PhD Student, School of Forest Resources
Research Assistant: SSI
What problem/s are you working to solve?
My research team is working with Wabanaki brown ash basketmakers to prepare for the arrival of the emerald ash borer in Maine. The EAB is an invasive beetle from Asia that destroys all species of ash trees. It was introduced to the US in 2002 and it’s not in Maine yet, but it’s spreading in this direction. We’re trying to bring together basketmakers, tribes, state and federal foresters, university researchers, landowners and others to prevent, detect, and respond to the threat efficiently, effectively, and equitably.
Recently, I’ve been focusing on the policy creation process and state-level response planning. I’m looking at a number of issues including what has been effective so far, what states with response plans wish they had done differently, and how all stakeholders can be involved in response planning. I’m working on a white paper that will hopefully be useful for resource managers in Maine and beyond.
What progress are you making toward solutions?
So far we’ve had several workshops to bring together collaborators, stakeholders, and experts to plan the EAB response process. We’ve also had seed collection workshops for youth on Indian Island to start saving ash seeds for future replanting. We’ve gone out in the field with basketmakers to learn more about how they select basket trees. We’re using statistical techniques that incorporate expert knowledge to map the ash resource to prioritize protection areas. And we’re assisting the state in the creation of a formal EAB response plan that works for all stakeholders, including basketmakers, the forest industry, municipalities, and others.
How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
A Maine with diverse, healthy socioecological systems is a sustainable Maine! We hope to preserve ash species’ role in the Maine ecosystem, while at the same time promoting economic and cultural well-being for all Mainers across cultural groups.
Why did you decide to join SSI?
I was drawn to SSI’s focus on working with communities to find solutions to real, local problems. Not many PhD programs involve that kind of practical work!
What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
The people I get to work with—my advisors, the research team, the basketmakers, the foresters, and also my fellow SSI students, who are wonderful, fun, and supportive!
Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Do I have to choose one? Acadia National Park, especially the Precipice; Rumford Whitecap on a powder day; Rangeley during the Logging Festival; the West End in Portland; Peaks Island; Saddleback....
What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
Mud season survival strategy?
I don’t have one. Last spring I got my car stuck bumper-deep in a field and almost had to leave it there forever.
What sustains you?
Friends and family. Spending time in the woods. Hiking-skiing-climbing-paddling-camping. Writing. Old time fiddle music. Portland craziness.
Additional information on Erin and her SSI team