Coastal Community Resilience Project

The Maine Coastal Community Resilience Project brings together academic researchers, graduate students, and our partners in the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Maine Sea Grant, the Governor’s Office for Policy Innovation and the Future, The Nature Conservancy of Maine and the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries. It is co-led by Heather Leslie and Joshua Stoll, both faculty at UMaine.

Our goal is to generate and share information related to the resilience of Maine coastal communities and the ecosystems on which they depend. We are focused specifically on building scientific and institutional capacity relevant to sustaining fishing-dependent coastal communities in Maine.

This project has led to a number of exciting outcomes, including:

  1. Graduate training in marine-ecosystem based management. We are now recruiting the first cohort of students to this newly funded program.
  2. Science to support community-led shellfish management. A team led by Leslie lab graduate students responded to community-identified information needs from several communities surrounding the Darling Marine Center. In this project, catalyzed by local shellfish management committees, we are collecting biological information on local wild soft-shell clam and oyster populations in collaboration with local students, harvesters and other community members. We also gathered data on local knowledge held by fishermen, shellfish farmers and other local experts, using participatory mapping approaches. The ultimate goal is to help inform more evidence-based management of local shellfish populations and also to understand if and how oyster aquaculture can contribute to restoration of wild harvested shellfish populations in this ecosystem.  
  3. An assessment of how ecosystem-based fisheries management and co-management concepts intersect in Maine and beyond. A team led by UMaine Master’s student Marina Cucuzza investigated the extent to which ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) and fisheries co-management are linked (Cucuzza et al. 2021). Based on systematic review of the literature, we found elements of co-management regularly appear in conventional management regimes and elements of EBFM appear in co-management initiatives. Given the importance of co-management for Maine fisheries, and the move towards ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management both at the state and federal levels, our analysis helps inform assessment of future policy and management actions.
  4. An analysis of how the varying perspectives on marine aquaculture. A team led by UMaine Master’s student Melissa Britsch used the Q method to systematically identify perspectives associated with marine aquaculture development in Maine (Britsch et al., 2021). The Q method is an established approach developed by psychologists that has been used by earlier investigators to study complex issues associated with natural resource use and management. Our findings can be used to inform policy development at the community and state level regarding marine aquaculture growth in Maine. This research is an important input to our ongoing mapping of statewide patterns of the factors that contribute to community resilience and also has informed our work with other researchers and practitioners engaged in aquaculture, climate resilience and marine spatial planning at the local and state levels in Maine. A brief summary of this work is available here.
  5. An analysis of how communities are incorporating resilience science into local-scale planning. Marina Cucuzza also led a study of how Maine coastal communities use municipal comprehensive plans to prepare for environmental change (Cucuzza et al. 2020). She scored each plan based on the degree to which it incorporated key social, ecological and economic resilience principles (after Leslie and Kinzig 2009 and many others). The study revealed significant variability among the plans, with some communities directly incorporating resilience principles and others engaging with them in more limited ways. The impetus for this analysis was Marina’s direct engagement in the comprehensive planning effort in one midcoast Maine community, Georgetown. She served as a technical advisor to the town, synthesizing data, sharing it back with community members, and drafting the marine resource section of the town’s new plan, ultimately. This engaged research approach provided unique insights into the challenges and opportunities facing communities as they prepare for impacts of climate change and other shocks.