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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Grad students blitz their research at annual showcase

Years-long research became minutes-long presentations for graduate students at the second annual Environmental Research Grad Blitz on Tuesday afternoon.

The UA’s Institute of the Environment, an interdisciplinary organization that focuses on addressing and solving environmental challenges, sponsored the blitz, a series of rapid research summaries. Graduate students showcased their work on everything from the “acoustic strategies” of the black-and-white ruffed lemurs of Madagascar to the the environment in contemporary American Indian fiction. The event gave the UA community an opportunity to glimpse what students, faculty and administrators are researching in environment-related fields through five-minute “speed talks” and poster displays. Each presentation and poster was judged by a panel of UA faculty on a scale of one to five for its significance, methodology and overall clarity of presentation.

Gretchen Nurse, an assistant professor of retailing and consumer sciences, said the blitz helped students prepare for the kind of presentations they will have to give in the professional world.
“It gives them an opportunity to talk about their research in a way that’s precise,” she said.

In true blitz fashion, graduate students from programs across the university, including English, anthropology, American Indian studies and ecology and evolutionary biology fired off information detailing the findings of their research. The talks came one after another and were divided into two sessions.

Jacob Campbell, a graduate student studying anthropology and geography, condensed six years of work into his five-minute speed talk. He is studying the interactions between non-renewable resource production and communities. Although the process was “incredibly difficult,” Campbell said the blitz was useful as an exercise in public speaking and presentation.

“I think academics and researchers need to find ways to make our work relevant and useful and understandable to the communities that we work with. If we can’t do that, then we’re pretty irrelevant,” he said. “I think it’s a really good exercise to be forced to pare it down and speak as clearly as possible.”

According to Betsy Woodhouse, the deputy director of the Institute of the Environment, the speed talks challenged students to say something meaningful in a short period of time.

“It’s the elevator speech,” she said.

Although the students came from different fields of study, they all shared an interest in issues rooted in the environment.

Kenny Walker, a graduate student in the English department gave the audience a glimpse of his research on Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring.” He is examining the process Carson underwent to produce her book, which helped trigger the environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s.

Lily House-Peters, a graduate student in the School of Geography and Development, spoke about her research on ecosystem services, natural processes such as pollination and decomposition, in arid regions.

Beyond the presentations, students also displayed their work on posters. The event featured 31 posters in all. Students specializing in everything from public administration to public health showcased their research on the large, in-depth visual presentations.

Overall, the blitz brought graduate students from across campus together so that they could be exposed to the different kinds of research taking place in environmental areas.

“It’s a great opportunity for everybody to see the diversity of environmental work across the whole campus,” Woodhouse said. “You can see pretty quickly without having to devote a whole day to the kind of work that’s going on, you know, the importance of it. We’ve got people working in the local communities and with the tribes and with the natural systems. It shows off the university.”

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