Two separate working groups at the 2012 ASM provided opportunities for students to discuss their socio-ecological research experiences, and to identify best practices that meet the challenges of this research agenda.
The GSS working group, “Sharing Stories from Outside the Box,” was an opportunity for students to speak openly about the particular challenges of doing interdisciplinary, socio-ecological research at an LTER. Many students voiced feelings of isolation in their departments, unless those departments had already established a collaborative culture through programs like IGERT. This suggests that students working in and with multiple disciplines have to do much of the disciplinary bridging work on their own with few guides for support. We also found that the community and identity of students engaged in innovative bridge work is not likely to be a priority for University departments, yet it is that kind of support that is critical to fostering the cultural practices of collaboration demanded of interdisciplinary socio-ecological research.
The ASM workshop, “Best practices for graduate student socio-ecological research,” generated discussion among attendees that resulted in three categories of recommendations for supporting socio-ecological research within the LTER network. These categories include best practices for incoming graduate students, best practices for current graduate students, and general best practices for graduate students. These categories illustrate how best practices does not mean “one size fits all,” since recommendations change for students at different stages of their graduate experience, and according to institutional and organizational constraints across sites. Disseminating these identified best practices for garnering financial and professional support for socio-ecological research, for integrating participatory methodologies, and for fostering a culture of cross-site and interdisciplinary collaborative research is the logical next step to these workshop efforts, which is discussed in the section below.