My name is Eleanor, and I am in my final year at Boston University, where I’ve been simultaneously pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Earth Observations and my Master’s degree in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Sciences. My research focus and honors thesis use satellite-based remote sensing to monitor land cover conversion, e.g. deforestation or shrubification, in the Arctic and subarctic. Through this work, I was able to attend the NASA Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment’s (ABoVE) annual Science Team Meeting a few weeks ago in San Diego, California. When explaining how I became interested in polar research, I like to keep it very simple -- nearly everything you hear about climate change is worse in high-latitude regions. When this became clear to me, I couldn’t imagine focusing my studies and career on anything else.
Although I am, as a scientist in San Diego commented, “about as ‘early-career’ as a researcher gets,” I have already found the scientific community to be supportive, welcoming, and engaging, and my experience networking with others both in-person and virtually has been nothing but positive. Offline, the most significant early-career support I have received was through the ABoVE Science Team Meeting, where the organizers made a concentrated effort to provide resources for students and young researchers. Lunch events were created specifically for early-career scientists to meet the more well-established researchers at the meeting; this allowed us to speak on our own work without the fear that we were taking up time that should have been used to discuss more high-impact studies. The meeting’s organizers also implemented an Early Career Poster Feedback system, and the responses I received from this arrangement offered both positive comments and constructive criticism about my work and the poster presentation.
Online organizations and social media communities have been especially important to me as I begin to engage more in the scientific and professional world. APECS is the primary way I connect with polar researchers, and I engage with remote sensing and geospatial professionals through Women+ in Geospatial and the Society for Conservation GIS. On social media, accounts like @LadiesOfLandsat and initiatives like #GISchat have allowed me to participate in the community in a more informal atmosphere. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team gives participants of all skill levels the chance to contribute to the geospatial side of climate disaster response in a tangible way. All of these online opportunities offer a new way for early-career researchers to contribute to the larger community without the pressure that can be associated with in-person networking.
By connecting with the scientific community in these ways, I have developed my skills as a researcher and science communicator. The biggest takeaway from the experience has been that by and large, established scientists are very enthusiastic about engaging with students and early-career researchers. As a young scientist, it is easy to be self-deprecating and assume your work deserves less attention than longer-term or higher-budget studies, but that belief is not held by the community. Apprehension and imposter syndrome are a natural part of being new to a field and sharing research you care about, but it is important to remember that others want to hear your perspective. It is not arrogant or presumptuous to be proud of your work!
In May 2023, Eleanor Horvath graduates with both BA in Earth Science and Earth Observations and MS in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Sciences from Boston University. Eleanor studies land cover and disturbances in Arctic and boreal regions using satellite-based remote sensing and mapping technologies.
The Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment is completed on the ancestral and current lands of a large number of Indigenous nations. It is the bare minimum that we acknowledge the history of the land and its people, think critically about our presence there, and prioritize the wishes and needs of local communities.