Monday, May 05, 2008

179. Ph.D Dissertation of the Inspirational Julie Ekstrom in Ecosystem-Based Management Along the California Current

Today was indeed a special day! I was able to witness the Ph.D. dissertation defense of Julie Ekstrom, my roommate, who is about to move out of the house (boo hoo) and move on to Stanford! She (and my housemates) has helped me in so many ways, from letting me live in a house with $600 rent+utilities (with my own room) to all things academic. Julie, who's advisor is Dr. Oran Young (also my new advisor!), investigates the human dimensions of environmental change, which ventures into the realm of governance, institutions (rule systems), organizations... and now... environmental media (which I'll be focusing on). Julie has worked on the idea of mismatch / fragmentation between non-human ecosystem structure and human management systems. The beauty of her dissertation (for me at least), is that her frame of reference is ecosystem-based management, in which humans are INCLUDED. They are a part of the system of study. Therefore we must systematically investigate human structures and how they influence and interact with non-human ecological factors. So, I decided to emphasize this theme in the cartoon above, which I drew during her hour-long session of talk + question/answer session. I gave Julie pigtails though she had a ponytail primarily because of the complexities of drawing an aesthetic ponytail on an allometrically distorted cartoon bobblehead human.

The other wonderful component of this dissertation is that Julie tackled a dead-on USEFUL Ph.D. question, and through a series of interviews and "ground-truthing," she tried to adjust her law text-mining tool such that it can be user friendly to people who deal with ocean management and environmental law in general. Then again, Julie also mentioned the notion of discrepancy between "data" and "reality." Her parallel example was analyzing data from low-resolution satellites versus being on the ground to verify what vegetation or structures were present. Her text-mining tool doesn't show ALL pertinent information, but is a superb, conceptual starting point.

Drawing this cartoon was the least I could do for all of Julie's help! It was indeed an intense, serious session between Julie and the audience, and I thought this whole gig needed something light-hearted and environmental-media-ish. I also had two versions of the cartoon, one without marine invertebrates and one with marine invertebrates. After all, her case study was on ocean acidification, which affects the patterns of invertebrate calcification--overall shell formation.

Julie's work has so much potential, I can't wait to see future work blossom.

I decided to give Julie and Dan (fiance!) the original drawing, and I just have nice digital copies on my computer. Dan and Julie's father liked the cartoon, and there was mandate to have the image framed!

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