Postdoctoral Fellows - Jessica Jansujwicz
Protecting Natural Resources on Private Lands: Theory and Practice of Community-Based Approaches Using Vernal Pool Conservation Initiatives in Maine
B.A. Zoology, Connecticut College; M.S. Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation, University of Massachusetts/Amherst.
As an undergraduate I studied population structure, growth and fecundity of the salt marsh snail (Melampus bidentatus). Graduate work has included baseline ecological surveys for a salt marsh restoration project in Rhode Island, a site conservation plan for a tidal wetland on the lower Connecticut River, and research on the private property rights movement. Most recently, I was a graduate fellow with the Association of State Floodplain Managers. My research focused on the implications of the property rights movement on flood hazard mitigation and the efficacy of partnership approaches to reconcile competing interests on private lands.
My research explores the opportunities and barriers for using a community-based model to conserve vernal pools on private land in Maine. In 2007, the University of Maine and Maine Audubon Society initiated a community-based education and outreach project to increase regulatory compliance with new state-level vernal pool regulations and to assist municipalities in proactively mapping and assessing vernal pools using trained citizen scientists. This community-based vernal pool mapping project provides a unique opportunity to examine the factors that encourage/discourage municipal and landowner participation in proactive conservation planning. By understanding the attitudes and behavior of landowners, town officials, and community members, my research will document the extent to which multi-stakeholder engagement in natural resource planning influences land use decisions at the local level and will offer strategies to increase stakeholder cooperation and improve conservation outcomes.
My research is inherently interdisciplinary. I am just as likely to work with faculty and students in anthropology, history or communications as I am in my “home” departments of wildlife ecology and forestry. Being involved with this initiative has made it easier to work across disciplinary boundaries. Using it as a springboard, I have had more opportunities to contact and work with faculty in various academic departments who share my interests. The network I have developed has provided invaluable support and enthusiasm for my doctoral project.
I have always felt strongly that my work should be applicable to the real world, and this initiative has supported my efforts to link theoretical ideals with everyday practice. Most importantly, the project has encouraged me to seek the engagement of stakeholders early in my research – during the conceptualization stage – to ensure that my research questions are grounded in real issues and concerns. In the process, the project has created strong relationships between University researchers and community partners. These relationships and the involvement and commitment of stakeholders have assisted in the development of my research questions and have also facilitated greater access in the field.
How has your approach to how we solve problems changed?
There is no one solution to environmental problems nor is there one department, faculty member, or student with all the expertise and capabilities to develop and implement potential solutions. Crafting new solutions to continually evolving environmental problems is truly a team effort.