New Masters and PhD positions in Canada (grazing and climate change)

Update 26 May 2015: Please note this position has been filled.

(Introductory note by Joern: Kate Sherren and I have published together on holistic management. It’s an exciting field, and Kate is in the process of setting up a new project on this. The following positions are nice opportunities for motivated individuals looking to work in Canada!)

By Kate Sherren

Resolving the schism in the science and practice of holistic grazing management

Up to 4 Positions – mix of Masters and PhD

Expressions of interest are being sought for Masters and PhD positions. Please register your interest by sending your CV, transcript, and a brief statement of interest to Kate Sherren (kate.sherren@dal.ca) including desired level of study. To all readers of this blog: please help distribute this note — thank you!

Holistic management (HM) is an approach to grazing decision-making based on explicit goal-setting and careful monitoring, often characterized by native pastures and high-intensity but short-duration rotational grazing. Science is bitterly divided on its utility: experimental scientists see no benefits from the constituent practices in controlled experiments, while management-oriented agricultural scientists report benefits at the farm scale, including during drought. To date, producer experience and perceptions have been neglected, but also untested in appropriate ways. This project combines quantitative and qualitative social and information science methods, grounded with insights from agricultural science, to help resolve the schism: drawing a comprehensive picture of a polarized field of study; establishing the value of qualitative methods and producer perceptions in agricultural science; and, exploring HM as a viable climate adaptation strategy for the Canadian Prairies. Aspects of this issue were previously featured on this blog here.

Funded project areas

Several student opportunities are available, with the level flexible (Masters or PhD) depending on the student mix:

  • At Dalhousie, to study global scholarship and policy on grazing and climate using: measures of scientific influence (bibliometrics) to understand the structure of the HM literature; qualitative investigation of its key texts to establish the influence of producer perceptions on science and policy; and/or statement sorting via Q-methodology to identify polarizing concepts as well as common ground.
  • At the University of Alberta, to study Prairie HM trainers, their students, non-HM producers and experts/scholars using quantitative methods and cognitive mapping to understand and compare world views and decision-making.
  • At either university, for a landscape-scale study of livestock producers, using qualitative methods including landscape elicitation, such as farm tours, to explore producer perceptions of their landscape and climate, how these drive management decision-making, and how they align with scientific evidence.

The above topics would suit students with an environmental studies, rural sociology, or agricultural science background, but we are not prescriptive. More important is a strong academic record, an interest in agricultural futures and/or the science/policy interface, and a working style compatible with interdisciplinary team research, as described on this blog here and here. Read more details (including those above), here: http://myweb.dal.ca/kt072488/HolisticMGMTstudent_final.pdf.

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