Stephen Crook

Ph.D. Candidate, Geography
San Diego State University and University of California, Santa Barbara
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathleen Farley, San Diego State University
M.Sc. Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management
University of Oxford
B.A. Geography
University of California, Los Angeles

Stephen’s research focuses on human-environment geography, human dimensions of environmental management, participatory geographic information systems, and cultural ecosystem services. His dissertation research is focused on ecosystem service mapping, usage, perception, and valuation in the National Forests of the Pacific Northwest. He hopes to compare ecosystem service modeling results with participatory GIS results related to ecosystem service uses by various stakeholders. He spoke to CDIP about his doctoral journey.

What motivated you to pursue a doctoral degree?
I was motivated to pursue a doctoral degree because I was interested in teaching at the post-secondary level, and the research skills and teaching exposure accrued through a doctoral program are unparalleled in their ability to inform and improve curriculum development and teaching. I had a bit of experience teaching at the community college level after my MSc. and thought it would be a good long-term investment to get the terminal degree for my field.

Describe how CDIP is helping you with your education and professional goals.
CDIP is helping by providing funding that has led to indispensable opportunities for field research and professional development. The loan program has also helped ensure financial security during a notoriously financially uncertain endeavor. It has enabled me to take a break from institutional funding requirements and outside jobs to conduct fieldwork and focus on dissertation writing.

Tell us about your favorite part of CDIP.
My favorite parts of CDIP include both the funding opportunities, and getting to feel like a part of a greater CSU community. As a Ph.D. student at a CSU institution who is highly interested in teaching at a CSU, the deeper connection is valuable in demonstrating interest and commitment. I think this demonstrated commitment may be helpful when applying for jobs.

How did you use your loan and/or grant(s)?
I have received both a Mini Grant and travel funding, which have allowed me to conduct pilot research, make valuable connections in my study area, gain experience at a professional conference, and attract larger sources of funding to continue my research. As for the loan funding, I have saved most of these funds to ensure financial security and prioritize timely completion of my dissertation in the time between the end of funding and the start of a job.

What advice would you give to a new CDIP Scholar?
Look into the requirements for Mini Grants and travel funding early and put together drafts that can be modified and tailored as you progress. The opportunities are fantastic, but sometimes the announcements and deadlines seem to come up quickly! Also, check the program webpage at least once at the beginning of every semester to make sure you’re on board with the current requirements. These dates can change and it’s up to you to stay on top of these things!

What are you passionate about?
I enjoy getting a deeper understanding of the diversity of reasons for which people from different backgrounds and communities care about their public lands — I’ve found it’s a fruitful approach to lend an open ear and let people articulate what’s important to them on the landscape in their own words. It’s also highly satisfying to compile the participatory maps created by numerous individual respondents to get an aggregate depiction of not just what is important to them in a forest and why, but how those things are distributed spatially in a National Forest.