Nelson Institute program coordinator, Sarah Graves co-authors newly released book

May 16, 2019

Nelson Institute Environmental Observation and Informatics (EOI) program coordinator, Sarah Graves, is a co-author of the newly released book, Collaboration Across Boundaries for Social-Ecological Systems Science. Edited by Stephen G. Perz, the book outlines best practices and challenges related to interdisciplinary research. The recommendations are made through a set of chapters that feature first-hand experiences from researchers investigating social-ecological systems.  

Graves’ work is highlighted in Chapter 9, along with that of her research team, which includes the project’s principal investigator, T. Trevor Caughlin, Boise State , and team members, Stephanie A. Bohlman, University of Florida- Gainesville, Gregory P. Asner, Carnegie Institution for Science, and Bryan C. Tarbox, Texas State University. The chapter, titled, “High-resolution remote sensing data as a boundary object to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration,” is an account of the team’s reforestation research on the Azuero Peninsula in Panama. In particular, the chapter highlights the benefits of research teams using high-resolution remote sensing data to bridge the social sciences with ecological and mathematical data to fully understand land cover changes. 

Graves, who specializes in developing ecological data through the use of high-resolution airborne hyperspectral and Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) data, contributed to the geospatial aspect of the project, using her skills to quantify the species composition, biomass structure, and growth rates of the forests. As the EOI coordinator, however, Graves was also interested in merging the social sciences with the data to better understand the true drivers and potential of reforestation. This interdisciplinary method is a part of the EOI professional master's program training, which integrates cross-cutting Earth observation techniques, technologies, big data analytics, outreach and more in one unique, 15-month program. Graves hopes that this book will aid in that training by giving EOI students additional insight into interdisciplinary research and inspiring students to give the data context by integrating social aspects such as policies, markets, stakeholder insight, and more into geospatial research.  

“This book is a guide for those interested in interdisciplinary research and our chapter really shows how different researchers from different institutions can collaborate,” Graves said. “I hope this book will also push EOI students to think about, not just the data, but how the data is used. Our chapter shows that you need context and on-the-ground expertise to identify and resolve differences in thinking about the system and facilitate improved land management.”