David Hart

Research Interests

  • Mobilizing higher education’s capacity for problem-solving
  • Solutions-focused sustainability science
  • University – stakeholder partnerships
  • Issue-driven interdisciplinarity


  • University of California, Davis, Ph.D. (Ecology)
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, B.A. (Biology)

As the leader of the Mitchell Center, David Hart’s overarching goal is to strengthen higher education’s capacity for helping society solve pressing problems that involve intersecting environmental, sociocultural, and economic issues. His leadership roles have included: 1) collaborating with diverse partners to launch the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, which began in 2009 and was supported by a $20 million, 5-yr NSF EPSCoR grant; 2) guiding the transition from the Sustainability Solutions Initiative to the creation in 2014 of the permanent, statewide Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions; 3) leveraging UMaine’s growing expertise in solutions-focused sustainability science to co-design and implement the New England SusTainability Consortiuim (NEST), a region-wide initiative which is supported in part by a $6 million, 3-year NSF EPSCoR grant shared with colleagues at the University of New Hampshire.Hart continues to help faculty and students fuse their disciplinary expertise and form productive partnerships with government, tribal communities, business and industry, non-governmental organizations, and civil society. The Mitchell Center’s current research portfolio includes projects focused on forest certification, vulnerability of beaches and shellfish beds to microbial pathogens, solid waste management, renewable energy, invasive forest pests, and sustainable agriculture. This research portfolio provides outstanding opportunities for comparative analyses to assess how problem-solving strategies should be tailored to different environmental, sociocultural, and economic contexts. By providing students with experiences working on interdisciplinary research teams and collaborating with diverse stakeholders, these projects are also helping to train the next generation of leaders, problem solvers, and engaged citizens.Hart also has an abiding passion for streams and rivers, and is the founding director of the Institute for Potamological Biofluiddynamics. He and his colleagues have conducted research on such varied topics as organism – flow interactions, dam impacts and responses to dam removal, community interactions, riparian restoration, and ecological indicators. Together with Karen Wilson and Adria Elskus, he led the Diadromous Species Restoration Research Network (DSRRN), which was supported by a 5-yr NSF Research Coordination Network grant and included a focus on the restoration of the Penobscot River.

Prior to coming to the University of Maine, Hart taught and conducted research at the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, and especially the Patrick Center for Environmental Research at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. He has served as a science advisor to many government agencies, NGOs, and Fortune 100 companies, including the President’s Council on Water Information, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, and DuPont. In recognition of his innovative work, Hart has received a number of awards, including a Fulbright Senior Scholarship, an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship, a Distinguished Ruth Patrick Scholarship, and the Governor’s Award for Watershed Stewardship in Pennsylvania.

Selected Publications

Hart et al. 2015. Hart, D. D., K. P. Bell, L. A. Lindenfeld, S. Jain, T. R. Johnson, D. Ranco and B. McGill 2014. Strengthening the Role of Universities in Addressing Sustainability Challenges: The Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions as an Institutional Experiment. Ecology and Society XX(YY): ZZ. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/volXX/issYY/artZZ/

Hart and Bell 2013. Sustainability Science: A Call to Collaborative Action. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 42(1): 75-89.

L.A. Lindenfeld, D.M. Hall, B. McGreavy, L. Silka, and D. Hart, “Creating a Place for Environmental Communication Research in Sustainability Science,” Environmental Communication – A Journal of Nature and Culture 6 (2012): 23-43.

Whitmer, L. Ogden, J. Lawton, P. Sturner, P.M. Groffman, L. Schenider, D. Hart, B. Halpern, W. Schlesinger, S. Raciti, N. Bettez, S. Ortega, L. Rustad, S.T.A. Pickett, and M. Killelea, “The Engaged University: Providing a Platform for Research that Transforms Society,” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 6 (2010): 314-321.

D.D. Hart and A.J.K. Calhoun, “Rethinking the Role of Ecological Research in the Sustainable Management of Freshwater Ecosystems,” Freshwater Biology 55 (2010): 258-269.

D.D. Hart, B.J.F. Biggs, V.I. Nikora, and C.A. Flinders, “Flow Effects on Periphyton Patches and their Ecological Consequences in a New Zealand River,” Freshwater Biology 58 (2013): 1588–1602.

T.E. Johnson, J.N. McNair, P. Srivastava, and D.D. Hart, “Stream Ecosystem Responses to Spatially Variable Land Cover: An Empirically Based Model for Developing Riparian Restoration Strategies,” Freshwater Biology 52 (2007): 680-695.

E.S. Bernhardt, M.A. Palmer, J.D. Allan, G. Alexander, K. Barnas, S. Brooks, J. Carr, C. Dahm, J. Follstad-Shah, D. Galat, S. Gloss, P. Goodwin, D. Hart, B. Hassett, R. Jenkinson, S. Katz, G.M. Kondolf, P.S. Lake, R. Lave, J.L. Meyer, T.K. O’Donnell, L. Pagano, B. Powell, and E. Sudduth, “Synthesizing U.S. River Restoration Efforts,” Science 308 (2005): 636-637.

A.T. Bednarek and D.D. Hart, “Modifying Dam Operations to Restore Rivers: Ecological Responses to Dam Mitigation in the Tennessee River,” Ecological Applications 15 (2005): 997-1008.