I can see and understand both the physical science and social science views. I really don't have much of an idea on how to resolve it, but I like that my long-named, un-understandable degree focuses on these kinds of issues...

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