Every year the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), a not-for-profit educational organization, holds an undergraduate poster session on Capitol Hill. This session seeks to ensure that the US Congress has a clear understanding of the education programs and students that they fund. The 18th Annual Posters on the Hill received over 600 applications from eligible undergraduate students, and we are very happy to announce that UW student Mollie Holmberg was one of 60 applicants selected to participate in the event. Mollie has been working with Dr. Luke Bergmann on a topic titled ‘Understanding Patterns of Human Dependence on Agriculture and Forest Production in the Anthropocene’. This project attempts to represent global sociological relationships, in the form of environmental resource-trade-consumption linkages, using Geographic Information Systems. You can find the full abstract for the project below. Congratulations to Mollie and Dr. Bergmann, and best of luck presenting your findings to Congress!
Understanding Patterns of Human Dependence on Agriculture and Forest Production in the Anthropocene
Mollie Holmberg, University of Washington, 2014
Luke Bergmann, University of Washington
Diverse lines of evidence indicate that humans have come to dominate many environmental and climate systems across the globe, prompting some researchers to declare the present part of a new geologic age known as the “Anthropocene.” Since plants form the base of many biological ecosystems (including those to which people belong) and agriculture alone covers approximately forty percent of land surface, studying how humans appropriate Earth’s plant production allows us to explore one of the most significant ways people have come to dominate Earth systems. Previous work has mapped the global distribution of plant growth supporting humans but failed to fully link this production to specific populations. To understand these connections, we begin by tracing global agricultural and forest production through a simplified representation of the global economy (containing about sixty million economic flows). To do this, we use global economic data collected by the Global Trade Analysis Project, enabling us to connect fields and forests with the often distant human populations whose lives they eventually support. Our model accounts for indirect plant consumption (for example, factory products require plant consumption by laborers) as well as plant materials people consume directly. Mapping these results and transforming them through Geographic Information Systems (software which can visually and computationally manipulate the results in diverse ways) allows us to describe major intersecting processes of globalization linking distant peoples and lands. For us to respond effectively to the increased human domination of Earth systems, improving our understanding of these socioecological relationships will be critical.