Confluence Lab Projects
Communicating Fire: Integrative Learning through Participatory Narratives
Communicating Fire is an interdisciplinary project that explores the efficacy of using personal narratives of wildland fire to increase participation in informal STEM learning in rural Idaho. The American West is rife with personal narratives of evacuation, smoke, disaster. Yet alongside these dramatic events and the deep, powerful emotions that come with them, fire scientists carry a quieter but no less important message: fire has always been a part of the western landscape, many wildland fires play natural and beneficial roles, and in a warming world we must learn to live with more fire. Indeed, prescribed burns — set intentionally by fire managers — are a critical management tactic. Rather than dichotomizing “fire as terror” and “fire as tool,” we explore narrative as a means of integrating the deep emotion of lived experience with the fire science embedded in it to support a better understanding of wildfire in Idaho. Bringing together a science communicator, a narratologist, a fire ecologist, and a specialist on emotions and public lands, our interdisciplinary research team focuses on broadening participation in STEM by exploring:
- What characteristics of narrative are most effective in fire science communication, and
- What audience-centered approaches work best when facilitating participant narratives in informal STEM learning.
Our team will work collaboratively with informal educators based in rural areas of Idaho underrepresented in STEM fields.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Human and Ecological Change in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness: A Collaborative Rephotography Project
Graduate student Micaela Petrini is working with Teresa Cavazos Cohn (Department of Natural Resources and Society) and Yolonda Youngs (Idaho State University, Department of Global Studies) to examine social and ecological change in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness using rephotography methods. In addition to compiling and examining historical-current photograph pairs, researchers will conduct semi-structured interviews with a variety of stakeholders in order to better understand interpretations of change, which may differ between cultural groups.
This project is based at the University of Idaho’s Taylor Wilderness Research Station and is funded by the DeVlieg Foundation.
Constant Place, Shifting Time: Music, Video, and Rephotography
Assistant Professor Ruby Fulton (Composition and Music Theory) will research and create “Constant Place, Shifting Time,” a new piece of music for the celebrated two-pianist, two-percussionist chamber ensemble the icarus Quartet and pre-recorded electronics, in collaboration with U of I video artist Benjamin James (English). Their project is an art counterpart to the rephotography project in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, led by U of I geographer Teresa Cavazos Cohn. The project will bring the icarus Quartet for a three-day residency at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, when they will rehearse the music in open workshops and present on their work with music about science. The quartet will make a professional recording of the music, to which Benjamin James will cut video, using old and new photographs gathered in Cohn’s scientific study. “Constant Place, Shifting Time” uses music and video to examine the impact of humans on the environment, and emphasizes the importance of community in research at every level. This interdisciplinary collaboration between science and the arts will engage both rational and emotional processing systems, maximizing meaning-making and allowing for real communication on the challenging yet pressing question of the impact of human-environmental relationships.
This project is funded by the University of Idaho.
The Nature and Nuance of Climate Change Perceptions
This project is part of a larger effort to understand perceptions of climate change: their dynamic nature; the role of emotions in perceptions of climate change; effective communication on climate change across ideological divides; and the attainment of personal efficacy with regards to climate change. The project builds on P.I. Associate Professor Kristin Haltinner’s earlier qualitative work, a pilot study interviewing people skeptical about climate change (supported by a U of I SEED Grant), and draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of scholars from three University Colleges.
“The Nature and Nuance of Climate Change Perceptions” has two components: Part 1 surveys adults in the Pacific Northwest who are skeptical about climate change. The surveys test preliminary findings from the pilot interview project, specifically regarding a typology of climate change skeptics; perceptions of skeptics towards science; and support for or against pro-environmental policies among skeptics. The survey will also enable the research team to pilot emerging hypotheses regarding the role of emotions and notions of self-efficacy in climate change perceptions. Part 2 interviews Idaho residents who have changed their minds about climate change. Our interview data will help us better understand the factors that contribute to one’s willingness to accept information discordant with their original beliefs, including the influences of information type, peer pressure, place, and social contexts, among others.
Team Members: Kristin Haltinner, Associate Professor of Sociology (PI); Dilshani Sarathchandra, Assistant Professor of Sociology; Jennifer Ladino, Associate Professor of English; Tom Ptak, Assistant Professor of Geography; Steve Radil, Assistant Professor of Geography; Michelle Wiest, Professor of Statistics.
This project is funded by the University of Idaho College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences.
Earth to Sky Idaho Regional Hub for Climate Communication
The NASA-sponsored Earth to Sky Idaho Regional Hub aims to cultivate a regional community of practice for climate communication and is comprised of educators from around the state, including two Confluence Lab scholars: Kayla Bordelon and Research Assistant Professor Teresa Cohn. This state-wide collaboration supports climate communication initiatives, starting with hosting climate change workshops for informal and formal educators. Our goal is to collectively explore the innovations and avenues for place-based communication that effectively engages Idaho’s public with the issue of climate change. We draw on the diverse expertise of other Confluence Lab scholars in both the humanities and the sciences. Partnering departments and organizations include the U of I Sustainability Center, the U of I McCall Outdoor Science School, Boise Environmental Education, and Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.
This project is sponsored by the NASA Earth to Sky Interagency Partnership.
Our Changing Climate: Finding Common Ground through Climate Fiction
This project brings Idaho community members together to discuss Barbara Kingsolver's novel Flight Behavior.
Modeled on the successful "Let's Talk About It" series, the discussion will be led by Jennifer Ladino (English) and Kayla Bordelon (Natural Resources and Society). Ladino and Bordelon are both former National Park Service rangers and will draw on NPS audience engagement strategies to lead the conversation. Their goal is to use this climate change novel as a gateway to identifying common ground and common concerns about climate change, and to start dismantling any communication barriers that may impede progress on environmental problems in rural communities.
This project is funded by an Idaho Humanities Council Opportunity Grant.