DegreeMaster of Environmental Management ’22
We’ve been doing a lot of research into the history of exploration and exploitation of Antarctica. I’ve really appreciated Greg Larsen’s and David Johnston’s dedication to understanding the history of the area and making sure that we all feel comfortable with the data that we have.
We work with a lot of satellite and drone data. I am pursuing the GIS Analysis certificate at the Nicholas School, but this allows me to take the skills that I’ve learned from classes and apply them in a real-world scenario. I really like that aspect and it has allowed be to become more comfortable in my GIS skills.
We have a bunch of people working on several different projects right now, from examining the effects of seal trampling on vegetation to looking at penguins’ nesting behaviors and presence on different islands. I’m currently working on a penguin project that just started two weeks ago. We have a lot of community team members from other organizations and universities that are involved, so Dr. Johnston and Greg will bring those people in to speak about their area of expertise. It’s interesting to connect with the broader science community and learn from their extensive knowledge of this space.
It’s been really nice to work with people outside of my specific program. We have some Ph.D. students on our team, there are some undergrads and some people from the Master of Environmental Management: Coastal Management program, who I know and have worked with. It’s been great to have that kind of collaboration and learn from their experiences in areas that I may not be familiar with.
Another way this project has been different from other learning experiences is just being able to pursue my own research interests and be supported. The team leads are very helpful. If your idea isn’t on their list of proposed ideas, they’ll help you work through it, get the data and throw ideas back and forth about how you can pursue that path.
I would say the biggest issue our team has faced is the online setting, because we have some people based in Durham and some in Beaufort. A lot of our community partners are located on the west coast, so we sometimes must work through technical difficulties.
The only other challenge that I think we’ve faced is that some of our team members don’t have any formal training with GIS. We’ve distributed the work evenly so that people with experience are really involved in helping those that don’t. Greg will also make sure to work with them individually and ensure they’re comfortable using the skills that he’s asking for. He really goes above and beyond to help everyone feel like they have the skillset to complete their projects.
I’m excited to see how everyone’s different projects and interests shape into a final product. I don’t think any of us are sure what that final product is going to look like yet. Whether our data shows something that is profound or not, and even if our results are not what was expected, we will still have this baseline data to work off in the future. Antarctica is such an isolated place that we don’t have the richness of data that we would in more accessible places. Having this baseline data will be valuable for research moving forward.
The whole experience has been very rewarding and very different than a traditional class. I’m thankful that we get to have these opportunities at Duke, especially because I know that not everyone at every undergraduate or graduate institution gets to participate in an experience like this.
November 2021; excerpts from a conversation with Dana Adcock ’22