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FOR 692 Capstone in Natural Resources Management

Ruth Yanai,  210 Marshall,  x6955,  rdyanai@syr.edu    https://www.esf.edu/faculty/yanai/


FOR 692, Fall 2014




Assignments Due


(before registering for the class)

10 project ideas

Aug 26

Course Planning.  Time accounting.  Projects.

3 project ideas (with clients)

Sept 2

How to write a proposal, how to search for sources

Outline of your proposal

Sept 9

10-minute Background Presentations

Feedback for presenters

Sept 16*

Bibliography due (no class meeting)

20-30 references

Sept 23

Annotated Bibliography

~10 reviews of sources

Sept 30

Resume, Cover Letter, Interview

3 copies of resume, cover letter

Oct 6*

First Drafts of Proposals

due noon 10/2, reviews due 10/6

Oct 14

Skills: writing

Samples from your proposals

Oct 21

Final Proposals

Written proposals

Oct 28

Course Planning and Improvement

Anonymous feedback

Nov 4

No class


Nov 11

Professional Communication (John Turbeville)


Nov 18

Review draft final reports

Reports, reviews

Nov 25

Thanksgiving break


Dec 2

Final presentations

Feedback for presenters

Dec 13

Project Reports due

Final Reports

Grading scheme

The majority of your grade will be based on your projects:  25% for oral presentations (5% for the Intro and 20% on the Final) and 40% for written reports or other products.  The project proposals are 15% and the remaining 20% is for other assignments such as time and effort accounting, feedback for presenters, and preparing for skill sessions if needed.  

Late assignments will be discounted at the rate of 10%/day.  Assignments required for class participation will be worth 0% after the day we needed them.


Tuesday, August 26


Brian: Joint law degree, 3rd year, 2nd year MPS, all concurrently in 3 years (itís a lot of work).  Came from California, environmental science and politics.  Interested in international and national environmental jurisprudence.  Summer job with DEC here in Region 7, permitting, mining, discharge.  Last year he did a project in Costa Rica through a law school in Florida, preserving a cloud forest.  Market techniques and legal techniques.


Veronica is from Panama, she has a background in ag engineering and a masters in project formulation evaluation and management from the technological university of Panama.  She had 7 years of work experience in rural development and food security, and realized that she had to connect environmental issues, now in a program of ecology and environment, on a scholarship.  She has had three internships, practical experience is more useful than a thesis.

Focus on soil management.  People have cultural reasons for their agricultural systems, need to be practical.  MP Briggs

3 Project Ideas


1.     DEC, building on contacts there, engineering as well as legal, and maybe into education.

2.     Southern California Gas Company, alleged discharge of pollutants into drinking water acquifers in a densely populated area.  Legal analysis of their contamination data, what are the enforcement obligations for remediation.  Toxin threshold levels.  Proposition 65, California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act.

3.     Californiaís low carbon fuel standard: new opportunities of including externalities in analyses of gasoline.  Also DEC, New York.

Favorite is number 1, and relationships are in place.


1.     In western Panama, in the dry tropics, .  recovery of acid soils.  Best client relationship, and best topic area for the future.  Apply concepts of TEK.

2.     Traditional Ecological Knowledge, different values and economic system, copper reservesÖ

3.     Transformation of traditional crop systems, when loans are geared for large farmers and for export.  Conversion from rice and beans to pineapples and watermelon worked for short-term profit but not for food security (nor sustainable soil management).  Client:  Association of organic farmers.



Studied biology at Buffalo, interested in primates, did research on wild monkeys in South Africa.  At ESF, human dimensions of conservation and resource management.  Now moving towards management not necessarily of resources, but including business and entrepreneurship.  After graduation, job not in this field necessarily.

Advisor, Diane Kuehn, is supportive.  Tom is focusing on interviews with maple producers on the business end.  

Course Planning

Weíll review again when we have all our participants.  We expected Tom today and Veronica has a friend who might join to prepare his PhD proposal.

Time Sheets

previous notes follow  

Check out the collections in google drive and try one or improve on what we have.


Guidelines for Time Sheets

Time entries are in rows, with the most recent at the bottom.

Columns are for categories of tasks, grouped into more general categories.  Examples include: communications, background reading, field work, writing the proposal.  Overhead (not directly related to your project) would include class work like reviewing each otherís proposals or preparing your background presentation.

Show gridlines (if printed), freeze header panes, color optional (especially if printed).

The week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.

Add a table with weekly project totals.

Time sheets will be due on Monday for the preceding week.

Sept 2: Whatís in a Proposal?

Ideas for Skill sessions

Brian:  How to translate science into policy

Veronica is interested in that, too

Tom: How to take my skills to job opportunities not in resources management.

Proposal outlines

Tom brought the proposal for the overall project.  Need to focus in on what you will accomplish this semester.

Veronica also has ambitious goals.  These belong in the justification for the project.  Focus the objectives of this proposal on what you can accomplish this semester.  Maps that she makes in her GIS class will contribute to this project.  Edaphology includes a branch for traditional knowledge:  ethnoedaphology.  This is better studied in Mexico than Panama.


Tomís client:  New York State maple producers organization.  He has been in contact with the Executive Director.

Brian is working with his clients (policy and air quality engineer) on what the scope of the project will be.

Veronica has to be careful with traditional authorities, they are suspicious of her motivations. Plus it needs to be in their language.  She has found a translator.


What belongs in the presentation?  For your final presentation, your audience is the client (and the class).  For your introductory presentation, itís just us.

Sept 9:  Introductory Presentations  

Check in on project reports

Searching for information (literature and other sources)

Tom already has the sources he thinks he needs.

Brianís topic is new from the Supreme Court, but he can look backwards through the state courts.  He will get empirical data.  The law was previously overturned, so there is lots of material on it.

Veronica:  data bases for ethnopedology and ethnoedaphology.  She met, by chance, one of the Mexican scholars in this area.  

Check in on timesheets.

Upload them and weíll talk about them when we meet next.


Veronica is planning to attend the CRC workshop on Sept 13.  Sheíll tell us about it when we meet on Sept 23.

September 16: Bibliography


By Wednesday, tell us:  Where did you look, what search terms did you try, what worked and what didn't?

20-30 references (we don't expect that all will be useful).  


Upload your bibliographies by class time, and also send them by email.  Let me know if you have any questions!

September 23: Annotated Bibliography

Annotated bibliographies

The references you cite might not be the ones where you found the information.  Choose sources to cite with your audience in mind.

Sometimes itís worth annotating bad sources if it will help you remember why not to use them.


Brian:  Yes, I have so much to work with.  Since the project is a research paper, this is what itís all about.

Ruth:  Think about tapping additional reviewers, because the reviewers youíre going to get from this class are not experts in your fields.  Ruth will contact David Driesen to review Brianís.

Tomís is color coded by topic!  He is more interested in businesses than in methods for interviews.


Project updates

Tom has done 12 interviews.  He wanted 20 all together.  Itís hard to get phone calls scheduled.  He has transcribed the ones he has and thereís not a lot of variation.

The survey has been developed and approved and needs to be sent out (2500 envelopes to be stuffed) by early October.


Brian has two audiences.  The Office of General Counsel at the DEC doesnít need an introduction to the US legal system.  Tom has a similar problem, though itís not as extreme, between the maple producers and this class.

Ruth: Tomís introduction to the importance of maple production might only take a paragraph.

Tom:  The producers donít know how to articulate the importance of the need for the research.

Brianís introduction might be a whole page, because he has to introduce the legal system, the pollutants, the cross-state thing, and the recent events that led to the need for his project.


Brian is in a GIS class, in which he could generate a map of NOx and SOx emissions for NY.  For his externship with SUNY General Counsel, heís writing for a property law journal, and this could fit in.


Having categories in columns allows the hours for each one to be summed, in case you have budgeted by category.

Take a look at earlier examples to get ideas for categories and formatting.  Some have predicted times as well as actual.

Thanks, Brian, for entering the dates.

What is the value of having more detail on the time axis?  Tom and Brian are both interested in practicing accounting for their hours on a daily basis; Veronica might not care about this.

Tom has a lot more hours in his project than the 100 he might devote to this class, because his GA is covering probably 20 hours/week.  He will include all the things he does, since itís all one project.


Sept 30:  Resume, Cover Letter, Interviews

Report on CRC training (Veronica)

There are three workshops during the semester, in sequence.  This one was on Reflective Listening.  The professor is just amazing.  Because we are beginners, they start with our personal conflicts (washing dishes with your roommate before solving international crises). Identifying the feelings behind the conflict and reflecting them.  Twenty people attended, from all cultures.  The graduates of the workshop then help teach undergraduates about conflict management.

Itís very practical.  Itís four hours, and they feed you!


ē Contact information, good point.

ē Importance of white space.  Employers spend 20 seconds per resume.

Tom has links, what if it gets printed?  His was an application for a digital publication job.

References are usually provided only if requested.  If requested, provide all contact information.

Tom researches the fonts of the publication

Tom likes Open Sands.  Brian says Century Schoolbook is supposed to be the easiest to read.  Ruth liked Palatino.  Tom and Brian hate Cambria.

We discussed periods at the ends of the phrases even though they arenít sentences.

Cover letters

First paragraph: Who you are and what you are applying for.  Paragraphs on your qualifications, selling yourself.

What about a signature line?  You want a jpg signature that you can paste into electronic letters.  Sign in blue and scan it in color!

Research the organization and who will be receiving the cover letters.

Salutation ďDear Hiring ManagerĒ or ďTo Whom it May ConcernĒ

Space rather than indents for paragraphs.

Oct 6:  Draft Proposals

Proposals will be distributed by the previous Thursday.

Reviewers: Brian reviews Veronica reviews Tom reviews Brian

Oct 14: Writing

Smith and Brown  

Smith is better, why?

It has a better logical flow.  Avoid repetition.  Give the reader clues as to structure.

Paragraph breaks.

Avoid jargon.

We practiced identifying the subject and verb of each sentence.  You want to use these to convey the main meaning (not ďIt was found thatÖĒ)

Subject-verb-object is the easiest structure to understand in English.

Project updates

Veronica was planning to investigate whether ethnopedological research would be a good way to help the Nobe agricultural.  The traditional methods have been so disrupted that itís not possible to research them.  The Bribris are more isolated and have maintained more traditional practices.

Tom:  Itís the nature of doing research.  If youíre not too far along to switch.

Ruth:  Your client wonít object.

Veronica:  The Nobe population went from 20,000 to 250,000, and they canít use shifting cultivation with a 20-year return, they donít have that much land.

Tomís project includes the work involved in stuffing envelopes, mailing the survey, and entering the data.  But if he wonít have the results by the end of the semester, maybe this is not part of the project for this class.  He was more interested in the interview process, anyway.

He has a job working as an editor for a technology web site that might turn into a full-time job.  So he might not be spending a lot of time on publishing the results after he graduates

What should his project be?  Is it just the transcripts of the interviews?  A report of recommendations for best practices?  Or would your final report be the first draft of a publication for a journal?  He will talk to Diane about products and authorship.

Oct 21:  Proposals

Veronicaís proposal

Good job convincing us that the problem is important.

This proposal was succinct.

You tell us what the recent developments are, maybe go back and tell us the origins of the problem.  These people could feed themselves until what changes occurred?  They have lost what?  What does it mean that they donít have food security?

Veronica says that people are considered poor if they donít earn money, but they may be producing enough food to eat.

The government destroyed the traditional economy, especially in some regions, where people are wage-earners, no longer growing their food.

Write the proposal without referencing things you donít believe.  Donít use sources uncritically that you believe to be wrong!

You could address the problems in the classification system, or you can leave that for another project.

Tomís proposal

The approaches are described in detail, Veronica might want to put more information in her proposal about how she will proceed.

Tom admired Veronicaís proposal for its length.  We had suggested that his was repetitive and would be more effective if it were shorter.  He will work on that.

Climate change involves many things, be more specific: length of the tapping season?  Distribution of sugar maple?

Would it be helpful to include information about the producers?  There are data on maple sugar production.

Tom found that interviews go better if he starts by asking them about their businesses than asking them about climate change.


Is it useful to record more information than Veronica has in her timesheet?  Itís helpful if you have a budget for your time or if you need to make adjustments against expected time budgets.


Oct 28: Mid-Semester Feedback for Improvement

1.  Below is a list of the topics and activities in the course so far.  Please indicate which you found especially useful, which least useful.  (Scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most useful.)  Give specific suggestions for improvement if you have any.


For example: 3, 5, 2, 4, 1, 2, 4, 5,  (you each type one number, and we donít know who is who), and comments go after each heading


Give a handout (hard copy) of all the evaluation forms and grading rubrics


a.  Assignments


Ten project ideas: 5, 4 , 3                          

Great having lots of time to develop project ideas before school starts. However, it is very difficult for students to do so during Spring semester. Moreover, I developed my client contacts and project idea through my summer work. By asking for the 10 projects by perhaps August, students would have sufficient time to explore exciting topics.


Introductions (presentations): 5, 4.5, 5                            

The personal component of my presentation overshadowed the presentation on my topic. While the instructions are open-ended, perhaps a little more guidance as to content, or advise to balance personal and topic intro, would be in order.

Speaker evaluation form is very useful because it is so detailed. Different people around the room can pick up nuances to improve on.

Tom - Increasing length of presentation will allow students to really delve into personal introduction while allowing time to explain the project. Recommended length 10-15 minutes: 5 Minutes for personal intro 5-10 for project intro


Three project ideas: 5, 5, 4.5                                

Was tough narrowing down, but this was essential!


Bibliography (initial search): 5, 4, 5

30 Sources may provide impetus for scattershot, as opposed to confined, research when the scope of the project is still being refined. Starting with 30 is smart, because you have to think broadly. Helpful if you take it seriously. Easier to generate 30 and then refine.


Annotated bibliography: 5, 5, 5                             

Extremely useful for navigating the piles of research we generate!


Draft proposal: 5, 5, 5                                 

Very useful, while perhaps a bit daunting this is the nature of the beast.  Necessary, because of the nature of the course.


Reviews of draft proposals: 5, 3.5, 5         

This year's class projects are highly interdisciplinary, and seem to suggest the need for expert validation and review of particular topics. Creating an ad hoc review panel was highly beneficial for my particular project. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with the amazing resources here on the Hill, therefore I suggest that it be mandatory in the future. Consider adding specialist reviewers


Revised (final) proposal: 5, ?


b.  Skill sessions


How to write a proposal: 5, 4, N/A


Resume, Cover Letter, Interview: 5, 4, 3.5

We did not talk about interviews, so we can schedule more time to talk about this.


Writing skills: 5, 5, 4


2.  Future activites


a.  Skill Sessions

There is not that much time left in the course!  We have a session on Nov 11 that could be anything you want.  In the past, we have had sessions on the following topics.

Reflective Listening (Conflict Resolution Center)

Interest-based problem solving (Conflict Resolution Center)

Professional Communications (Jim Hassett) 2X

Jim is retired, but John Turbeville might be a good presenter. I would like to know when the level of informality should change during email exchanges.  Is this context specific. 1. Email correspondence 2. Interview 3. Turning science language into digestible language without losing content (Veronica - Indigenous, scientific, policy audiences; Brian - Science, legal, and policy audiences) 4. Elevator speech 5. Who is/are the audience (level of expertise, interest, time restraints) 6. Communicating the big picture 7. Power point presentation

EWP 620 Advanced Public Presentation Skills for Environmental Professionals (3) -- Tom McGrath.  Stacey Mack of Profesional Development Committee has a special on-demand training course


Presentations (Benette Whitmore)

Research Skills: Information seeking (Jo Anne Ellis) (Verůnica, if I could choose I am interested in this topic).

Resume and Interview (John Turbeville)

The one on the schedule is the one students proposed last year: Workplace skills.

Suggestions or comments:                       

Professional communications is an extremely relevant, interesting, and under explored context for our project


b.  Assignments

We will look over the calendar for the class.  We have one week devoted to drafts of final reports and another for final presentations.  In the past, we exchanged reviews of draft reports.  The final report will be due on the day scheduled for the Final Exam for this class period.  

Do you have suggestions to improve any of the the following?


Draft Reports:

[N/A Already turned in this year]


Reviews of Draft Reports:                        

Creating an ad hoc review panel was highly beneficial for my particular project. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with the amazing resources here on the Hill, therefore I suggest that it be mandatory in the future.


Final Presentations:


Final Reports:

Lets ask for an abstract, 200 words and a haiku!!!!


3.  Other Comments or Suggestions

While it is very useful to have class notes on Drive, perhaps it would be useful to have a hard copy which outlines the soft and hard deadlines we generate and alter, as class goes on. Another possible idea is to have periodic project updates, where we can discuss as a class

The Drive was very helpful but I agree that a hard copy syllabus would help students stay organized

Progress Reports

Tom met with Diane last week.  The focus of her project will be the interviews.  She gave Tom her codes, he can have inter-observer reliability.  Are the two observers supposed to come up with codes separately?  Tom should at least check that he thinks her codes are sufficient.  What about publication?  He could present it at the Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium.

Veronica has decided to work on a grant proposal as her project.  She already has a new draft of her report!


Brian was giving us

Nov 11 Professional Communication

Project Reports

Due Monday at 5 to the reviewers.

Organizational Skills for the Workplace


Levels of professionalism. Two schools of thought.

Use opportunities at introductions with people not as familiar with, to err on side of tradition, be more formal.  In general, new wave of folks treating email as a far less structured and informal communication tool.  As you begin to develop relationships with people, show deference to individuals, and start to see at what point they start doing those pleasantries.  Take this as the sign, for the quick down and dirty communication tool that it can be used for.  If there is ever doubt, err on side on formal.  

For Employers:

Keep it more formal and traditional.

With individuals interacted with several times:

Implicit permission to ratchet it down.

Signature Line:

Big fan of it, no absolutes.  Very important for contact information.

Rule of Thumb: Making it easy for individuals communicate to be able to get ahold of you

Tom feel strange about signature: Donít err on the side of not doing it. For folks deviating from degree related career path. Take cues from journalism industry -> look to Linked In.  Contact information and website may be sufficient for signature line.

First time introductions:  

Make intro professional and personal, with appropriate context, follow up with quick statement of why you are writing and who referred to (do this right at the beginning).  Don'tí just right back in, they need context (kind of like cover letter). Benefit statement -> connections as to what they will see in the body of the email.

When ratcheted back up:

Start with a greeting and salutation, to not worry about potential perception of being too informal.  If you get a very informal email, use good judgement. John never defaulted to informal as a student, in order to communicate deference.

Veronica Email as a professional networking platform:

MIxed method approach appropriate: make email a part of the mix, using just one approach limits opportunities. Not long ago it was all in print, thus youíd write a letter in return.  Now there are so many options, hard to decide what media is preferred, advantages/disadvantages etc. Maybe internet makes it harder?  Consider millennial generational differences: 1 on 1 interaction will never ago away, and if it does I hope Iím not around. Surveyed a network of employers ESF invites to career fairs on value of communication skills.  If youíve got two candidates, both look good on paper, one has perfect GPA, the other a solid student, perhaps the personal with teh lower GPA is personable, communicates well, can relate well.  100% they choose the student with the lower GPA

GPA on Resume:

Undergraduates: if above 3.0, include; in general if 3.0 or above include it.  Grad level: use best judgement, may not be necessary; if important to communicate story include.  Employers concerned about grades: include.

Negotiating Salaries:

Most bargaining power before being hired.                                          

Talk a step back, walk in the other persons shoes. Negotiate beyond salary: benefits, extra vacation days, etc. Federal resource: O Net; look to salary and regional area. Align yourself to national data.  If you choose to negotiate: The organization can say no. Being adamant: I'm worth this Ė a very hard sell. Too much competition at the moment. Hardline at entry level generally don't work.

Applying in NYC/Expensive cities:                                          

Employers don't want to move you were cost of living is expensive. To rationalize you need more money because you need to live in a big city won't help. At the end of the day you aren't going to convince them. You may need to play by their rules until you reach an audience that will see the benefit         .                    

Blogs/Professional Websites:

Professional Website, the better option (ie Linked In) Blogs: If used to represent brand or what your doing, may not be necessary for job search. They take a lot of work and may not be appropriate to particular job. No need to jump into blogging world just to use as a form of searching. Bottom line: make it genuine, or people will see right through that.

Noting multi-cultural background on resume:

Know context and what is inappropriate. Subtly communicated how multicultural values or experiences are critical skills for position, a good idea. Make it a value statement based on skill set. Delicate balance, because employers cannot discriminate on basis of race/ethnicity. Remember these values change by nation. If the employer is seeking diversity: weave it in subtly as above.

Trying to include a new section in my resume (Lectures / Presentation):

Presentations and Speaking Engagements; Lectures and Presentations;  Publications and Presentations


Very Rough Draft Reports


Nov 18 Review Draft Final Reports

Final Presentations


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