Research

Clifford_CV_2017

An excerpt from a statement of purpose prepared for doctoral applications: 

Many of the most pressing environmental management challenges we face require that we strategically analyze cause, effect, and intervention at multiple scales (i.e. micro, macro, spatial, temporal, etc.), often simultaneously. Comprehending the implications of multivariate climate models and scientific uncertainty, for example, requires careful attention, cultural and emotional fluencies, and an open mind. Climate scientists themselves are embedded within social and cultural contexts that limit their ability to fully perceive and express the risks their research findings suggest.[1] The need to develop capacities for thinking pragmatically and abstractly, locally and globally, compels me to investigate the role that artistic, performative representations of complex, science-based issues can play in augmenting the ability to perceive multi-scalor risk and relevance.

One example of my current work includes a collaboration with John Cook, Associate Professor in the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, in which we are assessing the impacts and perceptions of an interdisciplinary science communication piece called The Crossroads Project.[2] Among the insights from this exploratory research that I would like to examine further in a doctoral program is the multidimensional value of “preaching to the choir” and the unique qualities of contemplating climate-related projections in shared physical spaces. In what follows, I describe some of my other research-related and professional experiences to explain my interest in and capacity for complex science communication and interdisciplinary communication projects.

Over the course of two years, as a USDA-funded Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Florida (UF), I studied perspectives on climate change in the southeastern United States. I investigated the roles that worldviews, risk perception, and message framing play in cultivating or inhibiting dialogue on intersecting social and environmental dilemmas, through the lens of climate change. The perception that climate change is a geographically and temporally distant threat, or not a threat at all, is a barrier for some people to engage with the topic. In interviews I conducted with Extension agents as a part of my data collection, I heard from interviewees who work in agricultural sectors that climate change only became relevant to them after projected climate-related impacts to their county, region or industry were addressed by a source they trusted. This insight can be incorporated into climate-related education program planning by including region-specific information and by thoughtfully selecting presenters.

Graduate work has afforded me the opportunity to merge my interests in art and scholarship. As an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech, I participated in a four-semester, interdisciplinary core curriculum series called Earth Sustainability. I was awarded three university grants to present an independent research project that incorporated songwriting, literature, and performance. After graduating cum laude in 2008, I pursued music professionally and full-time for a few years. During this period, I performed in India, France, and across the United States. I composed music for a critically acclaimed Brazilian documentary (ELENA, 2012)[3] that was awarded best original soundtrack in a national competition for cinema in Brazil. Later as a graduate student at UF in 2015, I was encouraged by the Dean of my college and inducted into the International Honorary for Leaders in University Communities for an initiative I created to increase awareness of native plants with song and plant identification practice. Not long after graduating with an MSc,  I contributed music to Emmy Award winning documentarian Eugene Jarecki’s latest film project, THE KING (2017), that would later be named one of the top ten films at the Cannes Film Festival.[4] My vision for a doctoral project will culminate in a fruitful merging of my scientific interests in research, writing and my artistic drive for music and performance. My newest song is a step in this direction and is inspired by extreme weather events and influenced by my research on climate change communication.[5]

[1] Keynyn Brysse, Naomi Oreskes, Jessica O’Reilly, Michael Oppenheimer. 2013. Climate Change Prediction: Erring on the side of least drama? Global Environmental Change. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.10.008

[2] Find out more about The Crossroads Project here: www.thecrossroadsproject.org

[3] Theme song I wrote for ELENA with a video clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_ZCvMqfizM

[4] THE KING, previously titled Promised Land, was named one of the top ten films of Festival de Cannes 2017. Read a review here: http://variety.com/2017/film/reviews/promised-land-review-elvis-presley-1202450944/

[5] Latest song recorded at Heartwood Soundstage in Gainesville, FL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iriGYGbUoQI

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