Monday, January 2, 2012


Dear reader(s),

 I exist! One summer vacation, one cross-country move, one semester of graduate school, and one extremely long Christmas break later, I am pleased to announce that I still am breathing and writing. Just not here. Very often. You see, I didn't have much to say. And why write when there's only words to learn, not speak?

 It was a rather silent first semester in many ways.
I do not have a background in sociology, so my first two months led to emotions slightly analogous to my first few months in France: silence. However, the language of sociology is a bit more intuitive (and anglophone), and I think that maybe, I'm picking it up. When I've made the impromptu joke about dummy variables (they're nominal and binary, after all) or Goffman (that's my backstage to you!), I have felt inordinately proud of myself. I also have an office. With a nameplate. Grad student life is a sweet gig.

Small victories. For now, know that as I learn more that sparks eco-curiosity, I will post.

 Yours eventually, Amanda

Friday, July 1, 2011

Viva la Smartphone!

I believe that this stunning blog article suitably commemorates my nearly simultaneous launch into the world of mobile computing (a Droid Incredible 2 is on going to replace my dumbphone next week) and my foray into higher education come August. While researching the usefulness of smartphones in grad school (thanks to helpful input from my friends at GradCafe), I was impressed by how many useful, brilliant, and plain neat apps there are for these mini-computers. Scan a page and it becomes a PDF, deposited in your Dropbox account (which you can access anywhere). Access your Google docs, calendar, and mail on the go. See a bird on your way to class and ID it...

The Gideon Burton of the blog Academic Evolution has strong words for those who resist the smartphone experience. In
Scholarly Communications must be Mobile, he writes: "Mobile computing is the future for computing, period. ... The PC revolution of the 20th century will be imitated by the smartphone revolution of the 21st."

In fact, "Scholars unwilling to use mobile computing are going to be disconnected from their peers. When everyone else is getting instantaneous updates about critical issues in the field through RSS feeds or microblogging updates, but you are waiting a month or more for your copy of The New England Journal of Medicine to come out -- well, you aren't going to seem very professional. You know that one professor who was a holdout from email for so long and still needs the secretary to show him how to mail attachments? In the near future, a professor without a smartphone just won't be all that smart.

"Mobile computing will drive demand in scholarship, prompting ideas and enabling on-the-fly collaboration and coordination, and forcing it to become more timely, more rhetorically nimble, more accessible on multiple levels. It is going to improve learned communication to have it piped into the hands of the masses."

Friday, June 24, 2011


I was born and raised (for the most part) in rural western Pennsylvania. We lived in the coal mining boss's house in a worn out coal village. Though the coal mines have been closed for decades and workers have fled to cities for work, I grew up reminded of coal. After floods, our creek would be a swirling flood of orange - from iron oxide leaks in the mines. Unintended consequences.

Coal mining takes a different face today, as coal bosses have moved to new hills and developed new methods to extract Appalachian gold. This article reports on one facet of unintended human consequences from mountaintop removal coal mining - one of the most violent and destructive methods of extracting coal. The Science Daily report explains findings published in the journal Environmental Research which "contribute to the growing evidence that mountaintop mining is done at substantial expense to the environment, to local economies and to human health."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Go (urban) compost!

From Science Daily, based on a report published in HortScience:

Dairy Manure Goes Urban: Organic Compost Improves Soil, Enhances Ornamental Plants in Residential Landscapes

When natural ecosystems are replaced by roads, homes, and commercial structures, soil is negatively impacted. Studies have shown that, among other issues, distressed urban soils are often significantly compacted, may have alkaline pH, and may contain low amounts of essential organic matter and nutrients. This altered soil is typically not conducive to healthy plant root growth and establishment, leading to challenges for urban landscapes and home gardens.

"The management of urban soils often requires a different approach than is applied to natural or agricultural soils, but some management practices that are commonly used in agricultural systems have the potential to improve the quality of urban soils," explained Amy L. Shober, corresponding author of a new report from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. Shober, along with graduate student Shawna Loper and their colleagues, designed a study to determine if the addition of compost -- with or without the application of shallow tillage or aeration -- improves soil properties and plant growth in simulated new residential landscapes.

"We found that composted dairy manure solids can improve soil physical and chemical properties in residential landscapes when sandy fill soils are used. Application of composted dairy manure solids can also enhance the establishment and improve the growth of selected ornamental landscape plants," Shober said. "However, topdressing with composted dairy manure solids enhanced plant growth and quality as much as incorporation of compost to a depth of 20 cm by tillage."

The study showed the benefits of compost additions only during the first year after planting; the authors noted that the increased growth and the subsequent health of plants resulting from applications of compost may also prevent future plant failure.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unexplored and in peril

A "fish" friend of mine suggested I read this article explaining the dreary report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), a global panel of marine experts. According to the IPSO authors, we are "at high risk for entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history." The cumulative and rapidly occurring impact of overfishing, pollution, and climate change is endangering Earth's most undiscovered frontier.

The report explains: "The oceans have already absorbed more than 80% of the additional heat added to the climate system and about 33% of the carbon dioxide we've emitted into the atmosphere. That's slowed down climate change on land, but it's changing the pH levels of the water in ways that could have a bigger impact on sea life than a thousand factory-fishing boats"

Read more:,8599,2078840,00.html#ixzz1Q10sc3vg