05 September 2011

Hello, Again!

So, it's been a little while since my last post, that long examination of Brian Fagan's "Elixir" into which I delved so deeply and with such care that I've worked my way backward into some of his earlier works, including his absolutely fascinating "Long Summer."  More about those later - you will definitely see pieces from "The Long Summer" later as individual vignettes here, with such a wealth of eco-anthropological touchstones from which we can still learn today.

In the meantime, since that last post was in process, I was accepted into a graduate program at the University of Wisconsin - Madison for my Ph.D. in Forestry.  After a quick move, I'm now working in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, my side of which was founded long ago by our patron saint of land ethic in the United States, the still-highly-esteemed Aldo Leopold, on whom (and in whose honor) seminars are conducted and lecture halls dedicated and coffee-shops named across the western side of the UWM campus.  It's wonderful, to work amid such a tradition of conservation and preservation.

And as it happens, I'm working with an advisor that I met several years ago during my work at NASA-GSFC around Washington, DC.  That was when and where I started my blog, now nearly four years ago, while I was in the Hydrological Sciences Branch at GSFC.  Mutlu, a Post-doc Fellow at the time working on remote sensing and land surface modeling of irrigation practices in the same Branch, was an acquaintance at the time and we developed something of a mutual respect for each other's work then.  It was a fluke (or destiny?) that I found his name again while searching for something to do with myself earlier this spring and found an open opportunity in Forest Hydrology in his relatively new research group at UWM, and with a visit in the late northern winter I was hooked on the idea of working here and finishing out my degree efforts.  It was certainly a long summer, filled with book reviews and time with my daughter in remote southern Missouri, a flood in the spring and hot days through the summer with anxious, sleepless nights wondering where I was really going next.  But it worked out, and here I am after a quick move north to Madison.

I've found a local Starbucks again!  It's within walking distance from my new home, sharing house with two pretty cool bird-oriented zoologists who met years ago doing field work in Costa Rica.  It's a good situation, very relaxed, a couple of Costa Rican expat cats around (actual cats rescued from CR, not the zoologists :-) and great food all around.  They liked my cooking for dinner last evening, so that's a big plus!

In the meantime, and as my principal focus, I'm working again!  Why a Ph.D.?  Well, many reasons, really, but primarily because it's work in Forest Hydrology, all of my background brought together, a real challenge to define and make progress on the issues of land cover changes in the forested parts of North America and their relation to climate change.  I'll be working with one of the professors here who developed over several years a model for forest succession, and obviously bringing my water-oriented focus into a more ecology-focused group, but I'll learn so much from my colleagues here that my natural interdisciplinary approach will expand even more.  Even working at GSFC, I never had formal education in remote sensing, but I'll get a good dose of that here.  Even working in resource mapping while on the AHIS project in Arizona, I never had formal education in Geographic Information Systems, but I'll get some of that here.  I also have the opportunity to stay connected to my past activities in Atmospheric Sciences and, of course, Hydrology by working with others around the University here, bringing them in on my ideas for my dissertation research, maybe having some of them on my graduate committee.  Other interests, including the USACE Cold-Lands Research group for whom I interviewed more than a year ago (and from which invitation I do still hope to post my interview presentation here, as it remains relevant to my present work) will be contacted, old friends and colleagues from NASA GSFC and elsewhere will be met and engaged again...

It feels like I'm returning from a self-imposed exile, and while I have some regrets about the circumstances of my time away from academia and the moves I've made around the country in the past several years, this is a new time in my life with new opportunities to do something worthwhile, and it won't be wasted.

You'll still see some book reviews, especially from those authors that I engaged during the spring and summer and from whom I am still receiving new review volumes.  I really look forward to those, some very related to my academic work, and some outside of my academic pursuits but still very much within my overall career interests.  You'll see more posts about journal articles in hydrology, foresty, and related disciplines now that I have institutional access to periodical archives again.  You'll still see some long and multi-part posts about what's going on in the world as it relates to hydrology and water resources, as there is so much in the news these days and I have a list of things to catch up on: drought in the US Southwest and Southeast, the linkage of Hurricane Irene with global warming, ongoing famine and humanitarian strife in East Africa, renewed conflict between Pakistan and India over water resources in the Indus River basin, new levels of conflict between India and China over Nepalese water sources, new revelations from China's massive but neglected networks of dams and reservoirs...

The list goes on and on, and I'll cover what my time allows, and I'm cutting my Twitter time down (but not entirely out) in favor of time spent online in research and analysis and synthesis.  My dissertation is my primary task and responsibility for the next couple of years, and since I plan to publish throughout this process, I'll be working out a lot of my ideas right here in this forum.  As always, your comments and questions and suggestions will be welcome, encouraged, acknowledged and engaged.  You'll begin to see components and products and the progress of that work almost immediately.