Mira Word post graduate review and update

researchers taking samples from a fieldThis post was written by Mira Word who completed her Sustainability M.Sc. in May 2018 in Arizona State University's Cease Lab, collaborating with the Senegalese Plant Protection Directorate (DPV). During her time at ASU, Mira studied the interactions among farmer livelihoods, agricultural practices, soil, plant nutrients and the Senegalese grasshopper (Oedaleus senegalensis), as well as other grasshoppers in the Kaffrine region of Senegal. Oedaleus senegalensis is a non-model locust, forming swarms, migrating across national borders, and is a major pest of cereal crops in the Sahel. Prompted by her recently-published thesis paper “Soil-targeted interventions could alleviate locust and grasshopper pest pressure in West Africa”, we asked her to reflect on her time as a grad student at ASU and member of the Global Locust Initiative. In Mira’s words: To write about my experience as an ASU sustainability master's student would be to tell so many different tales. All of which are ones of awakening: to the network of ecosystems, to love, higher learning, and the depths of my own inner resources. "What did you learn in grad school?" Oh, how I longed for this answer when I was a bright-eyed prospective student. "Tell me what I am getting myself into and that it will be worth it!" For me, the journey was so worth it and I hold so much gratitude for my adventures with the Cease Lab, School of Sustainability, and Global Locust Initiative. My experience brought me to Africa twice, where I dug in the soil, gazed up at magnificent baobab trees, and spent time with amazing people I will never forget. I breathed in new data like the particles that filled my nose after a summer rain in Senegal. I toiled in the lab and read papers until my eyes fell out. I found I can use my intellect to learn many new concepts and vocabularies (including a few phrases in Wolof). Even how to pull off a publication (with the support of an amazing team) in Science of the Total Environment (if you haven’t read the paper yet here is a link)! I am still in a phase of integration. Melding the old with the new and seeing how the pieces come together. If there is anything overarching from my learning in grad school it is that everything is indeed interconnected and curiosity is the best guide. I am more motivated than ever to work on behalf of the environment. I have come back to my roots and am working with horses at a beautiful therapeutic farm in Kalispell Montana. I am writing more poetry, working on a guided journal and sketchbook with my dad (and artist) and have started writing a novel that mixes climate change science with the hero’s journey. The latter may or may not include a disastrous locust plague. To be in Mastery is a very different thing after the cap and gown come off. To keep walking your path and following your own true north. Mine led me to the mountains of Montana where the wilderness reigns. Having grown up in Arizona, I am learning about the elements (it’s cold!) and seasons and enjoying being 30 minutes from the gates of Glacier National Park. I can’t wait to get my hands back in some soil. I am dreaming of my garden and compost projects this summer and getting to know the amazing local farming community here in the Flathead Valley. Sending you all greetings and well wishes! Stay in touch and reach out any time!