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Senator George J. Mitchell Center & Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative

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Graduate Students - Eileen Johnson

Graduate Research Assistant, Sustainability Solutions Initiative
PhD Student, Ecology and Environmental Sciences
Program Manager/GIS Analyst and Adjunct Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Bowdoin College

What problem/s are you working to solve?
I am currently a member of an SSI team comprised of researchers from Bates, Bowdoin and the University of Southern Maine. Our research focuses on river systems and seeks to understand barriers to restoration.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
My research focuses on the role of institutions and the incorporation of stakeholders in the research process. Through my research, I have come to have a fuller understanding of how stakeholders characterize “restoration,” what questions and concerns they have about the two river systems of study, as well as understanding opportunities for engaging stakeholders throughout the research process, including effective ways of sharing our results.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
Our research will help communities to better understand the value of restored river systems as well as help us understand how we can collaborate more effectively with stakeholders. I hope that our work will help to forge collaborations among all of the different individuals and groups currently connected with our two rivers of study, the Androscoggin and Kennebec.

Why did you decide to join SSI?
In my current position at Bowdoin College, I facilitate community-based research projects within the Environmental Studies Program. Through this experience, I have been interested in understanding ways in which we can more be more effective in how we approach community based research. I was drawn to SSI due to the focus on “knowledge to action” and the emphasis on effective strategies for engaging stakeholders.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
I have enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate across institutions. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with so many great faculty and staff at the University of Maine and I have enjoyed the experience of working with our team, which spans three institutions. All of these challenges that we face are better solved through bringing together a wide range of researchers and stakeholders. I’ve enjoyed being part of the process to bring these groups together.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
I have to say one of favorite places is my own community, especially in the winter when I can explore miles of ski trails. We have a wildlife management area in our community and I am grateful to be able to live in a place where I can ski for hours, just out the back door.

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Depends upon the season—in winter, it’s cross-country skiing. In summer, I love to explore by bike—specifically the carriage roads in Acadia.

Mud season survival strategy?
We’re lucky to live on a woodlot and have a tractor at the ready.  It has come in handy for pulling our cars out of our road during mud season. My kids have learned to be effective “mud drivers.” I figure it has helped them to learn resilience.

What sustains you?
My family, both in terms of the support they have given me to enable me to return to school, and in giving me focus. I have two daughters, and I want to give them the same opportunity that my husband and I had when we returned to Maine, his home state, 20 years ago—to be able to find meaningful work and raise a family in a beautiful part of the world. I think we can achieve that balance of economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.

Additional information about Eileen and her team

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Contact Information

Senator George J. Mitchell Center & Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative
5710 Norman Smith Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Phone: 207.581.3244E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System