ENVS 220-FALL 2017: ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS
Drawing upon interdisciplinary frameworks to analyse data and conduct research for wholistic and contextual understanding, across and within disciplines.
ENVS 220 is a course where we learn to ask and answer academic research questions, so to conduct a thorough interdisciplinary investigation in any given context. It does so by equiping students with the necessary skillset in order to collect data and conduct research using a broad range of quantitative and qualitative methods in a wide range of situated contexts. These methods are often utilised by various disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and sciences. In this course we will primarily focus on the following:
- How key actors and processes interrelate.
- Their multiple spatial, temporal, and conceptual scales.
- Their descriptive, explanatory, evaluative, and instrumental dimensions.
- How to collect, analyze, and communicate results of data.
These skills and knowledge frameworks will be gained mainly through lab work in teams which will culminate into a situated project. Other important components include our reflection posts which illustrate one’s musings related to lab or thoughts throughout the course. And lastly, the concentration, which serves as the definition of our passions and is one of the major steps in moving forward and declaring the ENVS Major.
*Press headers and highlighted text to take you to the pages and or posts.*
The lab write-ups presented, illustrate the tools gained from each session. Through the course we have been exposed to and learnt new skills that can be used in order to conduct and analyse both quantitative and qualitative research. To do this we grounded ourselves in being able to collect scholarly articles from various journals and books using Zotero, which also serves a bibliographic collector and organiser. This is essential as it enables us to collect and organise our scholarly articles to ensure accuracy and credit to the authors whose works have influenced our works. Next we were introduced to ANT Cmap Tools, creating concept and mind maps is an easy way to organise one’s thoughts and ideas, as well as communicate them with readers who may be more visually inclined in understanding ideas. Making ANTMaps has been useful in allowing us to explore contexts and identify the key actors and processes, so to form a wholistic picture. We continued to add more tools to our kit, through a more quantitative approach where we were introduced to using GoogleSheets and its function in order to analyse statistics. These skills all came together in our Inferential Statistics lab assignment and gave us a clear understanding and instilled an appreciation for the role of quantitative analysis in adding content and producing understanding. Thereafter, we were introduced to GIS, Geographic Information Systems, and digital mapping, something that I have always been interested in since taking Geography through primary and high school. Using ArcGIS, we learned the basics of using files for layers in the program, and identifying our chosen variables which would later be displayed on the map. This all came together in this post, where we explored the topic of environmental justice in Portland, mapping the intersections of air pollution, race and income levels. One of the interesting things about this, was the fact that air pollution was primarily caused by wood stoves in houses, as opposed to pollution caused by the increased number of cars on the road. Lastly, we learned how to conduct a qualitative analysis using the handy, VoyantTools, which condenses text into a cirrus cloud illustrating the most frequently used words . This helps researchers infer meaning without reading the entire text. The results of these can be seen in this post, drawing from this years Environmental Studies Symposium and the current conversation in the USA of communication across difference. In order to come to the end product, we crafted surveys or interview and sent them out to people and noted their responses. In analysing our data, we made sure to note on our respondents tone and other markers that would’ve factored into their responses so to give a more wholistic and objective picture analysis. The skills I have acquired through this course have enabled me to be more confident in conducting research using a variety of sources and have also given me a deeper understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, as well as introduced me to GIS and VoyantTools. This will be useful when carrying out future research in being able to identify what methods would be most appropriate and useful in displaying my results and in aiding conceptual investigations and communicating them to an audience.
The reflection posts illustrate my musings on each lab and my journey in finalising my concentration. Every week we were required to reflect and give commentary to our progress in relation to the class. The posts offer a look into my journey, from the beginning of completing my topic summaries in finalising my concentration to receiving feedback from drafts, tackling meanings of words such as Eurocentric and ultimately the end of the course. They give insight into the thought process involved in the ideas we are exploring during lab, in class, or those relating to our concentration or situated projects. These give further insight into our minds, outside the context of the final and more academic article produced.
The concentration aspect of this class, and the Environmental Studies Program as a whole, illustrates our particular area of interest. My concentration lies within the intersection of the topics of the ‘Developing World’, ‘Colonialism and Postcolonialism’ and ‘ Environmental History’. Having conducted research and gone through consultations with my faculty expert and the instructor of the course I settled on exploring: The Role of Coloniality and Ecological Imperialism in Creating Disparities and Solutions in Periphery Countries. Having grown up in ‘the Global South’, I have always been aware of the tensions between the imposed systems of governance that were instilled by colonial powers and the ways in which they have impacted many facets of society. When comparing these viewpoints to those of indigenous people, with regards to the treatment of the nonhuman world, one can see the origins of these tensions and the ways in which they have come to manifest themselves in the physical and nonhuman world. Therefore, my area of interest seeks to explore and analyse the ways in which the human and the nonhuman world have come to influence and shape each other, how they interact and the role and origins of social constructions within these interactions. This post highlights the intersections of my topics and the questions I asked in order to get to the end product.
The situated project serves as the materialisation and application of the skills we learned during the course and most notably lab. Being, an ENVS and French double major, my team explored forest management and land use in the region of Île-de-France, France. Our questions were:
Framing Question: Is the success of forest management policies in late industrialised societies due to industrialisation?
Focus Question: How has forest management in Île-de-France changed as a result of industrialisation?
Using the qualitative and quantitative research methods we gained during the course, we came to the thesis that: The success of forest management policies in Île-de-France cannot be entirely attributed to France’s status as a late industrialised society, considering the fact that there are other elements that have influenced forest and land management policies.We discovered that forest management in France has been marked by turning points in history and culture and so this accounts for the success of the policies as opposed to the process of industrialisation. However, the implications of our research has left me with more questions for further investigation. The situated project was a good opportunity to introduce us to the conducting research and allowed us to apply what we had learnt.