As an engineering student, I am all too familiar with the process and mathematics that go into modeling ecosystems and climate change. However, as I sit in class and watch my ecology professor describe exactly how a hurricane follows the second law of thermodynamics, I often lose track of the why? Why do I need to know the entropy of a system? How will I apply this knowledge in my life? For me NECAP provides the answer to these questions. Reading papers about planning issues has informed me that our research is on the border between the scientific community and the policy-makers at the local level. The goal is to make that border as easy to traverse as can be. The mathematic and scientific techniques that I am learning in the classroom can only have an impact when I learn how to communicate their results. As an undergraduate researcher for NECAP, I am consistently presented with the challenge of processing, interpreting and synthesizing all types of information. This information comes in the form of audio files of interviews, survey comments, and spreadsheets of data. From all of this information, we are told to write a story. A story that describes, in my case, the town of Wells as we see it from the perspective of scientists and engineers involved in a discussion about climate change. Once our story reaches the town of Wells, it must be once again be processed, interpreted and synthesized with the policy-makers’ understanding of how the town functions to bring about a change. That change could be as drastic as buying back all coastal properties, or as minimal as motivating a few more residents to reconsider how high they should elevate their homes, but as long as the work that I am doing helps at least a few people protect themselves and prepare a little better for the future then I will keep on working.
-Anthony McHugh, Undergraduate Research Assistant