The following interview is a part of SkillSpeak, a series of short interviews with SUMA professors, where they share bits of wisdom and knowledge, advising on skills that are crucial for a successful career in sustainability. This week we have Amy Karpati who teaches The Science of Urban Ecology. The interview was conducted by Mitika Bajpai, SUMANI Vice President & Director of Events.
Name: Amy Karpati
Academic Background: B.S. in Natural Resource Management, M.S.T in Adolescent Education, Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolution
Current Professional Title: Adjunct Professor in the Masters in Sustainability Management Program
What field within the sustainability realm do you work in?
I work in the field of biological conservation and urban ecology. This means that I look at cities as ecosystems, and try to figure out how we can change the biophysical and socio-cultural aspects of cities to enhance biodiversity and improve ecosystem function, which provides the ecosystem services we all rely upon.
What skills have you leveraged on so far, to expand your presence in your field of sustainability?
An understanding of how ecosystems function, how our actions affect their functioning, and how those effects on ecosystems in turn affect our own sustainability has been my most valuable skill. Keeping up-to-date with the latest research in urban ecology as well as continually learning about creative urban ecological solutions has also been essential to my work.
What are some of the most relevant skill-building opportunities offered by the SUMA program?
SUMA offers so many opportunities for networking with other sustainability professionals. The benefits of these networking opportunities are two-fold: not only do you learn how to speak the language of sustainability through discourse with others in the field, you also learn about sustainability from a broad array of perspectives. Sustainability management is complex in that it involves the integration of many disciplines, and the SUMA program allows students to access these different disciplines.
What skills would you advise a future SUMA graduate to develop in order to build credibility within your field of sustainability?
Within my field of sustainability – which largely focuses on the physical dimensions of sustainability – an understanding of ecosystem structure and function is essential. This includes an understanding of both so-called “natural” ecosystems and human-altered ecosystems. Curiosity, creativity, and risk-taking are important habits of mind in this field, as urban ecology and sustainability involves out-of-the-box thinking and an inventive approach. An additional understanding of the social, cultural, and political aspects of urban ecology will make you stand out in this field.