Population and the Environment: Analytical Demography and Applied Population Ethics/KaitlynDavis
Notes by user Kaitlyn Davis (UC Boulder) for Population and the Environment: Analytical Demography and Applied Population Ethics
Most useful thing learned in course:
For me, the most useful about this course was seeing more examples of and talking through the process of moving from 1) establishing research questions to 2) identifying the key variables to 3) developing the equations to relate the variables to each other to 4) developing models of how the systems work. For me, steps 3 and 4 have always been the most difficult and are currently the steps I am thinking through for my dissertation. Getting to talk with other researchers about this process and seeing how they developed equations and models to capture and depict their topics of interest has helped me make some inroads to get started on this process in my own research.
Some additional useful things learned in the course:
-The importance of always being aware of and periodically re-assessing/re-identifying the interplay between 1) models/abstractions of data patterns and 2) on the ground interviews and data collection that reveal the key variables/driving factors and logics/frameworks of the subjects that contribute to the observed data patterns (such as in Caroline Bledsoe’s . Without this ground-truthing and finding out what variables actually matter for the study organisms and how they conceptualize them, our models will be flawed due to either missing key variables or not being able to actually explain the implications of the patterns they show.
-The importance of considering time lengths/durations in a process. For example, as we saw in Mary Shenk’s lecture on demographic transitions, the same pattern (e.g. declining fertility rate), but over different time scales (e.g. a longer time in one area than another), can have significantly different impacts (e.g. amount of population in each of the two different areas). Another example from this workshop was thinking about what is the temporal resolution of our data and how this aligns with the temporal resolution of the variable of interest (such as Lori Hunter discussed in terms of census data and temporary migrations).
-What models to use for particular demographic problems (and how to accommodate variation and additional parameters)
Applications for my dissertation research:
As I’m building models and thinking of variables to consider for my dissertation, which deals with agricultural adaptations in light of socioeconomic changes in the indigenous American Southwest, this workshop will be extremely helpful (particularly Chris Kempes’s work on the land/resources needed to sustain a given population and Charlotte Lee’s model integrating environment, population, and society).
Reference material notes
Village Ecodynamics Project
Relevance: paleoenvironmental reconstructions, identifying viable areas for food production in the past, archaeological work on different ways societies dealt with environmental changes
SKOPE (Synthesizing Knowledge of Past Environments)
Relevance: paleoenvironmental data and models (including precipitation and growing degree days) available for open source use/download (note: the website is not fully functional yet, but hopefully will be soon)
Cajete, Gregory (ed.). 1999. A People’s Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living. Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe.
Relevance: indigenous perspectives on the relationship of people and environment
Ingram, Scott E., and Robert C. Hunt (eds.). 2015. Traditional Arid Lands Agriculture: Understanding the Past for the Future. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
- Especially the chapter called “Understanding the Agricultural Consequences of Aggregation”
Relevance: how populations adapt/innovate to increase the productivity/viability of landscapes with limiting resources (in this case, limited precipitation/irrigation)
Killion, Thomas (ed.). 1992. Gardens of Prehistory: The Archaeology of Settlement Agriculture in Greater Mesoamerica. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Relevance: how agriculture changes/structures society and the environment (and vice versa)