Paul Faulstich, professor of environmental analysis, talks about his current project using digital trail cameras to observe animal behavior in our local mountains, and how that ties into helping students learn how to solve difficult socio-environmental issues that may need a different approach.
Transcription: As humans, our relationship with the environment is profoundly influenced by the images that we use — photographs, paintings and prints are a way of tapping into a different modality, a different way of understanding the world around us. My name is Paul Faulstich and I’m professor of Environmental Analysis at Pitzer College.
Environmental Analysis is really a collaboration of people coming together from all sorts of fields that are interested in addressing some of the most critical problems of our time. My work in environmental analysis is looking at the ecological dimensions of human ideologies. I’m interested in what it is people think and do and how that is influenced by, and in turn influences the environments around us.
My current project is using digital trail cameras, remote cameras, that basically serve as 24/7 surveillance cameras that allow me to observe, in a largely hands-off way, animal behavior. You don’t really know what you’re going to get so there’s the unexpected, there’s the accidental. The first time I got an animal, I remember how excited I was about that. I don’t remember what the animal was, but I do remember the first time I got the tail of a cougar, and that’s all I got was a tail, but I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it, that we have these large carnivores right here in our backyards.”
One of the things I find in sharing what we have in our local mountains is that people are often really surprised by the diversity of animals we have and the number of critters that are roaming the foothills, and to learn that we are actually sharing our community with these animals, is kind of a revelation to then be able to understand the implications of what that means about our ecosystem and our responsibility. Then we can use this kind of documentation to help us protect the lands.
One of the things we know is that our socio-environmental problems aren’t going to be solved by the same kind of education that helped create the problems in the first place, and Pitzer provides a different kind of education. It’s an education where students are challenged, and ideas are encouraged to be stretched and bent and tempered but not stop there, but to take those ideas and to attach them to a life lived accordingly. So Pitzer isn’t just about playing with ideas; it’s about making balanced, whole persons and allowing those people to go out into the world and make the world a better place.
I’m Paul Faulstich and I’m a Pitzer professor.