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Workshops SCCS-NY 2018

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SCCS-NY 2018 offered workshops on a range of engaging conservation topics for participants to learn new methods and advance their careers. 

Morning Workshops (9am-12pm)

What Am I Doing With My Life? Career Planning for the Modern Conservationist

This session will be an opportunity for participants to reflect on their own academic and work history while exploring potential future directions and gaining skills in career planning, networking, and self-promotion. Come join us for an afternoon gathering to learn about potential career paths in conservation! Interested in industry? Aching for academia? Never gonna give up non-profits? Pretty sure you're perfect for policy? Wooed by science writing? Then bring your curious self to our workshop, where we'll be doing hands-on self-assessment activities, discussing varied options in conservation career pathways, and sharing in small-groups about the challenges and rewards of the work we'd like to do. And don't forget: the more, the merrier! We invite senior scientists to speak about their experiences, post-docs and graduate students to group-share their goals, and undergraduates & high schoolers to discuss their developing ideas. All you need is a notebook, pen, and your creative mind‚ group activities, games, worksheets, and cookies are on us.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizers: Mary E. Blair, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History; Alexandra Sutton Lawrence, Duke University; Christian J. Rivera, University of Florida 

Fundraising 101: Developing a Fundraising Strategy for Grants & Scholarships Stephanie

All projects require money to fund their activities. It is essential for successful early-career conservation leaders to know how to raise funds for their projects, organizations, and their own higher education. During this three-hour session, participants will receive tips on being successful fundraisers, learn how to develop basic fundraising strategies, gain skills writing a succinct proposal abstract/personal essay and discuss challenges and opportunities the participants have encountered in their fundraising journey. This workshop is intended for participants with minimal fundraising experience.

  • Length: 3 hours 
  • Organizers: Kate Mastro, Wildlife Conservation Society, Graduate Scholarship Program; Jill Spear and Julia Luthringer, National Geographic Society, Early Career Grants Program

Hacking for Conservation

We are in the middle of a period of extraordinary change on the planet- a sixth great mass extinction. Our challenges will increase as billions emerge into middle class placing new demands on the planet, exacerbated by climate change. We need new solutions, disciplines, and solvers engaged in conservation as powerful new tools for conservation exist in adjacent fields. We propose harnessing the power of exponential technologies, open innovation, and entrepreneurship to transform the efficacy and scale of conservation efforts. This workshop will offer participants a boot camp in design thinking and technology development for solving the grand challenges in conservation. It will also teach core skills for product development for conservation technology that can dramatically affect the speed, scale, and sustainability of such efforts. The workshop participants will learn about designing scalable solutions for conservation. Following design thinking methods and activities, the teams will work through challenge statements to define a set of problems, brainstorm a set of solutions, consider design factors, iterate on ideas, and understand the most effective processes to move from idea to innovation, and innovation to social enterprise to scale for conservation impact.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizers: Cassie Hoffman, Conservation X Labs; Tom Quigley, Conservation X Labs; Jay Sullivan, Conservation X Labs

Spatial Analysis in R

Over the last few years, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the R programming environment have taken the world by storm. A large number of academics and conservation managers rely on a combination of GIS softwares such as ArcGIS and QGIS and the R environment to work through their analysis. This workshop will offer an introduction to carrying out all spatial analyses in R, such as reading in shapefiles, writing rasters to a folder, projecting rasters, defining coordinate systems, plotting heat maps, kriging, calculating NDVI for a satellite image, analyzing climate data and using the pre-processed data in a ecological niche modeling framework. This workshop will provide a brief introduction to functions in sp, GISTools, maptools, rgeos, rgdal, raster and RSToolbox packages. Students will become familiar with quick processing of large datasets in R, along with preparing these datasets for future use, such as linear regression, visualization or even niche modeling. Students often tend to divide their analyses across multiple platforms, and are forced to satisfy file formats that are necessary for different softwares. An introduction to a one-stop working environment for spatial analyses will be covered in this workshop.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizer: Vijay Ramesh, Columbia University

Science Communication: Breaking Barriers and Building Bridges

Excellence in research is only one component of being a modern scientist. The ability to communicate complex research to the public is essential not only for the practical application of results but also for sharing the relevance of one's research with the public. In today's world, conservation scientists must be able to share an accessible message with community members, grant program officers, politicians, members of the media, and beyond. In this interactive workshop, participants will learn to assess the prior knowledge of their audiences, connect with their audience through storytelling and narratives, and identify and eliminate jargon in their explanations. Rather than simply sharing information, participants will also incorporate the cultural, political, and social context of their own fields of study to craft a more nuanced dialogue with the public. Participants will learn how to prepare for such public engagement in face-to-face events like science festivals, science cafes, meet-and-greets at science centers and museums. Finally, participants will explore ways to get involved in existing science outreach efforts and how to create their own outreach opportunities if there are none available in their area.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizers: Sarah States and Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens


Afternoon Workshops (2-5pm)

Zooniverse and Wildbook -- Starting With Computer Vision For Beginners 

I'm a software engineer, learning to apply my skills to conservation.  I’m excited about using computer vision tools to assess diversity and population data. In the first half of the workshop, we'll look at the Zooniverse platform. You’ll make your own demo project, learn how to upload new datasets, and make your project visible. Zooniverse helps researchers connect with citizen scientists. The researcher uploads media and sets up questions to ask. "Do you see animals in this photo?", "What kind?".  Volunteers log onto the project, are presented with the media, and answer the questions about each image or video. The dataset can then be used to train artificial intelligence computer vision models, or on its own merit. In the second half, we'll use a pre-set installation of Wildbook to practice data input and processing. Wildbook is a platform that provides citizen science, data mining, and database components, as well as computer vision solutions. While Zooniverse usually asks to identify species, Wildbook tracks individuals, recognizing spot and stripe patterns or fin notches. A future version will mine YouTube for animal sightings. You'll walk away with a level of comfort with computer vision tools, and an understanding of next steps.

  • Length: 3 hours 
  • Organizer: Darya Chernikhova, Gotham Green Software

Designing, Applying, and Interpreting Conservation Genetics Studies

Population genetics can be a powerful tool in threatened species management and monitoring. In this workshop, we will discuss how, why, and when we can integrate population genetic studies into conservation projects. Workshop attendees do not need a background in genetics. We will go over introductory topics in molecular and population genetics, and expand the discussion to include case studies of some of our current research in conservation genomics. The workshop will cover diverse applications of genetics and genomics in species conservation, such as identifying species in wildlife trade, uncovering population structure and connectivity in landscapes, and assessing the adaptive potential of threatened populations. After considering these case studies, we will break into small groups and design conservation genetics studies, using varied methodological approaches and discussing their limitations. We will end the workshop with a tour of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and an opportunity for attendees to discuss their own ideas for applying genetics research to their systems.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizers: Stephen Gaughran, Yale University; Evon Hekkala, Fordham University; George Amato, American Museum of Natural History; Gisella Caccone, Yale University

Inspired Cover Letter, Meticulous Resume, and Impressive Interview Skills - Getting the Tools for Your Optimal Conservation Job!

Your job application materials matter! Make the hiring manager's task easier and you are more likely to get noticed. The first paragraph of your cover letter is critical to attracting interest. A well-organized, results-based resume is essential to getting the interview. And in both, as well as in the interview, you will need to weave your mission through your professional story ensuring that your mission parallels theirs. I'm a primate ecologist turned capacity builder. With 6+ years in higher education career services, I have had great success assisting environmental and other STEM students find internships and first full-time positions in conservation and sustainability-focused organizations. For this hands-on workshop bring your resume, cover letter, and job post. Following my step-by-step exclusive tips, you will come away with a meticulously crafted resume, an inspiring cover letter, and a well-articulated mission statement to help you stand out while you pursue the conservation job of your dreams.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizer: Sylvia Atsalis, University of Chicago 

Species Distribution Modeling for Conservation in R and Wallace

Species distribution modeling (SDM) is an important tool for conservation scientists, as it enables us to estimate present species range limits and make predictions about ranges for other areas and time periods. Advances in model-building and evaluation theory are common in the ecology and evolution literature. However, most cutting-edge methods are only accessible to those scientists who can read and write computer code. This results in a barrier to use for many potential users. The Wallace ecological modeling application, implemented in the R programming language as the package "wallace", provides a graphical user interface allowing any user to access advanced SDM procedures. Additionally, Wallace provides extensive guidance text to help both new and experienced users in best practices, and references key manuscripts for further investigation. Each model-building session can be exported as a fully documented R script file, to ensure reproducibility and ease of reporting. In this workshop, we will go through the basics of SDM using Wallace. We will demonstrate the key features of the software and show applications to conservation science.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizers: Matthew Aiello-Lammens, Pace University; Jamie Kass, Andrea Paz, and Gonzalo E. Pinilla, City University of New York

Stand Out for the Right Reasons: Designing Effective Posters and Presentations 

Presenting scientific data and information can be challenging, but using the right visual language is essential to getting your point across more effectively. This workshop on visual presentation of scientific research and work will focus on posters and presentations, and will give participants tools to become better communicators. Following a short presentation, participants will be given guidelines and will work individually on materials they have previously prepared, with instructors circulating the room and assisting. The workshop will conclude with participants peer-reviewing each other's work.

  • Length: 3 hours
  • Organizer: Nadav Gazit, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History

Confronting Harassment and Assault in the Field

Sexual harassment and assault have been recognized as serious and widespread problems within academic institutions, for faculty as well as for graduate and undergraduate students. Recent media coverage has shed light on the harassment and assault among scientists and students in field research and in field course settings. One 2018 study reported that among science researchers and trainees, more than half of participants have reported experiencing sexual harassment while working in the field. This workshop examines the problem of sexual harassment in field biology, ecology, conservation science and other related natural science fields, and makes concrete recommendations to instructors, staff, and students about tools to prevent, avoid, and report harassment and assault in field instruction and research. The 1.5-hour workshop will cover evidence-supported techniques including 1) establishing clear organizational and classroom harassment policies, 2) regular peer and student trainings, 3) experiential bystander empowerment trainings, and 3) understandable and effective complaint reporting systems. Participants will also review hypothetical scenarios to understand recommended responses to harassment in field settings, as well as the range of behaviors that harassment prevention policies may cover. Attendees should leave the workshop with tangible techniques to understand and work to prevent sexual harassment from occurring within their field research setting or field science course.

  • Length: 1.5 hours
  • Organizer: Erika Zavaleta, University of California Santa Cruz