Alumni - Stephenie MacLagan
What problems are you working to solve?
With the aspiration of better connecting science and policy, I co-identified a problem with stakeholders: managing the societal impacts (which are exaggerated by ecological systems) to intertidal shellfish resources. Harvesting shellfish contributes to the economy. When harvesting is prohibited, often due to wastewater and runoff pollution, the economic loss is felt by communities. Further complicating the social complexity of the problem are other threats to the resource, such as blooms of biotoxins and invasive crabs.
What progress are you making toward solutions?
By focusing on intertidal shellfish management, research is generating information and improved understanding of topics salient to stakeholders. By applying mixed-methods, stakeholders identify research questions, co-design research methods, and help interpret results. State agencies, regional planning organizations and local entities take notice of research done with the communities they serve.
What is one research paper that you believe best reflects the work you have done with SSI?
Before embarking on research, a proposal identifies the topic and potential research questions, as well as the direction for engagement and collaboration on the research. Aligning with the mission of SSI, I reached out to stakeholders, who became collaborators on understanding the complex social and ecological systems of intertidal shellfish. The research proposal outlined the research objectives as well as pathways for on-the-ground experiences to inform research. This flow of action to knowledge returns as the research results are translated and tools are developed with stakeholders.
What is one of the favorite conferences you have presented at and why?
The best part of contributing to the Water and Sustainability Conference was having established relationships with stakeholders already. It was natural to collaborate as co-chairs of the Safe Beaches and Shellfish session. We hosted presenters from research institutions, state agencies, private companies and community organizations. In introducing our session topic and the presenters, it felt unifying to share with the audience how these complex systems involve us all, and how each of us can provide another piece of the puzzle to finding sustainability solutions.
When do you expect to graduate and what do you see as the next step in your academic or professional career?
After graduating in 2014, I’ll be taking with me a strengthened will to connect researchers, politicians, regulators, and community members, in order to better link science and policy. Having worked in the non-profit and private sectors, and currently working at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, I most enjoy using economics and communication to connect people with their environment. I hope to progress my career, working to meet the missions of organizations that aim to identify and implement sustainability solutions to environmental and societal challenges.