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Explore Energy is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

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Investigating the Motivations and Support Systems of Youth Climate Activists

Christopher Noll, Senior, Geological Sciences

When I joined Dr. Nicole Ardoin’s Social Ecology Lab, I was excited to partake in qualitative research concerning activism and climate change. As a SESUR alum and a Geological Science major, I had a quantitative research background and wanted to gain experience with qualitative research methods and interview protocol. As such, I was eager to start conducting interviews with youth climate activists. Reflecting on my experience thus far, working with the Social Ecology Lab has been excellent and enlightening.

The switch from examining numerical data to examining interviews was a significant and interesting shift. I was stunned by how far the automatic transcriptions of Zoom recorded meetings have come. Namely, I was impressed by how little cleaning is required for interview transcripts to read like a compelling narrative. Although Zoom’s transcripts are not perfect and still require editing to ensure accuracy, I found this process a much more pleasant experience than cleaning numerical data. Of course, this work has become much easier looking back on the interview transcription procedure of twenty years ago: transcribing entire interviews by hand! The image above displays an excerpt of one such transcript going through the transcription process.

Another welcome surprise was the collaborative nature of the Social Ecology Lab. At the beginning of the summer, I assumed I would be tasked with finding and interviewing willing candidates by myself. Instead, my mentors in the Social Ecology Lab have gone above and beyond by suggesting great candidates and helping me reach out to organizations. Moreover, their weekly meetings and training sessions have been incredibly helpful. Working with the Social Ecology Lab has allowed me to discover that I am interested in both qualitative and quantitative research areas, and I will take this experience with me as I determine my career trajectory in the coming years.