Students and Alumni Highlights
Nwasinachi Menkiti Ph.D. is the latest graduate of the MS Arid Lands from Texas Tech University (2019). Nwasinachi was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria. She received undergraduate and master's degrees in Nigeria prior to her enrollment at Texas Tech University for PhD studies which she completed in August, 2020. Always the overachiever, at the same time, she added the MS Arid Land Studies to her graduate program. Her efforts have been recognized from the outside as she received the highly competitive “American Association of University Women” Doctoral Scholarship among several other accolades. Nwasinachi is passionate about sustainability and the rules and processes that characterize ecosystem resilience to environmental and human-mediated disturbances. She has an active research program on those topics. Her long-term career plan is to become a faculty member where she hopes to continue improving human's livelihood through her research and teaching.
Nwasinachi's research in the MS Arid Lands program was focused on using remote sensing and OpenStreetMap to understand land cover changes in a dry sub-humid nature reserve in Ghana, Bui National Park. In addition, her studies allowed her to calculate deforestation rates for ecosystems protected by the National Park. In support of observations from other places in Africa and elsewhere, she concluded that proximity of the nature reserve to roads, waterbodies and settlements were parameters associated with the loss of woodland areas. This was particularly exacerbated by the construction of a dam within the forested portion of the park.
For her PhD in “Land Use, Planning, Management and Design” (2020), Nwasinachi studied spatial patterns of forest cover loss, the impact of protected areas (PA) in preserving biodiversity, and the effect of governance on deforestation occurring in West Africa. Her studies indicated that deforestation and ecosystem degradation were not homogenously distributed, but some countries showed enormous forest cover loss whereas others appeared to be on the rebound with positive indicators of forest regrowth. Activities relating to agriculture, mining and timber industry were shown to be the main proximate causes of forest reduction. These activities are fueled by the pressure exerted by weak governance (corruption, civil unrest) and poverty; however, and in general, the majority of the PA's are less impacted by deforestation, thus it appears that PA are effective in reducing forest loss.
Overall, Nwasinachi's research focuses on the application of geospatial technologies to study human-environment interactions to ensure environmental resilience and sustainable development. In combination, the use of these technologies makes it possible to determine the drivers of environmental change and in so doing, provide critical information needed for a multifaceted, participatory, forestry programs in Africa and elsewhere.
Here we ask her a few questions about her experiences:
Q: What attracted you to the MS Arid Lands program at Texas Tech University
Without a doubt, the ability to choose classes from different departments and the integration of 2 or more different disciplines in my research. I felt that the characteristics of the program allowed for a more comprehensive and integrative education experience. I gained vast knowledge due to the interdisciplinary and integrative nature of both the PhD and MS programs, improving my analytical skills and also having the opportunity to interact with professionals from diverse fields.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
Learning is a continuous process, currently I am working on professional development, improving my skills in open source GIS and Remote Sensing technologies while looking for better opportunities that benefit my career goals.
Q: Who would you say had the greatest influence on your research and/or career?
My parents had a great influence. Being the youngest child in the family also played a role because I looked up to my siblings. Also, I am blessed with a supportive spouse who is my cheerleader.
Q: What is the best career advice you have ever received?
While sending me off to college for my undergraduate studies, my mum told me, “you are the driver and architect of your future, organize and use your time wisely” That rings bell to my ears till today.
Q: How do you keep motivated and/or on schedule?
I do have weekly and monthly timetable in my calendar to track progress. Before going to bed, I set out my task for the next day, then I endeavor to write daily no matter how little. Also, limiting the amount of time spent on social media helps.
Q: How do you balance work/life? Do you have a secret you'd like to share?
I juggled graduate school with 3 kids, so setting goals and priorities were and are imperative to strike the balance. I try my best to have quality time with my family, especially during the weekends which helps to de-stress.