Monday, April 29, 2013

As it comes to a close...

I can't believe graduation is right around the corner. Three years flew by and I am going through the same roller coaster of emotions that I think most other graduating seniors are going through. Although I am thrilled to be done with piles of work and stress on a daily basis, the idea of entering the real world is terrifying. In the wake of the craziness of applying to grad school and full time jobs I have been trying to calm down and try and appreciate all I've gotten from UVM. I think sometimes we get caught up in our everyday lives and tend to forget everything college gives us and how it has changed us. I didn't really notice a change in myself as the years went on, but looking back now I realize what a huge impact this school and the Environmental Science program has shaped me as a person. I think if I had stayed in Rhode Island or went somewhere less invested in environmental awareness that I would be a very different person than I am today, and I am thankful that I chose to come here. I have learned so much here about being globally responsible, and I think I am a better human for it. So although I am leaving in a few months to enter the real world, wherever that may take me, I think I have built myself a strong foundation to be a successful person in the future. That is something I don't think I could have done as well without the help and support from my friends, teachers, and classes here at UVM. It is much more than learning about the names of trees or the principles of wildlife management. I can learn those things in a book, but the way things are taught in my classes and the culture here makes it a way of life. You get a much more well-rounded education because you're always learning because it's always in your face and it becomes a part of your day-to-day life. I only hope that once I am no longer at UVM and out of Vermont that I can keep the person I've become a part of my new, post-grad life. And if I can't I guess I'll just have to move to Vermont forever, which at this point doesn't sound like a bad idea. Thanks for a great run, UVM. I'll miss you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Montreal & the Environment

This past weekend I went to Montreal and realized how different the environmental culture is from most of the places I've been in America. Despite being a large tourist city, their focus on the environmental and being sustainable was fairly obvious, at least for me. The hostel I stayed at was very keen on recycling and composting as well as being very energy efficient. There were a lot of plants everywhere too. I asked the owner a bit about it and she said it was to keep the air as clean as possible, especially with so many people under one roof. They were also very good about their laundry. They washed everything on cold and air dried the sheets and things whenever weather permitted. Outside of the hostel were tons of bikers and walkers. Sure, there were a lot of cars too but from what I could tell most people in cars were tourists or those trying to get much longer distances. Many of the restaurants and cafes I went to also made an effort to recycle or compost. What was most interesting was that I happened to go on the weekend before Earth Day. There was a huge rally/walk, something I was actually able to take part in the year before as well. Both times the crowds were enormous. Interestingly enough the demographics of those in attendance was not just young activists. There were people of all ages, and it seemed the most passionate were the older folks. It really made me think that this environmental awareness is something that is a large part of their culture because I have never seen such a large gathering for an Earth Day event, even here at UVM where we pride ourselves on things like that. I think that might have been a part of why I was so impressed with the environmental culture in Montreal. As a UVMer and proud environmentalist I think sometimes myself and others here get caught up in thinking were the only ones who try to live sustainabley or that we do it the best. That could be our pride getting in the way or the depressive attitude that often comes with thinking about all of the Earth's problems. But the reality is that many others are doing it all over the world and it gave me some hope because it is good to know that there are changes happening globally, and that humans are capable of doing good for the world. It's just a matter of opening our eyes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lesson 8

Econometric models look at the economic benefits of something by using statistical analysis. This can be used in environmental policy and land use when determining the economic "worth" of an area. Although simply looking at something like deforestation can be useful in a model, putting a value (especially monetary) on an environmental process can really be more effective in today's society.  The change that needs to occur to offset these changes is very economically and financially driven. As terrible as that is, it is the reality and therefor this must be taken into account when modeling environmental disturbances, activity, etc. The REDD (Reduces Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) model in Dinamica specifically looks at the horrifying problem of deforestation in one of the most problematic areas - the Amazon. Incorporating the econometric model in REDD is significant as I mentioned in offsetting the deforestation tragedy in the Amazon. Deforestation has huge effects on the economical benefits of the Amazon, especially those who utilize them for their livelihood. The model also have to take into account spatial lag regression and spatial neighborhood matrix. The neighborhood matrix simply looks at the variation that occurs within a given neighborhood such as demographics, economy, etc. The spatial lag looks at how the variables affect the use of the area over time and how that slows.

          2001.                                                            2011. 
The two maps above show the landscape in 2001 and 2011 so you can see the change over 10 years. 


This is the projected map in the year 2020.

Based on the maps above you can see there is an increase in the deforested area (light green color). This is seen the comparison over 10 years between 2001 and 2011, but in the projected map for 2020 it is even worse. 

This graph shows the deforestation rate from the year 2001 until the projected year of 2020. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Project Update

After meeting with Professor Galford last week I feel a lot better about this project. The hardest part for me is going to be getting the data and manipulating it for use in Dinamica. I have been in contact with Joe Roman to get some data on sharks but so far I don't have anything. I plan on contacting Ellen Marsden, who is the professor for two of my other courses and hopefully she will be able to help me access some data on sharks, whales, or some kind of marine fish. Once I get that data I will probably have to do some work in Excel and ArcMap to make it something useable. I also discussed converting the data into some equations to be used in a Calculate Map functor in my model. I'm hoping to build a model with 2-3 input maps, a calculate map functor containing name maps for each of these load maps, and then a save map. It shouldn't have to be too complicated, which would be ideal since the work with the data should be enough trouble on its own. Then I will have to do some kind of comparison. I have no quite worked out how I'm going to do that, but Prof. Galford and I discussed splitting up the data points I use in my model, and only using a select portion so that I can compare my output to the other data points I did not use. Not quite the exact same way we did the comparison of landuse a few lessons back, but I guess with different data you must utilize different methods of analysis. Still, this will all kind of depend on the amount and quality of the data I get. So that's kind of where I am, I have a strong grip on what I want to do and how I think I'm going to do it. However the most challenging part is what I must tackle next: THE DATA. I think I will definitely have to meet with Galford again and likely with Joe Roman, Ellen Marsden, and whoever else could help me figure out where to get it, how to manipulate it, and how to use it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I have given a lot of thought to what I would like to do for my final project, and I think I've landed on the topic of sharks. I explored a few different options but this one was the one that I felt most invested in. They are my favorite animal and one I hope to work with in the future as a Conservation Biologist. I want to design a model that examines populations of a shark species and the movement of that species throughout the oceans. Sharks, especially Great Whites, tend to have very specific hunting grounds and patterns of migration so I want to explore why so many of them are moving further north than is historically typical of them.
Although more research needs to be done on my part and what specific factors are likely causing these effects on sharks, I have a few different factors I want to look into. The first, and maybe the most important, is the aspect of food availability. One of the staples of a Great White's diet is seal species, so using data in my model about seal populations (numbers, locations, etc.) is something I'm hoping to be able to do. Since seals are not the only animal Great White's eat, I would also like to include data from other prey species if I can.
In addition, I think it would be interesting to see if I can incorporate climate change data into the model. Personally, I would like to see if the model would show that climate change is having an impact on the sharks and if so, in what way. Another piece of data I would want to include, and this may be the most difficult to obtain, is the changes happening in the oceans in which these sharks live. Are there changes in major currents and water temperature? What does that mean for the sharks and their migration patterns?
In order for this model to work I am going to have to do some much more in-depth research about these migration patterns and changes over long periods of time, and include that data in the model once I have it. After that it will be very important to determine if the factors I have considered are truly impacting sharks within the scope of my project. If not, I will definitely have to edit my project plan and find research and data on the factors that are having an impact. I think this is going to be my biggest challenge, finding the data. Since my projects goals are fairly specific I imagine it might be difficult to acquire the data that I'm looking for , and I may have to make some large adjustments in my model based on the obstacles I run into. Hopefully some of it will be accessible through GIS databases, etc. but I'm honestly not sure how much GIS data there is on marine ecosystems and the other factors I discussed. In my experience with GIS, it has always been landuse and land form data rather than on populations.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spring Break for a Senior

I thought going into college that Spring Break was going to be some kind of adventure every year. I was wrong. This year in particular was the most uneventful for me in my three years here at UVM, but likely my most productive. At the very beginning of break I got hired at a new part-time job here in Burlington and therefore could not go home at all, and was left to stew in my apartment all alone for 10 days in between sporadic shifts of work. As everyone else I'm friends with went home or on a trip, I was left to my own thoughts for most of the 10 days. In which I really started to give some hard thought as to what I'm doing come May 19th. As a 3rd year senior I have had an entire year less than the rest of my fellow potential graduates to think about what it is that I really want to do and where I want to be going once that diploma is in my hands. This is really stressful, especially when I do not have much time to squeeze such daunting thoughts into my packed schedule of 18 credit semesters and two jobs. So I took the opportunity of Spring break to tackle my goals in the field of environmental science. In that time I finished up an application to a graduate program at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. I applied for the Environmental Science M.S. program and am hoping to work with Dr. Horwitz in aquatic ecosystems and species. I also started researching jobs in Southern New England in similar fields. Currently I am working on applications to both Mystic Aquarium in CT and Roger Williams Park Zoo in RI for a clinical researcher position and an animal care internship, respectively.
Having a minor in Zoology and a concentration in Conservation/Biodiversity both of these job opportunities really interested me. Not only do they really involve what I want to do, but these jobs are at places that house some of my greatest childhood memories. It was Mystic and Roger Williams where I first got to see exotic and foreign animals; things I could never imagine existed based off what I saw in my backyard. So working in these places and learning to care for animals and understand and experience the ground work that goes into conservation by educating the public and doing captive breedings, etc. would give me a great base of knowledge for the steps I would be taking once I decided to move on in my career.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Exam #1 Potential Questions

Q1. What are the benefits and the drawbacks of the process of leaching?

A1: The biggest benefit of leaching is that water is transferred through soil, which carries nutrients through the soil profile. This allows for soluble materials to be absorbed by the organisms within the soil as well as for the chemicals to react with minerals in the soil. Another benefit is that this allows for the accumulation of groundwater sources. The drawbacks of leaching are that it is not selective in what it transfers through the soil. Leaching is how toxic chemicals get into the soil, then our food, and even our drinking water.

Q2: What are the two types of non-radiative heating and how do they differ?

A2: The two types are sensible heat and latent heat. Sensible heat is a function of the air temperature and the surface temperature. Latent heat is a function relative to water where it takes wetness and humidity into account. Essentially it is the transfer of heat through the medium of water.

Q3: List 4 soil properties that are affected by soil texture and give an example of how a particular soil texture would specifically influence 2 of these these properties.

A3: Soil texture can influence many soil properties such as drainage capability, water holding capacity, aeration, organic material, cation exchange capacity, pH buffering capacity, etc. If a soil was very sandy there would be high drainage and very low water holding capacity.