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Interdisciplinary Research Lab Integrates Humanities, Social Sciences and Sciences

MOSCOW, Idaho — Feb. 13, 2019 — The Confluence Lab, an interdisciplinary research lab, was founded by Erin James and Jennifer Ladino of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and Teresa Cohn of the College of Natural Resources. Students, faculty and staff are invited to celebrate the opening of the lab at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 7 in the Integrated Research and Innovation Center (IRIC) Atrium.

The lab will bring together scholars from the humanities, social sciences and sciences to engage in collaborative projects. It was founded on the premise that a clearer understanding of the emotions and prevalent stories surrounding environmental issues combined with efforts to improve communication and empathy across ideological, political and disciplinary divides will lead to more effective solutions for environmental problems.

Although the lab officially opens on March 7, scholars from across campus met on Monday, Jan. 28 to kick-off the first part in a semester-long seminar series that will identify key lab members and potential future projects. The Confluence Lab is anchored in IRIC 116 and will provide interested scholars with a vital meeting place on campus in which they can share their work. 

Erin James says the lab's co-founders are "thrilled by the energy and enthusiasm coming from all over campus. People are eager for the kind of collaboration the lab aims to foster, the kind that foregrounds the roles that the humanities and social sciences play in tackling difficult and divisive environmental issues in our state."

Jennifer Ladino adds, "The first working lunch was standing room only. So many faculty across campus have been working on environmental problems independently, or within their disciplines. The Confluence Lab is a place where people can gather to get outside of our disciplinary silos, to percolate ideas, and to execute projects together." 

Teresa Cohn is leading the Confluence Lab's inaugural project, a rephotography project in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. She will work with faculty and student researchers at the Taylor Wilderness Research Station to compare historical photographs with current photographs taken by researchers along the Big Creek Drainage--a project funded in part by long-term U of I supporter Janet Pope and the DeVlieg Foundation.

Teresa describes the project as “an exciting interdisciplinary initiative. Rephotography is a method used in a variety of disciplines, and rather than choosing one, this project encourages different disciplines to bring their expertise to the project to better understand both social and ecological change, and how a variety of stakeholders interpret that change.”

Moving forward, lab members will seek external grants to fund the execution of collaborative projects that focus on environmental issues in the state of Idaho.

Written by Corrin Bond
Published February 2019

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