It’s been a bit now, but last month from October 11 – 13, I traveled to Asheville, NC with the Hanks Lab and several other PSU statistics students to attend the 2018 ENVR Statistics for the Environment: Research, Practice and Policy Workshop. This densely packed workshop (really it was both workshop and conference…workonference? confshop?) offered a day of workshops, two days of 30 minute invited talks, and a poster session. I like that the American Statistical Association (ASA) Section on Environmental Statistics (ENVR) is a relatively small group of researchers, which allows for students to quickly meet people (future colleagues!) in this field and learn about what sort of research is happening right now.
What is ENVR?
Unless you are a statistician who does environmental/ecological related research you probably haven’t heard of this workshop. I’ve been doing this sort of work for 4 years now and it’s the first time I had really heard about it too! (Two years ago I was still taking classes and working on research so I probably didn’t have time to attend.) The Statistics for the Environment: Research, Practice and Policy is a biennial workshop of the section on Statistics and the Environment (ENVR) of the American Statistical Association. The overarching goal of the workshop is to bring together environmental statisticians working in academia, government research labs, and industry to present and discuss research ideas and methods to address important environmental and ecological problems. Funding for students, postdocs, and junior researchers within 2 years of terminal degree (travel costs + stipend) was available and easy to apply for thanks to ENVR, NSF, the North Carolina chapter of ASA, and Dr. Andrew Finley.
For nearly my entire life, I have lived within the home range of the Southern Flying Squirrel. However, if you asked most folks I grew up with or people around central Pennsylvanian, you’ll find is it rare to find anyone who has seen or even heard one. It’s likely they had no idea it was even a possibility! Growing up, I certainly never hear of any Southern Flying Squirrels in the woods surrounding our home. And perhaps it’s all this newfangled statistics knowledge making room in my brain by dumping stuff from undergraduate courses, but I also don’t really remember talking much about them in the Mammalogy course Rachel and I took where we were supposed to be able to ID EVERY Kentucky mammal. That course was a doozy – do you know how many little brown bats there are?! (Editor’s note: So many.But they are in danger!)
Earlier this year instead of spending my day as I typically do (on campus working on research) I was able to join a fellow #StatStud graduate student, tagging along with her father out in the local wilderness. Steve Eisenhower is Regional Director for Natural Lands’ New Jersey preserves but since his daughter has joined the statistics department he has also expanded his work in New Jersey monitoring flying squirrel and kestrels into central Pennsylvania. These additional boxes have been added through his own personal volunteering efforts, in partnership with Shaver’s Creek, a resource for the community, and as a field laboratory for Penn State students to get hands-on experience teaching about the natural world. The extra opportunities to observe these species add to the general knowledge for conservationists, an they are a great opportunity for science outreach in these areas.
Pokémon Go, made available for download in America on July 6, 2016 (and adding new countries every day!) enables collection, training, and battling of the first 150 Pokémon. Individual Pokémon collection and observation is now possible, and Pokémon trainers will be venturing into their communities and the wilds that surround them in record numbers as they strive to catch ‘em all. By virtue of collecting and learning about (albeit augmented, virtual) animals, people will also rediscover their attraction to the natural world. Through Pokémon Go, trainers will develop a keen eye for their surroundings, patience for tracking, quick thinking in anticipation of Pokémon behaviors. And what better place for young and old alike to hone their PokéSkills but the expansive wilderness of America’s greatest natural treasure, the National Park system.
The iconic U.S. National Parks have provided access to both nature and natural sciences to visitors for 100 years. Combined annual attendance to these natural wonders registers at a whopping 305 million people each year, attracting visitors from all over the world. Our National Parks span the landscape of the United States and her territories, ranging from the remote reaches of Alaska to the bustling east coast parks, like Shenandoah-a quick drive from several major cities-and hop entire oceans to appear in far pacific lands like Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam. Sometimes, these parks pack a hefty admission fee, up to $30 in some of the most famous parks. The fees go toward necessary maintenance and upkeep of the most pristine natural environments in the country, preserving the experience for the next generation of visitors. Don’t be scared by the entry fees; reasonably priced annual passes and special free events can make access extremely affordable! In fact, I planned a trip to Shenandoah National Park this past weekend for both my sister and me as a respite from the rigors of academia. However, once we got the news dropped of the long-awaited Pokemon Go release, our plans quickly adapted to incorporate some Pokemon collecting into our adventure.