Iceberg arch, Paradise Bay, Antarctica. iStock photo.
Transdisciplinary Research Calls
USU’S HAEFFNER TO ANTARCTICA Melissa Haeffner was first drawn to Utah State University by an opportunity to collaborate with multi-institution, interdisciplinary teams of scientists exploring how population growth, a changing climate and land use are affecting Utah’s water resources. Now the post-doctoral researcher in USU’s sociology department is undertaking similar collaborations on the world stage — all built around a 20-day women-in-science leadership trip to Antarctica later this year. Haeffner has been working with cohorts from the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and USU as part of the iUTAH team (Innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-sustainability). In fact, last summer, she helped iUTAH conduct a three-day research blitz of synoptic sampling over 20 miles of the Logan River, through Cache Valley and into Franklin Basin in Logan Canyon. But, since December, Haeffner’s interest in a transdisciplinary approach to research has become even more focused. That’s when she was selected as one of just 78 women to participate in Homeward Bound, an initiative designed as part of a 10-year outreach to build a team of scientists and leaders — 1,000-women strong — across the globe. Against the backdrop of Antarctica, Homeward Bound aims to elevate in the participants the leadership capabilities and scientific understanding of the state of our planet. Haeffner is already working on the trip’s transdisciplinary research committee. “You know, it’s cool — it’s 20 days to Antarctica — but really it’s about the relationships,” Haeffner says. “We’re already in research groups planning for the trip and then after the trip my goal is to really make the connections so that I will have colleagues 6 UTAHSTATE I SPRING 2016
in Australia, in South Africa — all over the place.” Haeffner says her Ph.D. is technically in ecology, even though she has a social science background, a convergence, she says, only half-smiling, that “is the answer to life’s problems.” “Not to sound overly ambitious, but I really do believe that if we’re going to be talking climate change, if we’re going to be talking about natural resources, we can’t just study ice and water and air and carbon,” Haeffner says. “The reasons why these things are problems is because they are problems for humans, problems for our human survival. They are anthropogenic problems, because of our impacts on the earth. And so to study these things without the social sciences, I think, is just setting ourselves up for failure. It’s too big, too important a piece to miss.” Participating scientists in Homeward Bound each need to put up $15,000, payable in three installments. Crowd-