Public Participation in Disaster Mitigation in the Monterey Pine Forest
My project seeks to gather information on public opinion of different fire mitigation types to help better inform the management of the Monterey Pine forest in Cambria, CA. The Monterey pine is a rare species and there are only a few natural stands of Monterey Pine found in the world. Due to its rarity, the community of Cambria is extremely protective of how the forest is managed. Currently the forest has had a long history of fire suppression and has had trouble regenerating new growth. The goal of this project is to determine what mitigation types would be accepted by the community when managing the Monterey Pine forest. The hope is that the survey will help determine the desired condition of the forest for the community of Cambria, California.
What Inspired Me
When I was studying abroad in Taiwan, we were studying how the Taiwanese manage their environment. On this trip I learned that a huge part of managing their environment had to do with preparing for natural disasters in a way that also meets the needs of their communities. This was the first time I seriously looked at how much community resilience plays a role in environmental management. I learned that if you do everything right by the environment, but your community can’t withstand the environment it is in, then your community is not sustainable at all. I revisited the idea of disaster mitigation and sustainability again when I began an internship with CAL FIRE as a GIS contractor. I began talking to my bosses and my advisor to see what information was lacking in the realm of disaster mitigation and sustainability. To be able to gather public opinion in a meaningful way we decided that bringing participatory mapping could help bring a spatial component to the information like many of the projects and papers published by Dr. Greg Brown.
When I started fall quarter it felt a little weird to be back in school, even though I was only graduated for a year the transition back from the workforce felt like a complete change in pace. I think the hardest part about the first quarter is it felt like everyone around me knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing. It seemed like everyone had their project figured out, what it was going to look like, and how it was going to all get done. Eventually when I began talking to other students, I realized most of them felt the same way as I did.
In our research planning class, we began to work on literature reviews and research plans for our project. In this class I learned that this process is not about showing what you know but understanding what you don’t know (Thanks Dr. Pressler). She said this was particularly true of writing and that our first round of writing should be about learning and less focused on how you will communicate what you learned, this would come later. This was not the easiest thing to wrap my head around. It made sense, but it took some time getting used to the idea that its ok to be in the discovery stage of your learning and it’s not all about the end product. Here I was able to start developing my project and get a good skeleton of what it would look like.
January: A Changing Timeline
When in the research planning stage during fall quarter I created a timeline and budget. This is where my advisors came into play as well as knowing myself to figure out how to best plan this study. I knew that grad school was going to be busy, so I tried to plan each component with some wiggle room for when something doesn’t go as planned, which it did. When I started moving into the working stage of the project more requirements started to change my timeline. In the span of a week my project timeline changed about 4 times, on top of my already busy quarter. Eventually it ended up at a similar point, but this back and forth obviously caused a good amount of stress. I think the most important lesson I learned in January is that timelines change, requirements change, and it is essential to prioritize.
In the research planning stage of my project, during fall quarter, I created a timeline and budget. This is where my advisors came into play as well as knowing myself to figure out how to best plan this study. I knew that grad school was going to be busy, so I tried to plan each component with some wiggle room for when something doesn’t go as planned. When I started moving into the working stage of the project more requirements started to change my timeline. In the span of a week my project timeline changed about 4 times, on top of my already busy quarter. Eventually it ended up similar to what I originally planned, but this back and forth obviously caused a good amount of stress. I think the most important lesson I learned in January is that timelines change, requirements change, and it is essential to prioritize.
Something else that I learned this quarter is that you can’t always please everyone. Recognizing the realistic scope of your project is important. I had to recognize that I am contributing a small piece of a larger effort in disaster mitigation. I have recognized that I can’t include everything and make everyone happy. Advice I would give is invite as many stakeholders as you can to give input but have a few advisors that can help you filter out the important stuff.
During spring quarter my survey data collection was completed allowing me to begin work on the analysis stage of my project. Due to the busy schedule between work, school, and my personal life, I have had a hard time figuring out the steps needed to complete the analysis and writing stages of my project. My advisor gave me the advice to start with a blank page, go back to the objectives of my project, and start to make smaller questions that we can answer based on those objectives. She then suggested to fill in what types of analysis I needed to do to meet these objectives. Taking a step back and clarifying my tasks occasionally, really helped me refocus on what I need to do to complete my project.