1. Heather Hopkins
  2. Program Coordinator
  3. NRT Strong Coasts
  4. http://www.strongcoasts.org/
  5. StrongCoasts.org, University of South Florida, University of the Virgin Islands
  1. Kris-An Hinds
  2. PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
  3. NRT Strong Coasts
  4. http://www.strongcoasts.org/
  5. University of South Florida
  1. Michelle Platz
  2. PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
  3. NRT Strong Coasts
  4. http://www.strongcoasts.org/
  5. University of South Florida
  1. Maya Trotz
  2. http://www.mayatrotz.com
  3. Professor
  4. NRT Strong Coasts
  5. http://www.strongcoasts.org/
  6. University of South Florida, StrongCoasts.org
  1. W Alex Webb
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/walexwebb/
  3. PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
  4. NRT Strong Coasts
  5. http://www.strongcoasts.org/
  6. University of South Florida
  1. Rebecca Zarger
  2. Associate Professor
  3. NRT Strong Coasts
  4. http://www.strongcoasts.org/
  5. University of South Florida
Facilitators’
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Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Heather Hopkins

    Heather Hopkins

    Lead Presenter
    Program Coordinator
    May 10, 2021 | 03:33 p.m.

    HELLO! Thank you for viewing our new video, where we look at two NRT Strong Coasts graduate fellows’ interdisciplinary project. Michelle Platz is a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Kris-An Hinds is a doctoral student in the Anthropology Department at the University of South Florida. We examine the importance of working across disciplines while exploring their partnered project, “Coral Restoration in The Florida Reef Tract: A Socio- Ecological Framework Case Study”. This short documentary makes clear that, like many environmental projects, coral reef restoration and monitoring is a social ecological system, and “We cannot fully understand or make meaningful changes to the system without looking at both the environmental and societal factors”. It also touches on the community-engaged framework and the diverse skill sets needed to solve complex social-ecological problems that is a foundation to NRT Strong Coasts.

    Questions to ponder…

    1. In what ways do you see interdisciplinary projects contributing to the advancement of science?

    2. How can all fields of science benefit from collaborating with social scientists?

    3. Can you think of an example when your eyes were opened to seeing an issue as a prism, rather than a separate, siloed problem? Share please!

     
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    Meghan Marrero
  • Icon for: Meghan Marrero

    Meghan Marrero

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2021 | 09:44 p.m.

    I love the intersection of the engineering and anthropological approaches! In order to address global environmental issues, it will require interdisciplinary teams like this one; this approach is quite inspiring.

  • Icon for: Rebecca Zarger

    Rebecca Zarger

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 18, 2021 | 04:07 p.m.

    Meghan, We think anthropology and engineering are a natural fit to work together when focused on addressing environmental issues and this is a great example. Thanks for your comments!

  • Icon for: Lance Bush

    Lance Bush

    President & CEO
    May 11, 2021 | 11:01 a.m.

    The health of our coastal reefs is critical and humans (in all their various roles) will play a role. I am glad to see this work being done.  Mapping of the interactions between stakeholders, disciplines, policies and practices will be key to finding solutions.  I am interested to know if you had any hypotheses going into this about where or what the major findings might be and how to alleviate them.

     
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    Meghan Marrero
  • Icon for: Kris-An Hinds

    Kris-An Hinds

    Co-Presenter
    PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
    May 13, 2021 | 12:42 p.m.

    Hello Lance,

    Thank you for your comment and for taking the time to watch our video! Coral reefs, like many ecological systems, are impacted by so many factors that are environmentally, culturally, and socially constructed. One of the central hypotheses that we had at the beginning of our project was to determine if there was a way to use technology to improve monitoring before and after a coral reef restoration site was outplanted. We theorized that there may be some form of technological adoption hesitation from restoration practitioners. However, through our interviews and research on the different policies that govern restorations, we discovered that it was more complex than stakeholders being uncomfortable with utilizing different tools and metrics for monitoring. We just finished collecting data and are currently analyzing it. A finding that is emerging is that practitioners are excited and willing to use new instruments to help them reach their monitoring goals. However, funding and limited resource availability are central factors in determining if the can incorporate them.

  • Icon for: Lance Bush

    Lance Bush

    President & CEO
    May 13, 2021 | 01:32 p.m.

    Thanks Kris-An. Good to find out that technology adoption is not an issue.  And funding, I'm sure for all of us in this forum, is typically one of the top, if not the top, limiter.  Hoping to see more investments into healthy oceans.  Keep up the great work!

  • May 11, 2021 | 11:49 a.m.

    Really enjoyed hearing from Michelle and Kris-An about how their approach to understanding this problem has changed as they're worked together. As a recent grad from an NRT program, I'm curious to hear if you have any tips or lessons learned from taking on this interdisciplinary approach and how other researchers can work more collaboratively across disciplines to more holistically address complex socio-ecological challenges?

  • Icon for: Michelle Platz

    Michelle Platz

    Co-Presenter
    PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
    May 12, 2021 | 08:12 p.m.

    Hello Lydia, 

    Thanks for taking the time to watch our video, it is always good to hear from another NRT participant! There have certainly been many lessons learned from this interdisciplinary project, but one of the first ones that came to mind however is taking the time to develop a common cross-disciplinary language. Coming from our respective disciplines, we have all developed field-specific jargon that has become second nature to use, and we forget that other fields sometimes might not be familiar with that jargon. Co-building that common language is an on-going exercise that takes time and concerted effort to create, but we have found that putting in the work to lay that foundation early on enables your group to formulate better research questions and helps foster creative synergy during the data collection and analysis portions of the project. 

     
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    Lydia Horne
  • Icon for: Barry Fishman

    Barry Fishman

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 11, 2021 | 03:57 p.m.

    Wow! What a great project and video. I really liked the way the two students interacted and expressed themselves. I am 100% with you on the importance of interdisiciplinarity. I don't think there are any "real world" problems that can be productively pursued from a single disciplinary perspective. And you are demonstrating a great way to build partnerships across disciplines.

    Can you elaborate on any of the steps you might take to introduce this approach to engineers or scientists who may be skeptical? Do they ever see the anthropologist as a barrier to their work? Does everyone act as co-equals?

  • Icon for: Michelle Platz

    Michelle Platz

    Co-Presenter
    PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
    May 12, 2021 | 08:32 p.m.

    Hi Barry, 

    Thanks for your comment! As an academic engineer, I have too often seen amazing technological innovations which fail to launch and actually become implemented, not because the idea was lacking, but because the developer did not appropriately consider the end-user for which the innovation was created for. Through the work I have done with Strong Coasts, I believe that working with social scientists has made me a better engineer because it has taught me to ask different questions and consider different components of a problem, which ultimately leads to the development of more feasible, implementable, and sustainable solutions. I know as an engineer, I tend to learn by doing, so to introduce this approach I would recommend to just start practicing, jump in and try to start co-solving problems together, because it's ultimately an iterative learning process for everyone. In working in our interdisciplinary team, we work as co-leads over the project as a whole, but also recognize that we have different sets of skills and expertise, so we try to honor each other's skillsets and let the other lead when their experience takes president. 

     
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    Barry Fishman
  • Icon for: Margie Vela

    Margie Vela

    Facilitator
    Senior Program Manager
    May 11, 2021 | 11:41 p.m.

    YES!!!! What an amazing project! Interdisciplinary research involving socio-environmental issues is utterly important, and doing it well is very impressive. Your project does this well. The way you articulated seeing the full picture and understanding the all facets of the problem is a very useful description of this work. I have never seen it presented this way (as a socio-environmental/water equity scientist). 

    I am sure there was a time when both of you were speaking the same words, but heard different messages through your disciplinary lenses. Many times, I think we enter interdisciplinary spaces without a reference for the nuances in our disciplinary jargon and the different ways we communicate. Can you share some strategies for bridging the disciplinary jargon gap for interdisciplinary teams?

     
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    Rebecca Zarger
  • Icon for: Michelle Platz

    Michelle Platz

    Co-Presenter
    PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
    May 12, 2021 | 08:44 p.m.

    Hi Margie, 

    Thanks for your comment! You are very correct, learning to operate through a common vocabulary has definitely been an important component of this project, and certainly a continuing one as we are still learning how to best work and communicate with one another! The strategy I felt worked the best for bridging this gap is simply to practice. Shortly after Strong Coasts was formed, we met once a week and practiced working through theoretical problems together as an interdisciplinary team. We tried mapping problems out on the whiteboard together and when someone said something that the other discipline didn't understand, we paused and took the time to allow for an in-depth explanation and follow up questions. These practice sessions also created space for respectful disagreements and debates on how the different disciplines may approach a problem, which ultimately allowed for us to learn a little more about the opposite discipline. Over the course of the semester, these exercises not only helped us build a common language through which to approach problems, but also developed cross-disciplinary trust that we were then able to take into the field and start tacking real-world problems with. 

  • Icon for: Margie Vela

    Margie Vela

    Facilitator
    Senior Program Manager
    May 17, 2021 | 12:58 p.m.

    What a great practice! Do you offer this type of cross-disciplinary interaction in a course? I believe a course like this would be incredibly beneficial for graduate students. Thank you for sharing!

  • Icon for: Rebecca Zarger

    Rebecca Zarger

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 18, 2021 | 04:11 p.m.

    Margie, We also developed a graduate seminar called Systems Thinking at the FEWS Nexus, which brought together students from Engineering, Anthropology, Biology, Urban Planning, and Marine Sciences. Students discuss readings from all the disciplines and worked in teams combining the disciplines all semester. The culminating project was a "challenge grant" proposal to carry out interdisciplinary team-based research in one of our four field sites. We all learned a lot!

     
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    Rebecca Zarger
  • Icon for: Margie Vela

    Margie Vela

    Facilitator
    Senior Program Manager
    May 18, 2021 | 04:45 p.m.

    That is impressive! Thanks for sharing. 

    As a socio-environmental scientist I don't see many spaces that are working in truly interdisciplinary spaces. This project, however, is doing some amazing work. 

  • Icon for: Troy Sadler

    Troy Sadler

    Researcher
    May 12, 2021 | 08:11 a.m.

    Great project and video. As a science education researcher who specializes in using socio-scientific issues as contexts for teaching and learning, I was really interested in your framing of the work as socio-ecological. Have you considered ways of connecting your work to STEM education efforts in the K-12 space or informal learning opportunities?

    (And as a USF alum, it's great to see this innovative work coming out of USF!)

  • Icon for: Heather Hopkins

    Heather Hopkins

    Lead Presenter
    Program Coordinator
    May 12, 2021 | 04:48 p.m.

    Hello Troy –

    Thank you for the question. Yes, we collaborate with K-12 educators and understand wholeheartedly the benefits, not only for youth and future scientists, but our fellows also get so much out of it and really enjoy it. In fact, three of our graduate fellows and I just did a virtual presentation for a local middle school on Earth Day in April 2021. The fellows presented details on their current projects, which exposed the students to real-world issues, the steps to setting up a research project, working with local communities most affected by the issue, finding innovative solutions, and so much more. I gave an overview of the importance of working across disciplines, whole systems-thinking, and community-engaged research. The feedback was great, and the middle schoolers and teachers seem quite interested in inviting our group back. Our fellows gained presentation skills and learned a bit about presenting science to different audiences. One extraordinary advantage to working in the virtual world right now for our group is access to online collaborations such as this. Our program includes marine science master’s students from the University of the Virgin Islands and one UVI fellow was able to join us for this event, which most likely would not have been possible if all in-person! So I think that was cool for the young middle school students to see our shared-learning and network branching out across the ocean. We look forward to more opportunities like this and, hopefully, some will take place in person soon with a hybrid component combining both campuses. Thanks!

     
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    Brian Foley
  • Icon for: Kristin Grimes

    Kristin Grimes

    Research Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2021 | 10:08 a.m.

    Great video Michelle and Kris-An! I loved learning more about your work!

     
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    Rebecca Zarger
  • Icon for: Heather Hopkins

    Heather Hopkins

    Lead Presenter
    Program Coordinator
    May 12, 2021 | 04:49 p.m.

    Thanks Kristin for sharing your thoughts!

  • Icon for: Susan Warshaw

    Susan Warshaw

    External Evaluator
    May 14, 2021 | 11:38 a.m.

    I was wondering if students received any academic study on systems engineering or systems thinking as part of this program?  If so how much and what was the best resource?      

  • Icon for: Michelle Platz

    Michelle Platz

    Co-Presenter
    PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
    May 17, 2021 | 09:36 a.m.

    Hi Susan, 

    Thanks for your comment! The students in our program take several systems thinking courses, all of which are co-listed in the participating departments: 

    1. Systems Thinking at the Food, Energy, Water Nexus: discuss FEWS problems and learn theoretical foundations of system dynamics modeling. 

    2. Complex Systems Modeling: applied modeling course in python and Vensim where students learn to model complex systems and populate models with data.

    3. Food. Energy, Water Systems Field course: this is a summer course where students have the opportunity to travel internationally to a Caribbean coastal community and participate in community-engaged FEWS research and practice systems thinking skills. 

    The courses used a combination of anthropological and environmental engineering peer-reviewed articles, as well as sections from the following textbooks: 

    • Meadows, D.H., Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Wright, D. (editor). 2008: Sustainability Institute. Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
    • Sterman, J.D., Business dynamics: systems thinking and modeling for a complex world. 2000: Irwin/McGraw-Hill Boston.
    • Sayama, H., Introduction to the modeling and analysis of complex systems. 2015. Open
    SUNY textbook. • Ford, A., Modeling the environment. 2nd edition. 2010. Island Press.
    • Forrester, J., Principles of Systems. Waltham, MA: Pegasus Communications, 1968. ISBN: 978-1883823412.

    Best, 

    Michelle 

     
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    Rebecca Zarger
  • Icon for: Kris-An Hinds

    Kris-An Hinds

    Co-Presenter
    PhD Student/Strong Coasts Fellow
    May 18, 2021 | 05:56 p.m.

    Hi Susan, 

    In addition to the resources that Michelle provided, we also received training on the importance of incorporating a holistic approach in the models we generate using systems thinking, specifically on how to perform meaningful community engagement. Some of the resources we used to accomplish this were: 

    * Dewalt and Dewalt. 2010. Participant Observation A Guide for Fieldworkers, Ch. 8: Informal Interviewing in Participant Observation

    * Ogden et al. 2013. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

    *Wali, Alaka, ed. 2006. Collaborative research- A practical introduction to participatory action research (PAR) for communities and scholars. Booklet produced by The Field Museum Center for Cultural Understanding and Change

    -Kris-An

     

  • Icon for: Daniel Zietlow

    Daniel Zietlow

    Informal Educator
    May 18, 2021 | 10:49 a.m.

    Great video!  And a really great project.  Interdiscplinary and convergent work is definitely something that's been on my mind, especially because that's an avenue for solving really complex socio-environmental challenges.  What was the process like building cross-discipline relationships at the beginning of the project?

  • Icon for: Rebecca Zarger

    Rebecca Zarger

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 18, 2021 | 04:14 p.m.

    Daniel, great question! I think relationships is the key word here in bridging disciplines for research as well as grad training: consistent community-building for faculty and students that focuses on collaboration and creativity as well as supporting each other have been the most important. 

     
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    Daniel Zietlow
  • Icon for: Heather Hopkins

    Heather Hopkins

    Lead Presenter
    Program Coordinator
    May 18, 2021 | 04:58 p.m.

    Hi Daniel - I agree with Rebecca that relationships are key and I will just add what Michelle Platz discussed in previous post above about working together to sift through different ways to communicate so learning is balanced. Keeping an open mind to a different perspective while not being afraid to ask for more information when you don't understand is an important skill we try to instill in our program and I think should be part of the so many disciplines. Interdisciplinary teamwork has much to do with supporting others so learning and growth are not stalled. This mindset seems to be growing among academia, industries, organizations, etc, thankfully!

     
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    Daniel Zietlow
  • Icon for: Daniel Zietlow

    Daniel Zietlow

    Informal Educator
    May 18, 2021 | 05:08 p.m.

    Thanks Rebecca and Heather for the insight!

  • Icon for: Jaymus Lee

    Jaymus Lee

    Graduate Student
    May 18, 2021 | 03:33 p.m.

    Great video and I love the analogy provided about the importance of interdisciplinary perspectives - I will for sure be using that in the future. I think that you highlighted the importance of different perspectives and collaboration to meet socio-ecological issues perfectly, great job!

     
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    Rebecca Zarger
  • Icon for: Rebecca Zarger

    Rebecca Zarger

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 18, 2021 | 04:15 p.m.

    Thanks Jaymus!

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