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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES FOR IMPROVING ORGANIC FARMING IN THE MID-ATLANTIC REGION

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Title: Training tomorrow's environmental problem-solvers: an integrative approach to graduate education

Authors
item Moslemi, Jennifer - CORNELL UNIVERSITY
item Capps, Krista - CORNELL UNIVERSITY
item Maul, Jude
item Johnson, Mark - IRES, U OF BRITISH COL
item Mcintyre, Peter - UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
item Melvin, April - CORNELL UNIVERSITY
item Vadas, Timothy - UOMD, BALTIMORE
item Weiss, Marissa - CORNELL UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Bioscience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 10, 2009
Publication Date: June 10, 2009
Citation: Moslemi, J.M., Capps, K.A., Maul, J.E., Johnson, M.S., Mcintyre, P.B., Melvin, A.M., Vadas, T.M., Weiss, M. 2009. Training tomorrow's environmental problem-solvers: an integrative approach to graduate education. Bioscience. 56(6):514-521.

Interpretive Summary: Environmental problems are generally complex and overlap traditional disciplinary boundaries. Long-term solutions and development of tools to solve these problems requires collaborative research that integrates knowledge across fields. The traditional model for training new scientists emphasizes personal independence and disciplinary focus. Increasing awareness interconnectedness of stakeholder issues and concerns has spurred a re-examination of graduate training in the environmental and agricultural sciences. Many institutions are implementing novel training approaches with varying degrees of success. Here, a group of current and former doctoral students evaluates our collective experience in one such program, the Biogeochemistry and Environmental Biocomplexity Program at Cornell University, which was funded by an NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship grant. We used surveys and meta-analysis of published literature to identify aspects of the program that contributed to our integrative research training experience. The stumbling blocks that may arise in such programs are discussed. We conclude with recommendations for students and faculty interested in facilitating cross-disciplinary interactions at their home institutions.

Technical Abstract: Environmental problems are generally complex and blind to disciplinary boundaries. Efforts to devise long-term solutions require collaborative research that integrates knowledge across historically disparate fields, yet the traditional model for training new scientists emphasizes personal independence and disciplinary focus. Increasing awareness of the limitations of the traditional model has spurred a re-examination of graduate training in the environmental sciences. Many institutions are implementing novel training approaches with varying degrees of success. Here, a group of current and former doctoral students evaluates our collective experience in one such program, the Biogeochemistry and Environmental Biocomplexity Program at Cornell University, which was funded by an NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship grant. We identify aspects of the program that contributed to our integrative research training experience, and discuss stumbling blocks that may arise in such programs. We conclude with recommendations for students and faculty interested in facilitating cross-disciplinary interactions at their home institutions.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014