Editor’s note: This is a series highlighting just some of the fascinating skills on SkillPages. Cassidy Rankine is an environmental researcher using SkillPages to connect with scientists around the globe to help in his research. We chatted with Cassidy to find out more about his skill, overturning Brazilian legislation and his advice for getting noticed on-line.
Hi Cassidy, tell us a bit about yourself.
Although I’m based out of the University of Alberta in Canada, I work in Central and South America pioneering a new field in environmental monitoring. We are using advanced sensor networks in order to better understand how the climate is changing tropical ecosystems in impoverished regions of Mesoamerica.
How and when did you get interested in environmental research?
Even from an early age I was curious about everything and how it worked, so it was a natural progression to take interest in grade school science classes. Going into actual scientific research happened towards the end of my university biology degree after I spent a summer at a marine science center and found my love for biological field work. So I stuck with it into a graduate degree and now I travel all over for amazing field work opportunities in the tropics!
Is this your full job or more of a hobby?
Environmental research is my full-time job and my passion, but it is not a far stretch from my hobbies like skateboarding, snowboarding, camping and travel which are outdoors anyway.
How has SkillPages helped in your work?
I have used SkillPages to connect with some remote sensing scientists, a relatively small but quickly growing global community. These connections allowed me to address a problem I otherwise could not have solved on my own. Our goal is to make environmental data more accessible to the public and to researchers across vast distances and people need to utilize social networking technology more and more to bridge these distances.
What is your favourite part of the research?
The places I get to travel to, the people I work with and the positive outcomes of a successful project. I spend 3-4 months of each year overseas working with researchers in Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil and Australia for field work, and even more places for scientific conferences. Having colleagues and co-workers who are also passionate about what they do makes everything you accomplish more rewarding as a team and never makes for a boring work week. Last year we overturned Brazilian legislation to cut down 16,000 ha of tropical dry forest using our team’s data. It’s outcomes like this that make all the work we do worth it.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar path?
Take GIS courses – it’s by far the most useful skill to have in environmental research, either with an institution or on your own, there are great tutorials now for GIS software, but nothing beats the mentor ship of someone who has been doing this for years. If you are in an undergraduate degree, then go for any field school courses or chances you can get, it’s so great to apply your textbook knowledge to the real world. If not in university then get engaged with researchers. Graduate students are always looking for assistance for field excursions and data collection, volunteer to get a good start and see if you like it.
Any tips on getting yourself and your research noticed on-line?
Videos of your work – very short clips to engage people in your research have been shown to be very effective. Start a blog – anything to get your work out there is great. We have an onslaught of pseudo-science in the media these days, misinformation is rampant and very few scientists use social media effectively. Get networking, use tools such as SkillPages to connect with others who already have the on-line followers to promote your work. If it’s outstanding research it will speak for itself, but not until someone notices it.
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