US-IALE sessions seek to demystify CHANS research

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April 5, 2012

With coupling comes tangles.

Reaching across research boundaries to study coupled human and natural systems has been documented to put genuine sustainability in reach. But the design also is more challenging as a researcher ventures into unfamiliar disciplines.

That means more questions – especially about methodology to best tackle those tantalizing new questions.

Three Michigan State University researchers are leading “NASA-MSU Symposium: Disentangling Diverse Drivers and Complex Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS) at the U.S. – International Association for Landscape Ecology Annual Symposium Monday afternoon in Newport, R.I.

The session will explore the common challenge: How to triumph when wrestling with unfamiliar methodology.

The three are all affiliated with the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability  -- Vanessa Hull, a PhD Student, Mao-Ning Tuanmu, who just received his PhD from MSU and has accepted a post-doctoral associate position at Yale University an Jianguo “Jack” Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and also is the center’s director.

“The common theme is that everybody is integrating human and natural problems,” Hull said. “Many times in landscape ecology the human aspect is either not considered or is oversimplified. This group we’ve assembled has expertise in looking at the human dimension more in depth. We’re looking for ways to give people ideas and resources to solve the bigger problems.”

Researchers from across the country will present CHANS research work that centers on landscape ecology, but explores issues such as environmental history and urban planning.

Liu created the NASA_MSU program in 1998 with support from Michigan State and NASA when the US-IALE annual symposium was held at MSU.

“The awards program helps students attend the US-IALE meeting, present their research, interact with leading researchers and build their professional networks,” Liu said. “In the past 15 years, the program has supported approximately 310 students from more than 120 institutions from around the world. Many of the former recipients are now leaders in landscape ecology research.”