Course: ENST 302: Environmental Research Design
Faculty: Amanda Wooden
Students: Nicole Bakeman, Adriana DiSilvestro, Morgan Greenly, and Anne Scott
DP&S Liaison: Janine Glathar
Date: Summer & Fall 2014
In summer 2014, Prof. Amanda Wooden (Environmental Studies) began working on a research project to examine peoples’ attitudes towards environmental issues. The project explores connections between opposition to Marcellus Shale drilling (“fractivism”) and opposition to a proposed tire incinerator in our sub-region of Central Pennsylvania – a rural, rapidly-industrializing area. There are fascinating connections and divisions among activists and in public opinion about these two issues. The comparison reveals much about the dynamic nature of environmental concern and activism in a rural industrializing area.
Over the course of summer 2014, Prof. Wooden led a team of summer research students (including Nicole Bakeman- Managing for Sustainability ’16, Adriana DiSilvestro – Undeclared ’18, Morgan Greenly – Geography/Anthropology ’15, and Anne Scott – Geography ’15) in developing research questions and framing the methodologies to be used in the project. During the 8 week summer research period, the students conducted field research on environmental activism, including ethnographic interviews and surveys. In addition to the field work, students developed tabular and GIS data resources related to demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the study area population and the existing (and future projected) landscape of industrial facilities in the area to better understand the interplay of spatial and non-spatial considerations in environmental activism around these two issues. The student researchers used ArcGIS desktop software for the GIS and spatial components of the research and Nvivo software to analyze interviews, blog posts, news stories and survey results. The qualitative datasets developed in Nvivo were later developed into GIS data layers.
In fall 2014, Prof. Amanda Wooden (Environmental Studies) and Janine Glathar (GIS Specialist, Library & IT) collaborated on integrating work from the summer research project into Environmental Studies 302, ‘Environmental Research Design.’ ENST302 is a required course for Environmental Studies majors. Research materials created in ArcGIS desktop were published as map services to Bucknell’s back end web mapping infrastructure and then used to create web maps for students in Environmental Studies 302. A GIS student assistant (Jaclyn Tules – Geography ’15) was instrumental in helping to convert the summer research materials into a teaching dataset.
Students in the course completed a series of labs using ArcGIS Online to work with spatial datasets and learn GIS methodologies for conducting spatial analysis. Working with data and research questions from an ongoing project gave the students in ENST302 a hands-on, real-world experience in applying GIS and spatial analysis as a research methodology. In their first lab, students learned the basics of working with web maps in ArcGIS Online and used a data dictionary to learn more about the research materials they would be working with. In the second lab, students learned how to geocode data, visualize map layers, aggregate spatial data and other tasks involved in data preparation and processing. In a series of labs later in the course, students performed proximity analyses, areal interpolation and created a distance variable and output file to be used in a regression analysis in SPSS. Students learned how to ask and answer spatial questions, including:
- “How did proximity to the proposed tire incinerator affect peoples’ likelihood to join anti-incinerator efforts?”
- “What geographical features affect how people understand proximity and act on it?”
- “How do you think peoples’ income level is related to their likelihood to join the campaign?”
- “What is the relationship between average income levels to the most common type of activism?”
- “What is the best predictor of environmental activism rates in this case: income (average income or poverty), population size (rural-urban), or proximity?”
Students conducted a series of proximity analyses, evaluating the differences between wind distance, Euclidean distance and drive-time areas around the proposed tire incinerator in White Deer, PA. They learned how to perform areal interpolation to generate summary statistics on the demographic characteristics of populations living within different distance buffers around the proposed site. By the end of the final lab, students generated an output table that included summary demographics by municipality and a distance variable that could be used as input into a regression analysis.
In April of 2015, Jaclyn Tules and Nicole Bakeman accompanied Janine Glathar to deliver a paper on the project at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) conference in Chicago – giving the students an opportunity to present their work at an academic conference and network with students and scholars from a variety of disciplinary fields. The project is moving forward on all fronts. With support from micr-grants funded out of our Andrew W. Mellon grant, student researchers continue to work on this project during the academic year.