Human+Nature Blog

April 11, 2018

Sophia Chau is a PhD student with Jianguo (Jack) Liu. She studied environmental science at the University of Notre Dame. She also spent some time in California working for the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program. 

 How are the relationships between people and ecosystems shifting with climate change? How can we respond to these shifts in ways that improve these relationships? Over the last several months, the questions that come back to me again and again can be summed up by these two questions. And I think I’ve found a study system that can help me answer them: US national parks.

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March 22, 2018

Thomas Connor is a PhD candidate studying with Jack Liu. His fieldwork takes place in and around Wolong, China.

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Feb. 1, 2018

Sophia Chau is a PhD student with Jianguo (Jack) Liu. She studied environmental science at the University of Notre Dame. She also spent some time in California working for the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program. This is an excerpt from her blog.

My childhood home sits on a big hill just outside Portland, Oregon. From my bedroom window I often gazed at the familiar and pointy snow-capped peak of Mt. Hood looming in the distance. If I turned northward on a clear day, I could just make out the peaks of Mts. Rainier and St. Helens. These peaks are a significant part of my identity as a Pacific Northwester, but I never thought much about them until relatively recently, after I started living in the Midwest (which is, by the way, as flat as a pancake).

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Dec. 26, 2017

Thomas Connor is a PhD candidate studying with Jack Liu. His fieldwork takes place in and around Wolong, China.

A large body of work in the ecology of conservation is devoted to figuring out where species truly are and what causes them to be in some places and not others. Termed species distribution modeling, or SDM for short, this endeavor involves looking at the environment where species are known to occur compared to the environment where they are not, statistically describing these differences, and predicting if the species in question is present in areas that don’t have information.

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Dec. 1, 2017

Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

My friends are used to my frequent and sometimes infuriating habit of stopping whatever I am doing (be it walking, talking or driving) to look at and identify any birds. I have even been known to pull to the side of the road to ogle particularly interesting species, a habit I picked up from my father.

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Nov. 29, 2017

Sophia Chau is a PhD student with Jianguo Liu. She studied environmental science at the University of Notre Dame. She also spent some time in California working for the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program.  This is an excerpt from her blog.

“What are you researching?” Since starting my PhD program at MSU this fall, I have been asked this question countless times, but it is one to which I have no definite answer yet.

Some grad students start their studies by joining an ongoing project, while others begin from scratch and create their own project. I fall into the latter category. The freedom to research (almost) whatever I want is both exhilarating and daunting. While this freedom gives me the opportunity to shape my own questions and pursue their answers in my own way, it also means starting from ground zero and figuring out how to put the puzzle pieces together.

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Aug. 24, 2017

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.

I pick up the story of my PhD from Nanchong, China, where I have traveled to take a brief break from lab work to have meetings and an interview with representatives from the China Science and Technology Exchange Center (CSTEC).

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Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

As glamorous and thrilling as fieldwork might sound, no field season is complete without a few tales, typically funnier after the fact. Here’s my attempt to impart some humor and share lessons learned after the emotional trauma subsided.

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Ciara Hovis is working toward her PhD with Dr. Jack Liu studying the global soy trade using the telecoupling framework between the United States, Brazil and China.

3:00 a.m.

My alarm goes off. I open my eyes and see the Heilongjiang sun starting to rise. I close my eyes just for a minute more… (Editor’s note – China, while geographically spanning five time zones, follows only one for unity. That means far eastern locales like Heilongjiang see daybreak early.)

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July 19, 2017

Thomas Connor is a PhD student studying with Jack Liu. He's doing field work in and around Wolong, China.

My China fieldwork this year splits into two trips – June to August, then January to October of next year. These will differ from my previous trips in that this time, I am funded directly from government sources (An East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute [EAPSI] fellowship this summer and a Fulbright grant next year).

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