Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Maine
What problem/s are you working to solve?
On the Sebago Lake team, we are creating a computer model of the watershed/lake/human system that will help lake users achieve their goals without degrading lake water quality. These users include the Portland Water District, which is responsible for drinking water quality for about 200,000 Greater Portland residents, as well as municipalities that border the lake, lakeside property owners and others. The needs of these groups sometimes come into conflict. Decision-making is further complicated by changes in land use, human activity and climate.
What progress are you making toward solutions?
So far, I have worked with a graduate student to gather water quality data and other lake and weather parameters, and to look for correlations and trends over time. This has helped us identify several watershed and weather related factors that may be important drivers of water quality. We’re now looking at ways to quantify the different effects. Sorting out the degree to which different activities and conditions in the region affect water quality will help my colleagues develop a system model that can be used to predict what could happen under different future scenarios
How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
Our work will help decision makers (regulators and water users) make choices that will reduce the impact of their activities on the lake and that will reduce the vulnerability of the system to changes in land use and climate. We think a more resilient system is a more sustainable one. While our modeling is specific to Sebago Lake, the approach will be applicable elsewhere.
Why did you decide to join SSI?
I think all environmental issues need to be looked at from multiple angles. The Sustainability Solutions Initiative has provided an avenue to foster collaborations among researchers from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. This is approach is difficult, but necessary to find practical solutions.
What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
The structure of SSI prevents participants from retreating into a comfortable, reductionist approach. SSI is fairly high risk for researchers, but the potential payoffs (developing real solutions and answering questions that someone else really cares about) are huge.
Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Couldn’t possibly pick just one.
What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Collecting mussels, cooking them over an open fire and eating them within half an hour.
Mud season survival strategy?
Gumboots, optimism and bearing in mind that the blackflies aren’t out yet.
What sustains you?
Meaningful work, great colleagues, and time spent on, in or near water.
Additional information about Jean and her team