OSU Extension Blogs

Small-Scale & Urban Farming Series

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Tuesday, December 2, 2014 6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

 For more information, contact the OSU Lane County Extension office at (541)344-5859, or stop by the office at 996 Jefferson Street in Eugene, to pick up an application.

Office hours are Monday-Thursday, 10am-1pm and 2-5pm.

Cost of session is $25.00.  Pre-registration is required.

For payment with a credit card see the website: extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/gardens

 

 

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Nano-cellulose Based InnofreshTM Coatings for Preserving Pre- and Post-harvest Fruit Quality

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Monday, December 1, 2014 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Fall 2014 Faculty Seminar Schedule, Dept. of Food Science & Technology

Presenter: Yanyun Zhao, Professor

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Disposable Electrochemical Microchip for On-Farm Detection of E.coli from Agricultural Water

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Monday, November 3, 2014 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Fall 2014 Faculty Seminar Schedule, Dept. of Food Science & Technology

Presenter: Fei Hei, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Small-Scale & Urban Farming Series

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE            Contact: Brooke Edmunds

October 14, 2014                              Phone: 541-344-5859

 

[Eugene, Oregon] – The OSU Extension Service in Lane County is starting a Small-Scale & Urban Farming Series of classes. The first class “Pasture Management” will be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, 6-8:30 p.m. at 996 Jefferson Street, Eugene (enter on 10th at the ramp). Cost of each session is $25 per person. This class is for the small acreage landowner who is managing pasture and livestock. You will learn how to improve pasture productivity by managing soil health, fertilizing and liming, and grazing systems.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

RECIPE TO MARKET-Creating a Food Business

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Saturday, November 1, 2014 10:00 AM - Saturday, November 15, 2014 5:00 PM

FLYER
The aim of this Southern Oregon four-part series is to help small farmers, local "foodies" and would-be entrepreneurs transform their passion for food into an artisan & value-added food business. The series will provide critical, useful and time saving information needed to launch a successful food business.
Oct. 15 Kick Off at the Tap Rock was a big success.  If you missed it you may still join us for the first class on Nov. 1 fro 10 am to 5 pm at the Josephine County Extension Center.  $40 for Nov. 1 only or register on line below for all 3 classes ($55)

READ THE DETAILS...

REGISTER

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

STARTING A FARM STAND

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 5:30 PM - 8:00 PM

FLYER

Considering opening a farm stand? This class will cover county regulations and fees, tips for making your stand a success and other considerations.  Producers with success ful farm stands from Easy Valley Farm and Whistling Duck will share their experiences. Also instructing: Maud Powell, OSU Extension Small Farms faculty and Kely Madding, Jackson County Planner.

REGISTER ON LINE

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

AG SQUARED-Farm Record Keeping Tool Training

Small Farms Events - 2 hours 52 min ago
Friday, November 21, 2014 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM

FLYER
This class is offered by OSU Extension Small Farms, Thrive and AgSquared to train farmers in best management practices. Learn how to use this online tool to both plan and manage an increase in production, plus keep the records needed in order to track farm growth over a period of time. Instructors: Drew Katz and David Wides, AgSquared Customer Success Team. And, Jeff Higley, a local Applegate Valley farmers will talk about his experience using AgSquared.
Location: RCC/SOU Higher Education Center
101 South Bartlett Street; Medford

REGISTER ON LINE

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

HORSES AND MUD

Small Farms Events - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 6:48am
Saturday, October 18, 2014 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

FLYER
Protect the health of your horses and other livestock by learning how to manage winter mud and manure. Also covered will be all-weather surface construciton, horse health issues, pasture and grazing management, grant programs and much more. Instructors: Angie Boudro and Paul DiMaggio

REGISTER ON LINE

Youth 12-18 may attend for $12.50. YOUTH REGISTRATION

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

OSU Forage Management Series

Small Farms Events - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 5:23pm
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

This is a multi-part series including sessions on forage assessment, harvest management, irrigation, renovation techniques, and fertility and includes indoor meetings as well as outdoor to demonstrate the principles of the series.  We will have a "project ranch" that we work on together, including site visits and an on-line document sharing blog.  The project ranch will be the Wilson Farm, the OSU sheep facility with sheep and cattle grazing the pastures.  You can also work on your own ranch as a side project if desired.  The object of the series is to improve knowledge about managing forage on properties in the Willamette Valley.

Instructors:  Shelby Filley and other OSU faculty and local experts

Fee:  $25 per evening per individual or ranch/family group and $100 for the series of five sessions.

Please pre-register by completing the registration form

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

NWREC Specialty Vegetable Variety Field Day

Small Farms Events - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 1:30pm
Monday, September 22, 2014 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Join us at NWREC for a field day featuring specialty vegetable variteies.

For more information and a list of specific varieties click here: http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/specialty-vegetable-variety-showcase-aurora

 

There will be field tours, raw tastings and discussions on:

Mild habenero peppers

Leaf celery

Specialty beets

Thai Basil

Cilantro

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

The Positive Impacts of Master Gardener Training

Master Gardener Blog - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 1:18pm

Infographic created by Liz McGovern of Oregon State University Extension (Benton County), based upon data provided by Pami Opfer (Oregon State University Extension in Linn and Benton Counties).

This infographic does an excellent job of communicating the positive impacts of Master Gardener training in just 2 of the 29 counties where volunteers are trained in Oregon.

Way to go, Master Gardeners!  Knowledge is indeed power.
Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Oregon citizens become coastal scientists

Breaking Waves - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 7:34am

You don’t need a degree to be scientist. For more than 30 years, the number of citizen scientists has been steadily increasing along the Oregon Coast as part of an effort to engage people of all ages in scientific activities.

These diligent volunteers work on projects stretching from one-time learning events like a school sampling trip, to long-term data monitoring such as monthly beach surveys.

“There is a range of citizen science,” said Shawn Rowe, an Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) researcher studying citizen science. “Some you go collect data as monitoring projects such as sea stars or bird counts. On the other end of spectrum is a collaborative effort where [volunteers] help design research” – and even write up the results.

Citizen scientist Ralph Breitenstein teaches students about different sampling methods in the Yaquina Bay.

OSG citizen science projects include programs such as StreamWebs—where K-12 students adopt a stream site to study—and supporting the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST)—where volunteers monitor dead birds on west coast beaches. Moreover, individuals such as Ralph Breitenstein have even taken on independent research projects at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Rowe’s research is two-fold: First, he is looking at what motivates citizens to become scientists. Second, he is analyzing what aspects of citizen science projects are effective. Rowe says there is a tendency to create new programs rather than improve existing ones.

“You may have 5 or 6 groups in one area measuring water quality or marine debris and they might all be using different protocols,” Rowe explained. “We are looking at what we can do besides just running another program.”

The biggest obstacle for any citizen science project is data reliability. COASST, for example, has more than 800 volunteers ranging in age from nine to 90 all conducting the same research. To ensure the data is useful, they have rigorous protocols on top of a five-hour training for volunteers.

“All of the COASST data are collected in the same fashion,” said Jane Dolliver. “There are set beach lengths. You never alter your pattern and you don’t change it up. All of those data—because they are collected the same way across all of the sites—can be compared.”

COASST’s data is regularly used by both state and federal agencies. While many citizen science projects strive for that level of data reliability, others, such as StreamWebs, exist simply to engage students in science.

“That’s the education philosophy now,” said Vicki Osis, who served as OSG Marine Education Specialist from 1971-2002. “When it comes to research, it’s often repetitive tasks, but it does give them a taste of what it is like to do science. You have to gather your data and analyze it.”

OSG’s first attempt to engage citizens was the Seatauqua program in the late 1970s. These free, non-credit courses did not involve monitoring, but they connected non-scientists to science through topics such as tidepooling and beach safety. Osis built upon the success of these classes by integrating the content into school visits, where she also had students conduct water quality monitoring. More than 30 years later, OSG and the Oregon Coast Community College are resurrecting the Seatauqua program.

Since OSG was established in 1971, the number of citizen scientists on the coast has grown steadily. What started with free classes has expanded to include student sampling, bird surveys, water quality monitoring and much more. As these programs continue, researchers like Rowe are helping increase both their effectiveness and longevity.

Below is a list of current citizen science projects connected to Oregon Sea Grant:

  • Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) supports the COASST program, which has hundreds of volunteers from Alaska to Southern California monitoring coastal conditions and checking for dead birds. OSG researcher Shawn Rowe is helping identify what motivates volunteers to participate and stay on for long periods of time. http://depts.washington.edu/coasst/
  • StreamWebs is a monitoring program aimed at K-12 students. The project gets students into nature and allows them track changes to an area over time by graphing data from past studies at the same site.  http://www.streamwebs.org/
  • With Sea Star Wasting Syndrome afflicting west coast echinoderms, citizen science monitoring has been put in place to detect exactly where the outbreak is occurring. http://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/index-logo.html
  • Ralph Breitenstein is a citizen scientist at Hatfield who has devoted five years conducting research on invasive species in Newport’s Yaquina Bay. He has published his work in a scientific journal along with giving presentations. http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/visitor/get-involved/volunteers-speak
  • The Seatauqua courses—though not strictly citizen science—are being revived after 30 years and offer a way for non-scientists to further their understanding of coastal and marine resources. http://oregoncoastcc.org/seatauqua

The post Oregon citizens become coastal scientists appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Oregon citizens become coastal scientists

Sea Grant - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 7:34am

You don’t need a degree to be scientist. For more than 30 years, the number of citizen scientists has been steadily increasing along the Oregon Coast as part of an effort to engage people of all ages in scientific activities.

These diligent volunteers work on projects stretching from one-time learning events like a school sampling trip, to long-term data monitoring such as monthly beach surveys.

“There is a range of citizen science,” said Shawn Rowe, an Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) researcher studying citizen science. “Some you go collect data as monitoring projects such as sea stars or bird counts. On the other end of spectrum is a collaborative effort where [volunteers] help design research” – and even write up the results.

Citizen scientist Ralph Breitenstein teaches students about different sampling methods in the Yaquina Bay.

OSG citizen science projects include programs such as StreamWebs—where K-12 students adopt a stream site to study—and supporting the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST)—where volunteers monitor dead birds on west coast beaches. Moreover, individuals such as Ralph Breitenstein have even taken on independent research projects at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Rowe’s research is two-fold: First, he is looking at what motivates citizens to become scientists. Second, he is analyzing what aspects of citizen science projects are effective. Rowe says there is a tendency to create new programs rather than improve existing ones.

“You may have 5 or 6 groups in one area measuring water quality or marine debris and they might all be using different protocols,” Rowe explained. “We are looking at what we can do besides just running another program.”

The biggest obstacle for any citizen science project is data reliability. COASST, for example, has more than 800 volunteers ranging in age from nine to 90 all conducting the same research. To ensure the data is useful, they have rigorous protocols on top of a five-hour training for volunteers.

“All of the COASST data are collected in the same fashion,” said Jane Dolliver. “There are set beach lengths. You never alter your pattern and you don’t change it up. All of those data—because they are collected the same way across all of the sites—can be compared.”

COASST’s data is regularly used by both state and federal agencies. While many citizen science projects strive for that level of data reliability, others, such as StreamWebs, exist simply to engage students in science.

“That’s the education philosophy now,” said Vicki Osis, who served as OSG Marine Education Specialist from 1971-2002. “When it comes to research, it’s often repetitive tasks, but it does give them a taste of what it is like to do science. You have to gather your data and analyze it.”

OSG’s first attempt to engage citizens was the Seatauqua program in the late 1970s. These free, non-credit courses did not involve monitoring, but they connected non-scientists to science through topics such as tidepooling and beach safety. Osis built upon the success of these classes by integrating the content into school visits, where she also had students conduct water quality monitoring. More than 30 years later, OSG and the Oregon Coast Community College are resurrecting the Seatauqua program.

Since OSG was established in 1971, the number of citizen scientists on the coast has grown steadily. What started with free classes has expanded to include student sampling, bird surveys, water quality monitoring and much more. As these programs continue, researchers like Rowe are helping increase both their effectiveness and longevity.

Below is a list of current citizen science projects connected to Oregon Sea Grant:

  • Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) supports the COASST program, which has hundreds of volunteers from Alaska to Southern California monitoring coastal conditions and checking for dead birds. OSG researcher Shawn Rowe is helping identify what motivates volunteers to participate and stay on for long periods of time. http://depts.washington.edu/coasst/
  • StreamWebs is a monitoring program aimed at K-12 students. The project gets students into nature and allows them track changes to an area over time by graphing data from past studies at the same site.  http://www.streamwebs.org/
  • With Sea Star Wasting Syndrome afflicting west coast echinoderms, citizen science monitoring has been put in place to detect exactly where the outbreak is occurring. http://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/index-logo.html
  • Ralph Breitenstein is a citizen scientist at Hatfield who has devoted five years conducting research on invasive species in Newport’s Yaquina Bay. He has published his work in a scientific journal along with giving presentations. http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/visitor/get-involved/volunteers-speak
  • The Seatauqua courses—though not strictly citizen science—are being revived after 30 years and offer a way for non-scientists to further their understanding of coastal and marine resources. http://oregoncoastcc.org/seatauqua

The post Oregon citizens become coastal scientists appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Competencies

Evaluation is an Everyday Activity - Fri, 09/19/2014 - 4:01pm

I’ve just spent all of August and most of September editing chapters for a volume of New Directions in Evaluation (NDE) on Accreditation, Certification, and Credentialing. These topics all relate to competencies which all relate to building capacity. Now I can site a lot of references for competencies. (For example, Stevahn, King, Ghere, Minnema, 2005, AJE 26(1), pp. 43-59., among others see the work by King and cadre–that one cited just happens to be on my desk right now.) This group has been working on competencies for the last 15 or so years. This is important work–as well as problematic (hence the issue of NDE). I won’t go into details here because the NDE volume pretty much addresses these issues from a variety of perspectives. We (my co-editor, Jim Altschuld and I) have assembled (what I think is) a  stellar collection of writers who have good ideas. Editing an issue of NDE (again) was a valuable experience for me: I learned again why I don’t write the definitive text on anything; I learned again how important Accreditation, Certification, and Credentialing are; I am reminded how complicated it is to assemble a list of competencies that adequately capture what is an evaluator; and I am once again humbled, recognizing that cynicism does not come with the territory–it is acquired.

Now, a bit on competencies and why they are important.

I think everyone will agree that there are certain knowledge (what a person can learn), skills (what a person can do), and dispositions/attitudes (what a person can  think and/or feel–they are different BTW) necessary for an individual to function effectively as an evaluator. The question is what exactly are they? And can evaluation be a profession without an established list of competencies? The Worthen 1994 article is important here (Worthen, B. R. [1994]. Is evaluation a mature profession that warrants the preparation of evaluation professionals? In J. W. Altschuld & M. Engle [Eds.], New Directions for Program Evaluation: No. 62. The preparation of professional evaluators: Issues, perspectives and programs. [pp. 3–15]. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass). The Stevahn et al. article lists six different categories of competencies (professional practice, systemmatic inquiry, situational analysis, project management, reflective practice, and interpersonal competence). The CES list includes five categories (reflective practice, technical practice, situational practice, management practice, and interpersonal practice). They are similar, yet different.

The Canadian Evaluation Society has established a credentialing process  that involves the a list of competencies that went through an extensive and exhaustive process research, consultation, and validation process. The AEA has yet to develop (or endorse) a similar list, and a similar list exists (see the Stevahn, King, Gere, & Minnema citation above).

How many of you who are practicing evaluators can honestly say you were taught in your preparation programs (even if you did a preparation program in a discipline other than evaluation) to analyze situations? To manage projects? To reflect on practice? About interpersonal communications? I’m guessing most people were exposed (even briefly) to professional practice (after all part of preparation is the socialization to the profession) and technical practice/systematic inquiry. With that disparity across preparation, how can evaluation be a profession?

my .

molly.

 

 

The post Competencies appeared first on Evaluation is an Everyday Activity.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Pet owners, veterinary care professionals sought for national study

Breaking Waves - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 4:13pm

Scientists have long been aware of the potential environment impacts from using and disposing of the array of products we use to keep ourselves healthy, clean and smelling nice.

Now a new concern is emerging – improper disposal of pet care products and pills.

Dog shampoos, heartworm medicine, flea and tick sprays, and a plethora of prescription and over-the-counter medicines increasingly are finding their way into landfills and waterways, where they can threaten the health of local watersheds. An estimated 68 percent of American households have at least one pet, illustrating the potential scope of the problem.

How bad is that problem? No one really knows, according to Sam Chan, Oregon Sea Grant’s watershed health expert.

But Chan and his colleagues aim to find out. They are launching a national online survey of both pet owners and veterinary care professionals to determine how aware that educated pet owners are of the issue, what is being communicated, and how they dispose of “pharmaceutical and personal care products” (PPCPs) for both themselves and their pets. Pet owners are encouraged to participate in the survey.

“You can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of these products,” Chan said. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.” …

Learn more

 

The post Pet owners, veterinary care professionals sought for national study appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Pet owners, veterinary care professionals sought for national study

Sea Grant - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 4:13pm

Scientists have long been aware of the potential environment impacts from using and disposing of the array of products we use to keep ourselves healthy, clean and smelling nice.

Now a new concern is emerging – improper disposal of pet care products and pills.

Dog shampoos, heartworm medicine, flea and tick sprays, and a plethora of prescription and over-the-counter medicines increasingly are finding their way into landfills and waterways, where they can threaten the health of local watersheds. An estimated 68 percent of American households have at least one pet, illustrating the potential scope of the problem.

How bad is that problem? No one really knows, according to Sam Chan, Oregon Sea Grant’s watershed health expert.

But Chan and his colleagues aim to find out. They are launching a national online survey of both pet owners and veterinary care professionals to determine how aware that educated pet owners are of the issue, what is being communicated, and how they dispose of “pharmaceutical and personal care products” (PPCPs) for both themselves and their pets. Pet owners are encouraged to participate in the survey.

“You can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of these products,” Chan said. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.” …

Learn more

 

The post Pet owners, veterinary care professionals sought for national study appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Demystifying modeling

Breaking Waves - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 2:02pm

Want to predict the population of a particular whale species 50 years into the future? There’s a model for that. Want to know exactly how much water is moving around one spot of the ocean at any given time? There’s a model for that too.

Modeling has a long history in science, and advancements in technology have significantly improved the capabilities in recent years. Yet, despite our fondness for some new technology – smartphnes, for instance – many people seem to greet scientific models with more skepticism than fascination.

To find out more about modeling and how it can help researchers, Oregon Sea Grant talked with some of the scientists we fund and collaborate with who specialize in modeling.

In its simplest form, a model is a mathematical way of estimating variables that can’t readily be measured in the field.

When laypeople express skepticism or mistrust about models, it may be that they’re nervous or uncertain about the arithmetic.

“Most people don’t think that they can do math,” said Selina Heppell, a Fisheries and Wildlife professor at Oregon State University who specializes in population models. “When in fact they can do math. They use math all of the time although they don’t necessarily realize that they’re doing it.”

Another way to think about a model is as a laboratory experiment where you hold one variable constant and see what happens to the others.

“The point of doing a lab experiment isn’t to know what’s going to happen in the real world, it’s to control factors that you can’t control in the real world so you can see the effect of a couple of variables,” explained Julie Alexander, a postdoctoral researcher studying aquatic invertebrates. “That’s the same goal of a model, to see the effect of variables that you can’t manipulate in the lab.”

MODELS FEEDING MODELS

If you were a scientist trying to study the presence of particular larvae in Yaquina Bay, you would need information on tides, currents and more. Many of these data can be found in come from existing models, and they are combined with field data to answer research questions.

Moreover, there is a tendency to add additional factors into your system (precipitation, for example) in an attempt to make the model more accurate. In fact, Heppell explains, this approach can make the models less reliable.

“Making a more complicated model adds more parameters which adds more uncertainty,” she said. “That uncertainty can be accounted for, but adding too many details that you don’t know much about can make the model hard to understand and not very useful.”

Each model has its own level of uncertainty based on the data that went into making it. That problem only expands as you combine multiple models with the uncertainty already present in your own data.

To account for this, scientists spend a lot of time analyzing model outputs to ensure the results are reasonable. Microbiology professor Jerri Bartholomew is the lead biologist in her lab studying pathogens, and she constantly checks that the data correlates with her prior knowledge of the species.

“I think transparency is very important. You have to be very honest about what you can say with your model,” she said, adding that her lab also calibrates its models annually against new field data to ensure accuracy.

PROJECTING THROUGH TIME

Technological advancements are improving our ability to reduce uncertainty and run multiple simulations in a short period of time. But new technology does little to help explain models to the general public or decision-makers.

 A large portion of Heppell’s work is reviewing the models used to set fisheries harvest regulations and explaining the outputs to fishermen and coastal leaders. As a modeler, she puts fish life cycle information into equations and simulations to show how various species will be impacted by new policies. She uses Microsoft Excel to help managers see how the model was created and how the outputs change with new information.

“The reason I use Excel is because it’s a platform that everybody has,” she said. “I create modeling tools that I can then give to a manager and they can manipulate it and look at what if this changes and what if that changes.”

As models become more widely used in science, it’s important for those who make them know where the data came from, and for those who use them to understand their limitations. Whether field data or computer-generated values are fueling the model, the strength of the source makes all the difference in the usefulness of the model.

YOU ARE A MODELER

Let’s look at a simple model. The link below will take you to an Excel worksheet with information on whale populations. Through this model you can estimate changes in whale abundance over 50 years in the face of changing survival or reproduction affected by stressors like pollution, ship traffic and climate change. By tweaking simple variables such as lifespan and number of offspring, you will be able to see first hand how we can get a sense of the impact our policies have on animals with lifespans as long as your own.

You can find the model here: Modeling Practice

The post Demystifying modeling appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Demystifying modeling

Sea Grant - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 2:02pm

Want to predict the population of a particular whale species 50 years into the future? There’s a model for that. Want to know exactly how much water is moving around one spot of the ocean at any given time? There’s a model for that too.

Modeling has a long history in science, and advancements in technology have significantly improved the capabilities in recent years. Yet, despite our fondness for some new technology – smartphnes, for instance – many people seem to greet scientific models with more skepticism than fascination.

To find out more about modeling and how it can help researchers, Oregon Sea Grant talked with some of the scientists we fund and collaborate with who specialize in modeling.

In its simplest form, a model is a mathematical way of estimating variables that can’t readily be measured in the field.

When laypeople express skepticism or mistrust about models, it may be that they’re nervous or uncertain about the arithmetic.

“Most people don’t think that they can do math,” said Selina Heppell, a Fisheries and Wildlife professor at Oregon State University who specializes in population models. “When in fact they can do math. They use math all of the time although they don’t necessarily realize that they’re doing it.”

Another way to think about a model is as a laboratory experiment where you hold one variable constant and see what happens to the others.

“The point of doing a lab experiment isn’t to know what’s going to happen in the real world, it’s to control factors that you can’t control in the real world so you can see the effect of a couple of variables,” explained Julie Alexander, a postdoctoral researcher studying aquatic invertebrates. “That’s the same goal of a model, to see the effect of variables that you can’t manipulate in the lab.”

MODELS FEEDING MODELS

If you were a scientist trying to study the presence of particular larvae in Yaquina Bay, you would need information on tides, currents and more. Many of these data can be found in come from existing models, and they are combined with field data to answer research questions.

Moreover, there is a tendency to add additional factors into your system (precipitation, for example) in an attempt to make the model more accurate. In fact, Heppell explains, this approach can make the models less reliable.

“Making a more complicated model adds more parameters which adds more uncertainty,” she said. “That uncertainty can be accounted for, but adding too many details that you don’t know much about can make the model hard to understand and not very useful.”

Each model has its own level of uncertainty based on the data that went into making it. That problem only expands as you combine multiple models with the uncertainty already present in your own data.

To account for this, scientists spend a lot of time analyzing model outputs to ensure the results are reasonable. Microbiology professor Jerri Bartholomew is the lead biologist in her lab studying pathogens, and she constantly checks that the data correlates with her prior knowledge of the species.

“I think transparency is very important. You have to be very honest about what you can say with your model,” she said, adding that her lab also calibrates its models annually against new field data to ensure accuracy.

PROJECTING THROUGH TIME

Technological advancements are improving our ability to reduce uncertainty and run multiple simulations in a short period of time. But new technology does little to help explain models to the general public or decision-makers.

 A large portion of Heppell’s work is reviewing the models used to set fisheries harvest regulations and explaining the outputs to fishermen and coastal leaders. As a modeler, she puts fish life cycle information into equations and simulations to show how various species will be impacted by new policies. She uses Microsoft Excel to help managers see how the model was created and how the outputs change with new information.

“The reason I use Excel is because it’s a platform that everybody has,” she said. “I create modeling tools that I can then give to a manager and they can manipulate it and look at what if this changes and what if that changes.”

As models become more widely used in science, it’s important for those who make them know where the data came from, and for those who use them to understand their limitations. Whether field data or computer-generated values are fueling the model, the strength of the source makes all the difference in the usefulness of the model.

YOU ARE A MODELER

Let’s look at a simple model. The link below will take you to an Excel worksheet with information on whale populations. Through this model you can estimate changes in whale abundance over 50 years in the face of changing survival or reproduction affected by stressors like pollution, ship traffic and climate change. By tweaking simple variables such as lifespan and number of offspring, you will be able to see first hand how we can get a sense of the impact our policies have on animals with lifespans as long as your own.

You can find the model here: Modeling Practice

The post Demystifying modeling appeared first on Breaking Waves.

Categories: OSU Extension Blogs

Needs, wants, and evaluation

Evaluation is an Everyday Activity - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 4:39pm

This summer I spent a lot of time dealing with needs assessments and talking about needs and assets. It occurred to me that the difference between need and wants has a lot to do with evaluation (among other things). So what are needs? What are wants? How does all this relate to evaluation?

Needs.

Maslow spoke eloquently about needs in his hierarchy, and although the hierarchy is often presented as a pyramid, Maslow didn’t present the needs this way. He did present this hierarchy as a set of building blocks with basic needs (physiological) as the foundation, followed by safety, loving/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. He talks about this theory of motivation in his book, Motivation and Personality (a 3rd edition is available as well). This view of the individual ushered in the humanistic view of psychology (often called the third theory after behaviorism and psychoanalysis). He believed that human could not live without these needs and advocated that they are necessary for survival.

Wants

A “want” is often considered a desire based purely in economic, social, or  psychological reality of human existence. It is something that an individual would like to have. (Chocolate, any one?) A want is not essential to human existence; it is only something an individual would like to have. Unfortunately, there are limited resources (as well as a large body of literature) talking about having enough. If you have enough, then wants are few and resources are available for everyone.

Evaluation

When does needing become wanting? Does wanting dominate even when there are needs? If you don’t have enough to eat, do you need food or want it? Or water? Same thing. Evaluation is like that. When do you have enough? When do you know enough? Are programs always about needs or are they about wants? If they are about wants, who is in the best position to determine if they are assets or needs? I’m sure it sounds like I’m going in circles; perhaps I am. I think (a caveat) that evaluation isn’t a want. I think (another caveat) that evaluation is a need, probably falling somewhere in the safety sphere (according to Maslow). Safety being security of various parts of an individuals life (body, employment, resources, morality, family, health, and property). I’m sure other arguments can be made as well.

Evaluation talks about the worth, merit, value of a program. Evaluation is one way to determine if something works, if the program has made a difference with the target audience. That sounds like security to me. Determining the worth, merit, value of a program, moves from wanting to needing. By determining the worth, merit, value of something (in this case a program), you help ensure security, you help ensure safety of the target audience.

my .

molly.

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Evaluation and Needs Assessment

Evaluation is an Everyday Activity - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 3:19pm

I just finished a chapter on needs assessment in the public sector–you know that part of the work environment that provides a service to the community and receives part of its funding from the county/state/federal governments. Most of you know I’ve been an academic for at least 31 years, maybe more (depending on when you start the clock). In that time I’ve worked as an internal evaluator, a program planner, and a classroom teacher. Most of what I’ve done has an evaluative component to it. (I actually earned my doctorate in program evaluation when most people in evaluation came from other disciplines.) During that time I’ve worked on many programs/projects in a variety of situations (individual classroom, community, state, and country). I find it really puzzling that evaluators will take on evaluation without having a firm foundation on which to base those evaluations. (I know I have done this; I can offer all manner of excuses, only not here).

If I had been invited to participate in the evaluation at the beginning of the program, at the conceptualization stage, I would have asked if a needs assessment had been done and what was the outcome of that assessment. Was there really a lack (i.e., a need); or was this “need” contrived to do something else (bring in grant money, further a career, make a stakeholder happy, etc.)?

When I was writing the chapter, I revisited several “needs” assessments that actually provided valuable information that wasn’t about needs–that is, something lacking. Rather they provided support for the position taken by Altschuld (2014). in his current book on capacity building. He proposes a hybrid model that combines the two. Rather than looking at the glass half empty (needs), he looks at the glass half full (assets). Having stakeholders identify what they already have in terms of services that can be supported or augmented is a totally different approach to needs assessment.

Knowing what the stakeholders have can be very informative when developing programs. Recognizing that the stakeholders may have strengths that have been previously unrecognized is an important piece of information for an evaluator to have. It prevents duplication of services, it prevents inefficient programs, it promotes responsibility (of stakeholders, for sure; probably evaluators as well), and it promotes recognition of strengths currently held.

I was heartened to learn on retrospect that I supported asset/capacity building in the work I’ve done, long before the book was published. At the time, I’m sure we were looking for the gaps between what is and what could be; in reality, what could be was already present, we just had to recognize it.

my .

molly.

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