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Researchers - Dave Owen

Associate ProfessorSSI Research Retreat, Foster Innovation Center, University of Maine
University of Maine School of Law

What problem/s are you working to solve?
My primary focus right now is convincing my children to sleep through the night.  It’s a difficult research question that, as far as I can tell, no one has really figured out how to solve. In my spare time, I’m continuing to look at regulatory responses to the impacts of urbanization on water quality. I’m also examining some of the environmental law implications of advances in quantitative spatial analysis. This research investigates ways in which GIS and advances in spatial data and models might allow environmental regulators to address multiple problems at the same time, better address those problems across scales, and better communicate and coordinate across jurisdictional boundaries.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
On the first project, none at all. On the water quality project, which I’ve been working on the longest, I think our work has injected some new ideas (and validated some older ones) into discussions about ways to reconcile our aspirations for water quality with the realities of typical development patterns. I’m not sure how much credit we can take; our researchers are part of a broader discussion involving a lot of smart people, and there is typically a long lag between the introduction of an idea and the production of better environmental outcomes. But I think we’re on the right track.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
Maine, like a lot of places, faces challenges reconciling its desire to preserve a high quality environment with its need for continued economic development. We’re looking for ways for Maine communities to have both.  For water quality, and for urbanization more generally, that probably means finding innovative ways to promote infill, low-impact development. Current regulatory approaches for water quality are somewhat misaligned with that goal, and we think we’re working on some promising improvements.

Why did you decide to join SSI?
Many reasons. Even though I’m a lawyer, I’m still an environmental scientist wannabe.  Working with people from other disciplines gives me a chance to pretend. I also think there’s a tremendous amount to be gained by pairing environmental lawyers with researchers from other disciplines. Environmental law, science, and economics are all highly intertwined, but researchers in those three fields often operate in different worlds.  I think we have a lot to learn from each other.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
Learning about the research approaches of people in other fields.  I was surprised by how much I didn’t know.

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Mt. Katahdin, though I haven’t been there in a long time.

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Cross-country skiing on a beach.

Mud season survival strategy?
Watch a lot of college basketball.

What sustains you?
Running in the woods.

Additional information about Dave and his team

SSI Project: Mapping a Sustainable Future
University of Maine School of Law Faculty Page


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