$2.9 million NSF award will train the next generation of environmental conservation leaders

Repost from the Department of Communication and Journalism.

Helping train the next generation of interdisciplinary environmental conservation leaders is the goal of a five-year, $2.9 million National Science Foundation (NSF) award to the University of Maine.

The interdisciplinary UMaine project led by Sandra De Urioste-Stone, a UMaine assistant professor of nature-based tourism, and involving multiple community partners statewide was one of 17 new projects funded by NSF’s Research Traineeship (NRT) program to support preparation of future leaders in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) workforce. An NSF release about NRT is online.

In Maine, that workforce development will focus on the creation of a new graduate education model to enhance conservation science and practice. The coursework, research and community engagement will equip the next generation of leaders with the skills necessary to address the challenges presented by global and local changes in environmental, social, economic and climatic conditions.

De Urioste-Stone and eight other UMaine faculty members will collaborate with state and local agencies, the National Park Service, nongovernmental organizations and other community partners. They include Acadia National Park, the Biodiversity Research Institute, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Penobscot Nation, Schoodic Institute, and The Nature  Conservancy, as well as Manomet and the National Park Service Social Science Program.

In its first five years, the project expects to train 25 master’s and doctoral scholars, including 20 NRT-funded trainees from forest resources, wildlife conservation, communications and environmental sciences to develop interdisciplinary communication, collaboration and professional skills to address emergent conservation issues in Maine and beyond.

Additional graduate students will have opportunities to participate in one or more of the traineeship program components — courses focused on socio-ecological resilience and science communication; internships in conservation management and policy, and science communication; interdisciplinary research; and faculty mentoring.

The graduate concentrations developed at UMaine also will serve as national models to promote the diversification of the STEM workforce by targeting recruitment of women in science and other underrepresented minorities.

UMaine collaborators include the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests (CRSF); Department of Communication and Journalism; Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology (WFCB); Program in Ecology and Environmental Sciences (EES); School of Forest Resources (SFR); and Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions.

Researchers from UMaine who are collaborating on this project are Aram Calhoun, professor of wetland ecology; Adam Daigneault, assistant professor of forest, conservation and recreation policy; Daniel Hayes, assistant professor of remote sensing and geospatial analysis; Bridie McGreavy, assistant professor of environmental communication; Sarah Nelson, associate research professor and EES program director; Laura Rickard, associate professor of risk communications; Linda Silka, senior fellow in the Mitchell Center; and Aaron Weiskittel, professor of biometrics and modeling, and CRSF director.

Contact: Sandra De Urioste-Stone, sandra.de@maine.edu; Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745