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Concurrent Sessions - Session E

Collaborative Research and Engagement

Some PowerPoint presentations are available for download. Please click on session presentation titles below to access the download link.

Session Chair:
Chris Feurt, University of New England


This session will focus on talks that discuss collaborative research and stakeholder engagement processes. Collaborative research is research that actively engages communities and policy makers throughout the research process. Collaborative research and stakeholder engagement may take many forms, and abstracts that cover a wide range of approaches are encouraged. Examples include: participation of citizen scientists, creation of collaborative knowledge networks, construction and use of stakeholder engagement tools, community network engagement and management, model development for stakeholder use, and knowledge to action research.

Session Presentations:


Learning from landowners to improve collaborative land use planning
PowerPoint presentation available for download.

Judy Colby-George1 (student) and Kathleen P. Bell2

  1. Ecology & Environmental Sciences, Sustainability Solutions Initiative, and School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME; 
  2. School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME

Collaborative research and engagement processes are commonly employed by communities and other stakeholder organizations to address land-use planning issues. Spatial data, modeling, and visualization tools play a central role in these processes by making complex information accessible. However, many of these tools rely on limited, micro-scale information about landowners and residents. This information gap complicates representation of both baseline and future community conditions. By creating and analyzing spatial data about landowner involvement in and perceptions of recent landscape change, our research advances collaborative land-use planning research and engagement processes.

We employ statistical and spatial analyses to evaluate patterns in landowner behavior, attitudes, and perceptions. Employing survey responses from a random sample of landowners from the Portland and Bangor Metropolitan Areas, we describe these patterns over a diverse set of communities and report statistical tests documenting differences across neighborhoods, communities, and metropolitan areas. We compare reported perceptions of different types of community change with measures of actual community change. By doing so, we provide valuable baseline information and identify opportunities and barriers to collaborative land use processes. Our research fills an important gap by documenting landowner variation within communities and along the rural to urban gradient and by emphasizing the spatial distribution of such variation. Linking such information to additional social and biophysical data is critical to support productive discussions, research, learning, and modeling at the community scale.

We’re all in the Same Boat! Scientists and Stakeholders Practice Collaborative Learning and Sustainability Science on the Saco
PowerPoint presentation available for download.

Christine Feurt and Pam Morgan

University of New England, Biddeford ME;

The Saco Estuary holds special meaning for communities, businesses, recreation enthusiasts and a group of scientists who have focused research efforts on the estuary for the past five years as part of Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative. Scientists and students from the University of New England and Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve worked in collaboration with over twenty stakeholder groups. Scientists and stakeholders documented the qualities of the estuary that are valued, identified perceived threats to the estuary and documented the ways that stewardship practices of the stakeholder groups contribute to sustaining what people care about. The Saco Estuary supports the greatest documented fish diversity of any estuary in Maine. Over one third of all bird species in Maine use the Saco estuary and tidal wetlands as habitat. These tidal wetlands exhibit a continuum from salt to fresh and contain ten rare plant species of special concern for the state. Improvements in water quality as a result of water quality regulations and policies have contributed to the restoration of the Saco. Understanding the ways that the ecological health of the estuary, as indicated by species biodiversity, water quality, and land use/land cover, is connected to the decisions, policies and practices of stakeholder groups guides this approach to sustainability science on the Saco. Collaborative Learning is used to cultivate productive relationships among students, scientists and stakeholders. These relationships have evolved during the course of the project as scientists learn from stakeholders and stakeholders adapt scientific findings into their stewardship strategies.

Integrating Science into Policy and Process: the Tag Team Approach
PowerPoint presentation available for download.

Judy Gates1, Elizabeth Hertz2, Peter Slovinsky3, Steve Walker4

  1. Maine Dept. of Transportation, Augusta, ME;
  2. Municipal Planning Assistance, Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Augusta, ME;
  3. Maine Geological Survey, Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Augusta, ME
  4. Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Topsham, ME

Sea level rise is a global process with local impacts.  Interested in starting the local conversation about potential impacts of sea level rise to coastal marshes, the Maine Coastal Program (MCP) applied received a grant from NOAA to provide three-five coastal communities with the most recent sea level rise scenario modeling and technical support in integrating that information into the local dialog.  Local engagement was of primary importance in this project. In recognition of the unique character and personality of Maine communities, the outreach and engagement approach was community-designed and driven, led by local champions in each community.   

What started as a project focused on the effects of sea level rise on coastal marshes has grown into a broader effort to assess potential impacts of sea level rise to both natural and built systems through collaboration of multiple state agencies, ngo’s, municipal officials, and local residents.  The scope of the project expanded dramatically when MaineDOT received grant funds from the federal Highway Administration to pilot assessing the vulnerability and criticality of public transportation assets.  The Maine DOT work leverages the MCP project by using the locally designed outreach to disseminate its analysis and obtain local input on the identification of key infrastructure at risk. Through these efforts, Maine DOT hopes to build a decision support tool to assist the state and municipalities in identifying not just infrastructure at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather events, but rank those assets in terms of their roles in maintaining connectivity.

Collaborative Fisheries Research in Cobscook Bay, Maine

*Please contact Teresa Johnson for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation.

Teresa R. Johnson1, 2,  Jeffrey Vieser1, 2, Jessica Jansujwicz2, Colleen Budzinski2, Theodore Koboski2, and Gayle Zydlewski1,2

  1. University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences, Orono, Maine
  2. Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative, Orono, Maine

University of Maine scientists have been conducting a survey of finfish in Cobscook Bay. The impetus for the research was the need for information to evaluate potential environmental impacts of a marine hydrokinetic device. While University scientists collaborated with the tidal power developer (Ocean Renewable Power Company) and state and federal regulators, it was also necessary for them to also engage the community in the research, especially fishermen.  With funding from the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, social science research was conducted to identify preferred engagement strategies to design and implement a collaborative research effort with the community.  Community meetings were organized to enable community input into the research process and to allow scientists to share results from the survey with community members. This presentation analyzes this collaboration as a case study of community engagement. Drawing on participant observation, interviews, and document review, we describe the effort to include community input into the survey and then examine scientists’ and community perspectives about the process and outcomes associated with this collaboration. We conclude with some lessons learned about how to improve such collaborations in the future.

A collaborative economic and ecological analysis of a proposed vernal pool regulatory mechanism
PowerPoint presentation available for download.

Vanessa Levesque1 (student), Kathleen P. Bell2, Aram C. Calhoun3, Mario Teisl2

  1. School of Economics and Sustainability Solutions Initative, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  2. School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  3. Department of Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine, Orono, ME

In Maine, vernal pools are regulated through both federal and state wetland protection rules, but these regulations are perceived to have some shortcomings by regulators, landowners and biologists alike.  For example, the regulations protect fewer than 25% of all vernal pools, and result in isolated circles of protection dotting the landscape.  Furthermore, pools located in a matrix of unsuitable habitat (e.g., within a downtown) are protected to the same degree as pools in rural landscapes that are more appropriate for long-term viability of amphibian populations, burdening some landowners and regulators for questionable ecological outcomes.  In response to these shortcomings, a group consisting of actors from all levels of government and private and non-profit organizations has been developing a new, market-based mechanism for regulating vernal pools in Maine.  This presentation will focus on one of the questions asked by the participants in this collaborative group: What are the predicted economic costs and ecological outcomes of a vernal pool market-based regulatory mechanism as compared to the existing state and federal standards?  While analysis is current on-going, our initial results suggest that the particular future development patterns will determine the relative success of each policy option.  In addition to providing results of the analysis, this presentation will comment on the contribution of participants to the research question development, data gathering, and interpretation phases of the study. 

Development of a Stakeholder-driven Web-based Tool for Strategic Land Use Planning in Two Watersheds in Maine
PowerPoint presentation available for download.

Spencer R. Meyer, student1, Michelle L. Johnson2 (student), Robert J. Lilieholm3, Christopher S. Cronan4, Stephen Engle5 and Dave Owen6

  1. School of Forest Resources & Sustainability Solutions Initiative, University of Maine, Orono, ME;
  2. Ecology and Environmental Science Program & Sustainability Solutions Initiative, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  3. School of Forest Resources, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  4. School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine, Orono, ME
  5. Center for Community GIS, Farmington, ME
  6. School of Law, University of Maine, Portland, ME

Land use change results from frequent, independent actions by economic and environmental decision-makers working in isolation within one land use of interest. To address the gap between economic and environmental land use information, we partnered with more than 75 Maine stakeholders to develop a spatial planning framework that integrates specific factors driving economic development, environmental conservation, forest management, and agriculture activities. First, we developed a series of land use suitability models using Bayesian belief networks to quantify the interactions between land use factors. Second, we developed a series of alternative future land use scenarios based on input from the stakeholders. Third, we developed an applied web-based spatial planning tool, the Maine Futures Community Mapper (MFCM), to inform land use planning by communities, conservationists, economic developers, and other land use decision-makers. Using results from our stakeholder-driven research, the MFCM allows users to: (1) identify areas of high suitability for ecosystem protection, forest management, agriculture, and economic development; (2) identify potential areas where high suitability for two or more land uses overlap causing potential conflicts or opportunities; and (3) envision alternative future scenarios of land use. The MFCM includes spatially explicit information for 4.5 million acres in Maine in two large watersheds: the Lower Penobscot River and the Casco Bay/ Lower Androscoggin River. A key outcome from this project is the ability of non-technical users to identify priority areas—both within individual towns and regionally—for economic development, natural resource management, and conservation.

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