Arik Tashie, a doctoral student in geological sciences, studies how climate change and landscape modification can alter the flow of water resources. His work has implications for predicting floods and determining water policy. Tashie served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve from 2006 to 2008. “My military background gave me the tools and confidence to pursue the highly technical aspects of much of my research,” he says.
What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
I chose UNC-Chapel Hill to pursue a Ph.D. because of the people. The department I was welcomed into, the Department of Geological Sciences, is filled with brilliant scientists at the cutting edge of their fields. Fortunately, they are also wonderfully kind and welcoming, and my principal investigator, Professor Tamlin Pavelsky, is especially so. He leads a team of students and fellow researchers in the development and use of satellites to observe the condition of rivers, lakes and flooded areas around the world. Novel research in fast-paced fields like this can be rather cutthroat at times, yet he and the lab he leads are generous with their knowledge and expertise, making for a mutually beneficial, collaborative and highly productive environment. In that way, my experience at Carolina has combined the best of both worlds: world-class science in an atmosphere of true Southern hospitality.
Tell us about your research plans.
I study streams, groundwater and how they interact. In particular, my research aims to predict how water resources and the likelihood of flooding are impacted by changes in land cover and in climate. A better understanding of these processes helps us to protect our valuable water resources and important ecological landscapes more efficiently, and more cost-effectively. While much of my research has focused on water resources in North Carolina, I am also helping to apply the results of my research to improve continental-scale and global-scale models of the water cycle.
What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in graduate school?
Somewhat by accident, the field I spent some time specializing in the Army happens to be central to my academic research: geographic information systems. My military background gave me the tools and confidence to pursue the highly technical aspects of much of my research. Coming from a public school system in the deep South where science and technology were often not high priorities, it is unlikely that I would have gained the experience to pursue my academic career apart from my time in the military.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
I plan to continue doing original research for as long as possible. Ideally, this would mean a faculty position at a university, though there are many research-oriented jobs in the private sector, too. While I love my particular field of research (hydrology), one of the great things about a graduate degree in STEM is that the tools learned in any one field are readily applied to another. My Ph.D. at Carolina has given me a solid toolset in data analysis and coding that can be productively applied in many different settings. Fortunately, my next steps seem secured already with a postdoctoral position at Duke (sorry!!) starting in the fall of 2021.