QAEcologist Liz Martin describes a shit sandwich that we might actually enjoy.
Not every cook is a David Chang, not every writer is a Jane Austen, and not every computational thinker is a Guido van Rossum, the inventor of the influential Python programming language. But just as knowing how to scramble an egg or write an email makes life easier, so too will a grasp of computational thinking.
Each year Parks Victoria bestows a Nancy Millis Science in Parks Award to acknowledge scientists and scientific programs that benefit park management. This year they have awarded it jointly to two projects, both alpine weed control efforts – the hawkweed project led by Nick Williams and the willow project led by Jos Moore.
I’ve had some involvement in both research projects and am enormously gratified to see that the weed research these teams do is valued by a managing agency. In the case of the hawkweed project, it’s a terrific complement to the University-based engagement award that we received last year (click there for the full team list and some academic publications).
At the end of the SDM workshop, I followed Sarah Converse back to the DMV area for a week of less structured work. Her job is based at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, a USGS research center set on a wildlife refuge near Laurel MD. I think of it as the intellectual epicentre of environmental structured decision making and ecological statistics in the U.S. In addition to catching up with Sarah and musing over facilitation styles, I met with Mike Runge and discussed the institutional structures for and professional challenges of engaging with real environmental decision makers and problems. Jim Nichols also spared me more than an hour to talk monitoring and survey design, a pet topic for both of us.
On Wednesday I took a train up to the University of Maryland, where former CEED ECR travellerElie Gurarie is now based. His interest in modelling animal movement and encounter rates intersects with Jos Moore‘s and my desire to understand weed search and detection. They’ve been working on new models of alpine willow detection and control, and Elie gave me the latest update. He and I also have an upcoming hawkweed detection project that we’re having fun planning.
Between all these meetings I had some welcome quiet time in the Patuxent library to catch up on my regular work commitments. I think I managed to tick off the most pressing ones before setting off on three weeks holiday….
My third travel week was spent at the National Conservation Training Center, the hub of professional development for the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Everything about the forested campus has been designed with sustainability in mind, and they’ve created an utterly immersive environment where you can lodge, eat, meet and think without distraction.
I attended their Structured Decision Making Workshop, one of an impressive suite of Decision Analysis programs offered regularly at the Center. This involves developing rapid decision-analytic prototypes for solving a real environmental management problem over five days. With Fred Johnson and Christina Romagosa, I co-coached a team of managers and researchers concerned with the spread of Burmese pythons through Florida’s Everglades (and eventually) to Loxahatchee refuge.
This is a role that demands constant thought and adaption – is everyone getting a say? have we really drilled down to the fundamental objective? what kind of model would best characterise this management problem? what activity can we next set the group to obtain the information we need? Luckily for us coaches, our team committed to the process, hatched some great ideas and made important contributions to our framing of the python invasion problem. Completing a full decision analysis will require extensive data collation, some thoughtful optimisations and simulations, and regular reality checks from our team of experts; Fred, Christina, Mathieu Bonneau and I are likely to stay on hand to see this project through.
On our last afternoon meeting as a group, team co-ordinator Rebekah Gibble presented each team member with a challenge coin as a token of appreciation from the Loxahatchee refuge staff. It’s a lovely keepsake that I’ll pin somewhere prominent in my office, and perhaps take out on occasion if I’m seeking a free drink.