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Researchers - David Hart

David HartDavid_small
Director, Senator George J. Mitchell Center
Research Leader, SSI
Professor, School of Biology and Ecology
University of Maine

What problem/s are you working to solve?
I try to support the Mitchell Center and SSI by identifying new opportunities, trouble-shooting problems, ensuring that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and growing our capacity to help create a brighter future in Maine and beyond.

What progress are you making toward solutions?
Research teams are making headway on multiple fronts, whether helping to develop new forms of renewable energy, improving urban planning, working with tribal communities to cope with threats from invasive species, or training the next generation of leaders and problem-solvers.

We’re learning that the road to solutions is more of a journey than a destination, however, so we’ll need to maintain a long-term focus on solutions to make a lasting difference. Towards that end, one of our biggest contributions is likely to be our commitment to creating solutions-driven collaborations among faculty and diverse partners that are based on mutual respect and trust.

How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
We are contributing to a more sustainable future for communities throughout the state in a number of ways. For example, our research findings can help reduce conflicts between economic development and environmental protection, grow the clean technology business sector, and develop and strengthen networks and capacities that help Maine to effectively shape, and be better prepared for, future economic, social and environmental conditions. Ultimately, our research will contribute to new information, tools, and relationships that enable Maine communities of every size to make more informed decisions about the kind of future they want to create.

The lessons we learn here will have wide relevance beyond Maine’s borders for communities seeking to solve interconnected economic, environmental and social challenges. As we find solutions to these complex issues, we are advancing the new field of sustainability science, which seeks to meet the needs of current and future generations without harming the planet’s life support systems.

Why did you decide to join the Mitchell Center/SSI?
I wanted to help institutions of higher education do a better job of mobilizing their breadth of expertise and forming partnerships with diverse stakeholders to solve pressing problems at the intersection of environmental, social, and economic issues. For me, this represents an exciting institutional experiment to learn how universities and colleges can respond more effectively to the needs of society.

What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research project?
It’s a great delight to work with so many passionate, talented, and dedicated people on and off campus, to learn more about their diverse expertise and how it can be brought together to tackle challenging problems, and to watch SSI grow and thrive.  Indeed, participating in SSI has turned out to be the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding thing I’ve ever done!

Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Wow, talk about a tough question!  There’s no place in Maine I haven’t enjoyed, or wouldn’t want to explore some more.  But I fell in love with rivers as a small boy, and am particularly fond of the Penobscot River, especially where it flows past Oak Point in Winterport.

What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Paddling and portaging through the Debsconeag Wilderness, eating at Ralph’s Café, crossing the Knife Edge, knowing the way to Black Dinah’s Chocolates, introducing our granddaughter to Acadia National Park … do I have to stop?!

Mud season survival strategy?
Awaiting the emergence of the Simuliidae!

What sustains you?
Family, friends, the natural world, and jazz.

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