Meet Christopher Thomas (GH 2010)

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Christopher was a transfer student from Highline Community College and was awarded the honor of being on the All-Washington Academic Team. As a junior, Christopher also held a Leiendecker Scholarship and made the Dean's list each term at UWT.

"Participating in the Global Honors program adds a welcoming dimension to the UWT experience. It was challenging but rewarding to fuse my science-heavy environmental studies with the global, interdisciplinary frameworks embedded in the Global Honors courses. This 'fusing' has greatly strengthened my understanding of social and ecological systems so that I may apply these understandings to my future goals in environmental anthropology."

In the summer of 2008, he participated in the UW Seattle Honors study abroad program in Sierra-Leone. He received two study abroad scholarships, UW International Programs & Exchanges Study Abroad Scholarship - Sierra Leone and UWT Fuchs Scholarship. He was able to utilize his research on the complex issue of sustainable rice farming for his Global Honors thesis.

Christopher in Sierra Leone"After finishing the Global Honors requirements and my honors thesis as a "super senior" in 2010, I was able to publish a version of my thesis in the Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability. I worked for Dr. John Banks in 2009 as a research assistant in at the Arabuko-Sokoke forest reserve in coastal Kenya examining the relationship of insect densities, the population of a rare forest bird (East Coast Akalat), and the amount of disturbance to the bird's habitat. This research resulted in an article published in the African Journal of Ecology to which I was a co-author. Soon after returning with Dr. Banks (but still an undergraduate), I was awarded the Chancellor's Grant for a research proposal I wrote to conduct further individual research in the same coastal forest. Immediately upon graduation from UWT, I returned to Kenya to work with local ecologists and a non-governmental organization (NGO) on developing a GIS-based protocol for monitoring forest disturbance that would be flexible enough to adapt to methods favored by local ecologists while maintaining a consistency needed for Western scientific methodology.

Research Group"In the fall of 2010, I moved to Eugene, Oregon to attain a Masters degree in geography at the University of Oregon. Working with political ecologist Dr. Peter Walker, I continue with my interest in coastal Kenya by learning Swahili and by returning to the Arabuko-Sokoke forest in the summer of 2011 to conduct research for my degree. For my Masters thesis, I am building on the avenues I have previously explored but am now focusing more on how policy and politics affect the success (or failure) of local communities participating with the state in forest management. I am arguing that the complexities inherent in the co-dependency of roles each stakeholder group has (and the conflicting perceptions of those roles) greatly affect how forest management policies succeed or fail at Arabuko-Sokoke forest.

"After the completion of my thesis (estimated in spring 2013), I will apply for positions at international development organizations that focus on environmental issues in East Africa. Because of the impact that IAS and the Global Honors program has had on my outlook--largely through the programs' education and support--I will also be applying to study abroad programs at universities where I can encourage undergraduate study abroad and research opportunities thus giving back to a system that has helped shape me into who I am."