Spring 2019 Newsletter

2019 is off to a great start at Future Generations University! See what we've been up to so far...

Research Methods in the Real World

By Christie Hand

What is the role of research in community development?  Students in the Social Research Methods course taught by Dr. Mary Hufford and Dr. Julie Maldonado have been contemplating this question for the past ten weeks as they immerse themselves in different research methodologies in a practical, applied way.   Research for them is not an abstract concept but one that is critical to the success of their work in communities.

Student Rosie Lynch volunteers at the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley in Harrisonburg, VA, an organization that is currently undergoing a shift in mission from climate change education to climate change resilience.  She hopes to activate a six-member exploratory committee to engage in a Participatory Action Research (PAR) study which will inform the organization’s shift in focus.  As Brooks, D’Ambruoso, and Kazimierczak (2017) note, “PAR is a distinct type of research in which people with common interests engage in observing, reflecting, acting, and learning from action.”  It may be difficult for Rosie to accomplish this in the scope of one course (with only six weeks remaining!), but she will have begun an important process that will benefit the decision-making process of Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

Rosie has found this course to be particularly enlightening because the professors, Dr. Hufford and Dr. Maldonado, are experienced anthropologists and anthropology happens to have been Rosie’s undergraduate field. She says, “It has been exciting to learn how cultural anthropologists are using their ethnographic research skills to fight for environmental justice.”  Rosie’s story is not the exception, but the norm in the Future Generations M.A. in Applied Community Development.  Our students are in it because they care about their communities and want to learn the knowledge and skills to turn their visions into reality.  That is the role of research in community development.

Instagram Superstar

Check out this photo taken by a student while participating in our field based course, Gandhian Methods! Here, a scientist explains the innovative agricultural practices being carried out by development organization Chetana Viikas. Click on the photo to see more from our Instagram!

Songs of Adaptation Grows

By Shane Palkovitz

Songs of Adaptation (formerly referred to as the Biomeridian Research Network) focuses on bioacoustics and community knowledge for monitoring climate change. This expanding global project will utilize acoustic and climatic recorders to establish an international baseline for biodiversity, while at the same time drawing from community knowledge about human adaptation to climate change. In 2018, the team installed a biomeridian (transect of monitoring stations over an elevation gradient) in the Barun Valley, part of the Mt. Everest massif in Nepal. Monitoring stations were also installed in the United States at the northern and southern extremities of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as on Spruce Knob, which is the highest point in West Virginia, and at the headwaters of the Potomac River.

In March 2019, the project expanded to South America. Songs of Adaptation began a pilot installation near Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. This installation incudes four monitoring stations in different habitats, all within 500 feet of elevation difference. As with Nepal, local partnerships are key to the work in Bolivia; community members are involved in scientific data collection and contribute local knowledge. Team members are in early stages of designing a Bolivian biomeridian that will expand upward from the first four monitoring stations and terminate at an extreme elevation above the tree line.