Session 10 – Local Solutions to Global Sustainability Challenges

Thursday, April 1, 1:30PM-3:30PM

Lydia Horne, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, University of Maine Orono
Alyssa Soucy, School of Forest Resources, University of Maine Orono

The world is undergoing rapid socio-ecological challenges that are locally experienced in unique ways. There is no “one size fits all” approach to complex sustainability solutions. In Maine we are dealing with a multitude of changes related to our terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend on these resources, as well as challenges and opportunities related to socio-demographic shifts, and climate change. As Maine faces a diversity of socio-ecological changes there is a need for stakeholder-driven research that informs decision-making and adaptation. Transdisciplinary teams of researchers, community leaders, policy and decision-makers, business owners, and non-profits are needed to develop locally relevant and contextually specific solutions that are feasible to implement at the community level. The focus of this session will be on transdisciplinary research efforts that foster collaboration and/or understanding across stakeholder groups to develop innovative strategies for addressing the complex sustainability problems that Maine is currently facing. Special consideration will be given to proposals that use participatory methods to engage with stakeholder groups.

Session Overview


Presenters are indicated in bold font.

The Social Resilience Project: Connecting Sectors to Increase Regional Community Resilience in Southern Midcoast Maine

Jeremy Bell1, Victoria Boundy2, Annie Cox3, Kristen Grant4, Elizabeth Hertz5, Ruth Indrick6, Eileen Johnson7
1. The Nature Conservancy, Brunswick, ME
2. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Portland, ME
3. Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wells, ME
4. Maine Sea Grant, University of Maine, Orono, ME
5. Blue Sky Planning Solutions, Augusta, ME
6. Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Bath, ME
7. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

Maine’s rural coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding and storm events due to their isolated geographic setting, rural nature, and demographic characteristics that increase their social vulnerability. While working at the local-level is crucial for public support and decision-maker buy-in, coastal hazards strike beyond political borders. Collaborating at a regional level provides economies of scale for better information sharing and capacity to increase community resilience. There is also evidence that rural communities are better able to absorb and recover from challenges when there are community organizations in place and strong networks between them.

A partnership of academic, land trust, and conservation organization representatives have started an effort to increase social resilience by enhancing regional collaboration and networks for island and peninsular communities in an area of southern midcoast Maine. The first stage of this process was understanding the organizations that focus on climate change, disaster preparedness, and vulnerable populations in the region. The partners convened three pilot meetings with stakeholders representing the fields of emergency management, social services, and conservation. Meetings were held separately for each stakeholder group and were used to understand their work methodologies, outreach mechanisms, network connections, use of resources and tools, and knowledge of local, regional, and state resilience planning efforts. To increase discussion about supporting vulnerable populations, the groups were shown the Maine Social Vulnerability Index, a web application (co-developed and hosted by The Nature Conservancy) that displays areas where infrastructure and social vulnerability co-occur. An important finding from the meetings was that while the individual sectors have established systems to address the components of hazard events that are relevant to their sector, there is a lack of connection and coordination for hazard planning and response between the sectors in the region as well as within individual municipalities. The partnership is now working to develop a facilitated scenario planning exercise that will engage a mixed group of emergency management, conservation, social service, and municipal representatives from across the region in a simulated response to and recovery from a large-scale coastal storm event.  The goal is for this exercise to serve as a mechanism for convening stakeholders to enhance understanding of each sectors’ role and capacity, provide a means for assessing information needs, and identify opportunities for improved communication and collaboration across sectors and municipalities.

The Eastern Maine Coastal Current Collaborative: Building a Regional Network and Research Framework to Support Ecosystem Based Fisheries Management

Paul Anderson, Executive Director, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries

A video of this presentation is available

The Eastern Maine Coastal Current Collaborative (EM3C) is a project between Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, NOAA Fisheries, and the Maine Department of Marine Resources to develop a research framework that supports ecosystem-based fisheries management in the watersheds and coastal areas adjacent to the Eastern Maine Coastal Current. An ecosystem-based approach provides a comprehensive and collaborative mechanism with the goal of improving the resiliency of coastal communities and the sustainability of fisheries. This approach provides an opportunity for adaptive processes by which we can learn and evolve approaches to management. Active participation from tribal and local stakeholders is essential. To this end, EM3C hosted a State of the Science conference in June 2019 to bring together experts from local governments, fishing, science, and academic communities. The conference was the first step toward producing a comprehensive understanding of our current knowledge of Eastern Maine’s watersheds, intertidal, nearshore, and offshore ecosystems. Continuing the conversation in early winter 2020, EM3C convened two watershed-based meeting that included a unique mix of local leaders including members of the tribal, fishing industry, academic and regulatory communities. When the COVID pandemic hit, other planned engagement meetings were forced to stop. These meetings were re-started in 2021 using remote meeting tools. We aim to spark a rich dialogue toward producing a deep understanding of a local community fisheries vision and building the human network necessary to support it. This session will describe the engagement process used for collecting local stakeholder input that provides a framework for integration of scientists and policy makers over time.  Preliminary findings will be shared along with discussion of the importance of this comprehensive and bottom-approach to steering future science and policy.

How Did the Dam Meeting Go? A Collaborative Approach to Evaluating Dam Decision Making Processes

Sharon Klein1, Emma Fox1, Bridie McGreavy2, Tyler Quiring2
1. School of Economics, University of Maine, Orono, ME
2. Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Maine, Orono, ME

A video of this presentation is available

Rivers are an essential part of the food-water-energy nexus, a landscape- and community-shaping force. Evaluating decision making and collaborative processes in water resource management is critical to doing meaningful engagement and research. Further, sustainability science identifies stakeholder involvement as an essential element piece in addressing and developing effective solutions to natural resource management problems. Thus, stakeholder process evaluation has become a vital and swiftly growing research area. We engaged stakeholders who are active in Maine dam decision-making in the collaborative development of an evaluative rubric for the assessment of participatory decision-making processes. Individual stakeholder interviews and group ‘visioning’ sessions inspired a set of evaluative rubric criteria (i.e., indicators) which we combined with others generated through literature review. Stakeholders provided direct feedback about the criteria, general rubric organization, and methods for evaluation in group ‘rubric-building’ sessions. We are releasing multiple versions of the rubric for public use, including: (1) a partial version specific to model evaluation; (2) a partial version specific to process evaluation; (3) a complete version for model and process evaluation; and (4) an Excel-based version that is filterable for specific constructs, indicators, or purposes. These documents will be paired with specific survey questions for evaluation and guidance on additional support for users.

The Maine Water Temperature Working Group

Kirstin Underwood1, Angie Reed2, Graham Goulette3, Merry Gallagher4
1. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, Falmouth ME
2. Penobscot Indian Nation, Indian Island, ME
3. Atlantic Salmon Ecosystem Research Team, NOAA Fisheries, Orono, ME
4. Division of Fisheries & Hatcheries, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Bangor, ME

Maine’s 31,700 miles of rivers are home to some of the largest populations of diadromous coldwater fish species in New England, including Eastern brook trout and Atlantic salmon. Climate change is expected to have dramatic effects on these species, and adequate habitat will be reduced as temperatures rise. However, the means to monitor the full extent of Maine’s aquatic resources are limited. An inter-agency approach is needed to engage resource managers in cooperative stream temperature research across the state.

The Maine Water Temperature Working Group was developed in 2014 to facilitate a coordinated stream temperature monitoring effort between state and federal agencies, Tribes, academic institutions, and NGO’s. 26 organizations have been involved since 2015, and the network has expanded to include volunteers from Trout Unlimited, Fly Fishers of Maine, and school classrooms. Temperature data has been collected from more than 1900 locations and uploaded to a centralized web-based repository, SHEDS, providing over 17 million temperature records. All registered users may view and download temperature time-series from the database. 287 active long-term monitoring stations have been deployed across the state and continue to collect data. These data feed into a predictive model, the Interactive Catchment Explorer, which uses catchment characteristics to predict stream temperature and brook trout occupancy. Data collection at this scale would not be possible without inter-agency collaboration. Resource managers may now use SHEDS and its tools to identify watersheds most vulnerable and resistant to climate change, and prioritize sites for habitat restoration.