R. Lee Lyman’s childhood backyard was nestled between a tall plateau and rolling hills of wheat. Growing up in the southeast corner of Washington state, he knew that, if anything, he wanted to spend his life being outside. So when his uncle asked him and his brothers to help him look for buried arrowheads, his parents ushered the boys out to explore. “When you’ve got three boys who are 6, 8, and 10, you want to keep them busy. And that was one way to keep us busy — go dig holes looking for arrowheads.” When Lyman went to Washington State University, memories of those outings were fresh in his mind. By his sophomore year, he was majoring in anthropology. Working one of his first paying jobs as an archaeologist and having just completed a course about how to identify animal bones, Lyman found himself captivated by his ability to explain the bones in archaeological sites.
For Associate Professor of Biology Lori Eggert, collaboration is at the heart of everything she does. From local to international projects, and even within her lab, collaboration is invaluable. Dr. Eggert’s life and research are a testament to the amazing feats that can be accomplished with coordinated, hard work from many different, devoted sources.
Sandy Rikoon has a lot on his proverbial plate. His work is hard to pigeonhole, except to say that, in general, it’s grounded in concern over both people and the environment. Since his academic discipline in rural sociology lives “at the intersection of basic and applied research,” it is the pursuit of “seamless connections” between his research, teaching, and outreach activities that drives Rikoon’s work.
José Garcia puts on and takes off many hats during the average week, owing to the extension, teaching, and research dimensions of his work as Extension Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology. For instance, as Coordinator of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program at MU (CFSSA), Garcia spends most of his time doing outreach with rural communities throughout the state. A common misunderstanding some people have about the term “sustainable agriculture” is that it rejects technology, harkening back to an earlier time when people worked mainly with their hands. Quite the contrary, Garcia clarifies: sustainable agriculture uses the most recent technology in its approach to farming (and to food itself), in which economic viability and environmental impact, along with social responsibility, are at the center of every decision. In relation to this last dimension, approaches to sustainable agriculture ask such questions as the following: “How socially responsible are farmers? What is the impact of their operations on communities, families, and workers? And how connected to the community are they? ” Garcia explains the complexity of the situation: “All of those kinds of things need to be taken into consideration when making decisions because food and agriculture are totally connected to people, to communities, and to laborers.” Thus Garcia provides information and training to people about various aspects of agriculture – whether that involves farms, factories, schools, or other community organizations. He hopes to see a ripple effect, with the information he gives to various community educators in Missouri being spread throughout the state.
There are ways in which Matt Gompper’s work is simultaneously disheartening and inspiring. As an associate professor in the Fisheries and Wildlife department, he pursues research that falls into an area of wildlife biology known as conservation biology. That is, he seeks to understand the theoretical and real-world causes that drive animal populations to decline or become extinct. While focusing on animal species on the brink of extinction is surely depressing, his efforts are also aimed at conservation—and that’s the part that is encouraging.
Dr. Lyman gives us an overview of how he finds his research projects.
Dr. Lyman demonstrates how using a greater time depth — 10,000 years instead of 30, for example — can better inform scientists dealing with conservation issues.
Dr. Lyman explains the connection between anthropological research and policies that address climate change.
Fieldwork images used with the permission of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley.
Folklorist, sociologist, and environmentalist, Sandy Rikoon runs the environmental sociology program in the Department of Rural Sociology, where he teaches graduate courses in environmental sociology, advises students, and does research in the area of environmental sociology.
Only after encountering problems do many state and federal agencies call upon the expertise of social scientists for help, and Rikoon wishes they would ask for help while they set up a project—rather than afterward—to make sure the process fits with local norms.
Garcia describes a few projects within the realm of sustainable agriculture. For example, Garcia trains extension educators on various sustainability issues. The educators may then go back to their communities and work directly with farmers and workers, “so that those farmers are more exposed to sustainable agriculture issues, including, for example, sustainable agriculture practices, natural resources, conservation issues, and funding opportunities for sustainable agriculture projects for their farms.” Garcia works as well with MU’s community of students, staff, and faculty, offering a monthly seminar called, “What’s New in Sustainable Food and Farming.”
Gompper’s work has also become his hobby. He discusses how his family has also become involved in his work.
Students work as a non-profit organization to promote the awareness of species extinction, animal ecology, and environmental issues to elementary students.
Without active management and conservation of tigers in the wild, tigers will disappear from the wild in our lifetime. Tigers for Tigers is a student group that raises money to help tigers continue to survive in the wild.
In order to raise awareness of their research, Gompper and his team work closely with a number of agencies, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Arkansas Fishing Game Commission, and the U.S. Forest Services.
Gompper discusses using radio telemetry, infrared cameras, and track plates as non-invasive techniques for tracking various animals.
The Eastern Spotted Skunk is on the verge of extinction. Gompper discusses work in the region that aims to understand why various animals are on the decline and what can be done about it.
Introduction to Gompper’s research in conservation biology. Gompper discusses animal disease and evolutionary ecology.