Graduate Research Assistant, Sustainability Solutions Initiative
PhD Student, Ecology and Environmental Science
University of Maine
What problem/s are you working to solve?
I am looking at how and where GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is most effective in communicating complex ideas to stakeholders and the public. I’m interested in the ways in which these new technologies can bring people to the table to better understand the choices they are asked to make on a regular basis.
For example, on a personal level, people are making decisions about buying, selling, developing, and preserving land and housing. On a community level, municipalities are making choices about what they want to be and how they create policies and communities that reflect those choices. Specifically around land use, communities are deciding what types of development make sense for them and how will they provide jobs, housing, and community based amenities that work for their town.
What progress are you making toward solutions?
I am currently working with two SSI teams, the Sustainable Urban Regions project and ESCAPE (Ecological and Social Change: Adaptation, Place and Evaluation). I’ll be surveying landowners in Greater Portland and Greater Bangor this spring in order to better understand their perceptions of landscape change and their role in it.
Landscape change is difficult for many people to envision because it happens incrementally and often on a large scale. My research should illuminate the differences between various groups’ understanding of landscape change, and help communities move toward consensus about the facts of this change, even if values differ. A shared understanding of the facts will help communities evaluate and implement policies intended to reach their shared goals.
How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
I believe that the work I am doing can help to inform participatory decision making in Maine communities and the ways in which geospatial technology is used within those processes. In the end, our work will contribute to better ways or best practices for using this technology to empower people to understand problems, envision solutions, and implement effective policies and practices in their communities.
Why did you decide to join SSI?
I had been considering going back to school for some time, but the SSI philosophy and ideals were very appealing to me. The type of education I am interested in is one in which I am able to delve more deeply into the work I am currently doing, to understand the philosophical underpinnings in a new way, and to work towards making a difference in my community and my state.
What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
The best part is collaborating with the wide range of people that I work with on a regular basis. The students have such great experiences and everyone seems to really want to work together to understand things. The openness of students and faculty is very inspiring and leads to a much-enhanced learning environment.
Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Kalers Pond, Waldoboro and Pemaquid Point
What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
My best Maine experience would have to be getting married at Kalers Pond on a beautiful August day 20 years ago. The day before Hurricane Bob came ashore a few miles away, there we were with the bridesmaids wearing their bathing suits under their dresses and the groomsmen rowing my husband across the lake to arrive at the wedding George Washington style. It was perfect in every way.
Mud season survival strategy?
I try to stay insanely busy so I don’t notice the dreariness and remember that it only means that summer is coming.
What sustains you?
My family and the amazing beauty and diversity of this state, both the natural environment and the people who live here.
Additional information on Judy and her SSI teams
People, Landscape and Communities (PLACE)
Sustainable Urban Regions Project (SURP)
Advisors: Charlie Colgan and Kathleen Bell