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ASU environmental students get wild (certifiably)

New ASU certificate in wildlife management helps students land jobs.
Wildlife Management Certificate seeks to help ASU students w/ conservation work.
November 29, 2016

New Wildlife Management Certificate provides application-based, hands-on experience to help maintain biodiversity

Preserving Earth’s biodiversity is no small task — some estimates put the number of species on the planet in the hundreds of millions — but that hasn’t deterred ASU students from taking on the job. 

And while a passion for the environment is essential, students looking for careers in the field also need the right credentials. To help meet that need, associate professor Heather Bateman worked with colleagues in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts to develop the undergraduate Wildlife Management Certificate.

First offered in fall 2016, the certificate is for students interested in biology, conservation, sustainability and management of natural resources.

According to Bateman, the need was twofold: “Applied biological sciences students wanted some type of recognition when they graduated that would indicate to potential employers they had expertise in the discipline of wildlife management, and [myself and other biology professors] wanted to get the word out across ASU about opportunities to study wildlife and engage with wildlife professionals.”

Creating the certificate accomplished both.

The suite of courses that make up the curriculum for the certificate — which requires 23 credit hours — involve a heavy amount of fieldwork, with students taking two to three fieldtrips per course. On fieldtrips to such Arizona locales as the Kaibab Plateau and the Petrified Forest National Park, students get application-based, hands-on experience while engaging with wildlife professionals from such state and federal agencies as the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service.

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ASU grad student Andy Bridges (left) and associate professor Heather Bateman hold common chuckwalla lizards on a field trip to the Superstition Mountains. Photo courtesy Heather Bateman


On a recent trip to the Petrified Forest, Bateman and students from her applied herpetologyherpetology refers to the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians course spent two days in the field with a wildlife biologist, checking traps, surveying the various reptiles and “road riding.”

“Road riding is where you drive slowly along paved roads on hot summer nights,” searching for “amphibians, reptiles and insects that are attracted to the residual heat in the pavement,” explained applied biological sciences senior Lindsey Boyd, who accompanied Bateman and other students on the Petrified Forest trip.

“We had 28 miles of park road all to ourselves, and were able to see some amazing critters,” she said.

The next morning, Boyd and the rest of the group went on a behind-the-scenes tour to areas of the park that are off-limits to the public. There, they caught lizards using noose poles, identified the lizards’ species, took measurements, determined the sex and marked each individual so that if a researcher were to catch the same lizard later, they’d have data to compare.

“The field trips are so important because you are getting hands on experience, and you have your professor and an expert in the field on hand to answer any questions you might have,” said Boyd. “Spending a day in the field with someone who is doing the job you hope to one day do is an incredibly valuable experience.”

Even more encouraging, some of those field experts were once in the same place as Boyd. A former student of Bateman’s, now an amphibians and reptiles biologist with Arizona Game and Fish, recently hosted a group of her students on a two-day fieldtrip to Sycamore Canyon in Santa Cruz.

“That’s something that’s really rewarding on a personal level,” Bateman said.

Others who teach courses for the certificate are either currently involved in their own research or have had extensive careers with state or federal agencies. ASU lecturers Stanley Cunningham and Eddie Alford are retired from Arizona Game and Fish and the U.S. Forest Service, respectively.

That kind of association can really help a student when it comes to finding a job.

“In fact, it already has,” Boyd said. “The experience I gained in the wildlife program and being able to use professors as references landed me internships with Arizona Game and Fish for the past two summers. I asked my supervisor … what made my resume stand out, and it was that I had used Stan Cunningham as a reference.”

Boyd, who calls herself “kind of a bird nerd,” says her dream job is to work for The Peregrine Fund, a Boise-based non-profit conducting research and species restoration work with birds of prey all around the world.

She’s hoping the knowledge and experience she gained while obtaining the Wildlife Management Certificate will help get her there, the same way it did with her summer internships: “For those of us who don't have the word ‘wildlife’ in our degree, [the certificate] acknowledges that we have maintained a focus during our college career and have dipped into” the related subjects needed for a career in wildlife management, including plant life, soil health, watersheds and water cycles, nutrient cycles, weather patterns, statistics and land ownership agreements.

Students interested in pursuing the Wildlife Management Certificate should call 480-965-4464 to set up an appointment with an academic advisor. There is no deadline to sign up, and students can take it at any point in their academic career.

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ASU class on the Internet of Things emphasizes positives of automation.
November 30, 2016

Herberger students explore network connectivity of everyday objects – known as the Internet of Things

If science has its way, your refrigerator will be able to sense if milk is missing and send a signal to your smartphone, which will then remind you to fetch a gallon from the grocery store.

It’s a concept called the Internet of Things, and it’s much closer than you might think.

By 2020, it’s estimated that more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, revolutionizing consumer habits, the way we conduct business and how we chose to connect with the world.

In Tempe, a cutting-edge class dedicated to figuring this all out is drawing to a close. It’s the first section of its kind at ASU and one of only about two dozen across the nation.

It’s so new that “the overreaching goals of a class like this haven’t really come to pass yet,” said Chandler Berry, a 21-year-old, senior informatics major. “It’s a very current and useful class.”

Computer scientist Tejaswi Gowda, who teaches AME 394The class is taught through the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in the Herberger Institute For Design and the Arts Programming the Internet of Things, says the class emphasizes that the future’s already here and there’s nothing to fear.

“Life will be easier and more efficient through automation,” Gowda said. “The positives are many.”

According to Gowda, the Internet of Things was first coined in 2013 and is a $3 trillion market-in-the-making. It basically means everyday objects will have connectivity through wired and wireless connections working mainly on sensors and actuators, becoming a type of information system without human intervention.

The benefits could mean improved medical outcomes; smarter energy consumption; better traffic-flow optimization; fixing problems before they become catastrophes and shopping at the touch of a button.

The trick is, it’s all got to work and hopefully benefit mankind. And that’s where the nine ASU students taking the class come into play. They’ve collectively decided it’s their future, and they get to design it.

Computer science major Akhila Murella, 18, said smartphone tests for pregnancy, infectious diseases and potentially cancer are possible within five years, giving low-income populations and the uninsured access to better health care.

“This could be done through a smartphone rather than go and see a doctor and explain their symptoms or go through a battery of tests,” Murella said. “The smartphone could send all the data to their heath practitioner in real time.”

Anisha Gupta, a 20-year-old computer science major, said she wants to use her skills to help change the world and was inspired by a hackathon team using a network of sensors to notify authorities when bridges in India were close to collapsing.

“Technology can be used for people who have lost hope, especially for those who are older and don’t understand its power,” said Gupta, who is working with classmate Michaela Foote on a Google Open Source project called Paco, which monitors health and nutrition.

There are drawbacks to these advancements in this technology, chiefly security and job replacement. The more reliant we become on technology, the more risk there is for hackers Gowda said.

“Most everything will be connected through the Internet, which means people will try and disrupt your system or steal your data,” Gowda said. “Each device has to be built with security in mind and follow industry standards, best practices and cryptography.”

Automation also has its critics, who worry about skilled labor being replaced in mass numbers. Berry, the informatics major, said the advancements indicate a shifting economy. He also said he sees an upside.

“Yes, those jobs might go away, but new jobs would be created,” he said. “They would be specialized and require more education, but we’re not there yet. We’re still catching up.”

Digital culture major Foote said we are on the cusp of a technological revolution and life as we know it is about to change and improve.

“It’s a very cool world we live in,” Foote said.