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Graduate Students - Mike Quartuch

PhD Student, School of Forest Resources
Research Assistant, Sustainability Solutions Initiative
University of Maine

What problem/s are you working to solve?
One-third of Maine’s forests are owned by family forest landowners. These individuals, families, trusts, and other non-incorporated landowners have the potential to alter forested landscapes. My research examines landowner behavior by addressing landowner decision-making with regard to stewardship, sense of place, and landscape change caused by development.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
I am currently in the process of entering and analyzing data from a forest landowner survey that was administered in August 2011.  By examining the concepts of landowner stewardship and development, our team will be one step closer to better understanding why these individuals behave the ways in which they do and how likely they are to engage in landscape-altering behaviors in the future.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
Across the United States, family forest landowners are increasing in number, and Maine is no exception. These individuals represent a broad amalgamation of people. Their actions can have long-term consequences and directly affect not only Maine’s forests, but also its citizens, economy, and the ecological integrity of the entire Northern forest region, which includes at least seven other states. The decisions that these landowners make are often influenced by their stewardship or land ethic and potentially, their sense of place. Research shows that family forest landowners share similar demographic and landowner characteristics, yet few attempts have been made to understand their behavior through their various ethical orientations. By identifying a similar set of stewardship characteristics, our understanding of Maine’s family forest landowners will be enhanced, leading to more effective outreach, assistance, and policy programs both within Maine and beyond.

Why did you decide to join SSI?
For me, the decision to join the SSI was twofold. First, I wanted to continue to conduct research within my current field of human dimensions of forestry and resources management. During my Master’s degree work, however, I became increasingly interested in interdisciplinary research. SSI lends itself to both my previous and current interests.

My second reason for joining involves the type of problems that SSI is trying to solve. It has always been my belief that the natural resource issues and complex problems associated with long-term sustainability cannot be solved by one person, group, agency, or academic department or institution. Rather, professionals, resource managers, policy makers, academics, and other stakeholders will need to draw on each other’s skill sets in order to reach solutions previously unrecognized or unfamiliar. Furthermore, the SSI is attempting to accomplish something that is much larger than one project, and it is for this reason that I remain excited and interested in working with the SSI.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
The best part of collaborating across SSI research projects is the opportunity to work with such an eclectic mix of professionals.  The faculty and graduate students that comprise the SSI come from very diverse backgrounds and departments. There is no substitute for being able to learn new and innovative ways to approach research. I am constantly impressed with my SSI colleagues and continue to learn from them day in and day out.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Maine is a beautiful state and as odd as my response may seem (especially coming from a student in the School of Forest Resources) but my favorite place in Maine (by far) is at home with my wife (and soon to be, son). I’m sure that I will have many outdoor adventures in the upcoming years, but for now, I am appreciating the simplicity of being “home.”

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Interestingly, I cannot think of one particular moment or experience that transcends all others. However, I am fairly confident that my most life changing experience and adventure is about to begin near the end of September, as my first child is born. It is going to be one wild ride in and of itself.

Mud season survival strategy?
Pretend and imagine. I constantly tell myself that it will be over soon and think of how nice it will be when the warm, sunny weather actually does arrive. Again, a healthy imagination is my closest ally.

What sustains you?
Family, friends, food…pretty much in that order.

Additional information on Mike and his SSI Team


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