What is your favorite part about being a scientist and how did you get interested in science?
We love the problem solving interplay that occurs when we are able to exchange techniques for Do-it-Yourself construction of appropriate technologies with communities facing environmental and climatic challenges. We became interested in exploring the synergies between human and non-human communities after our personal experiences of disruptions in environmental and social services as the results of minor and major natural disasters (earthquakes and hurricanes, wars and occupations and economic deprivation) in our homelands and during our travels.
What do you do?
We focus on harnessing local resources, using biomimicry and permaculture design and finding ways to cooperate with microbial and other biological systems to improve and develop sustainable lifestyles. In particular, we “life-test” food-energy-water and zero waste “nexus” technologies for closing the loop between “food-waste” and “toilet waste” and other “organic residuals” using self-built biodigesters and hydroponic systems to produce fuel, food and fertilizer and create healthy soil ecosystems. The heart of our work is outreach and education so that we “teach a woman to fish” rather than “give a man a fish” and empower everybody to participate in the much needed zero-waste “circular economy”.
How does your research contribute to the understanding of climate change and to the betterment of society in general?
Modelling and creating an attitude of self reliance and local resilience and a more accountable relationship between consumption patterns and self-provisioning capacity helps society adapt to and mitigate the changes in climate and the losses of productive land and water ecosystems that are a consequence of the bad practices promulgated in the Anthropocene.
What are your data and how do you obtain them?
We teach a new course at the University of South Florida called “Envisioning Sustainability” that uses VR/AR and game development software and hardware and visual storytelling to help students develop interactive “5D” models/simulations and digital assets that show the application of best practice technologies to their own homes/neighborhoods and areas of interest. These data can then be shared on-line and act as immersive meeting spaces for testing ideas before attempting to implement them in the field.
What advice do you have for aspiring scientists?
Our best advice for aspiring scientists is to humbly consider yourself a small but important part of a much larger “ecology of mind” and an unbroken thread in history’s “Great Conversation” and Co-Evolutionary Process and strive to contribute your observations, insights and epiphanies in a cooperative open source manner for the betterment of all (human and non-human).
Dr. Culhane is the Director of the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Concentration in the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida. Both he and Enas Culhane are community scientists, activists, and teachers. To learn more about their work, visit their website, blog, and Facebook group.