Graduate Research Assistant: Sustainability Solutions Initiative
PhD Student, Communication & Journalism
What problem/s are you working to solve?
My work focuses on the social aspects of environmental issues. Specifically, I focus on the relationship between social networks and sustainable decision-making, and how sustainable innovations diffuse within communities. For example, right now I am working on a project called Seafood Links, which aims to increase local seafood consumption in inland Maine. Understanding the different social networks (i.e. who people talk to about local seafood) for producers, distributors and consumers of seafood in Maine is a big piece of that work.
What progress are you making toward solutions?
I am working with the Knowledge ßà Action Collaborative. Right now we are surveying seafood consumers and interviewing restaurant owners and culinary instructors to get a better idea about how people think and talk about local seafood. Using this information, we hope to design a larger survey that resonates with consumers, and that will be conducted in Portland, Bangor and Lewiston.
How could your findings contribute to a more sustainable future in Maine and beyond?
I am hoping that we can use the information we collect to increase the consumption of local seafood. This will not only strengthen Maine’s economy, but it will also reduce the negative ecological impacts of packaging and shipping seafood (both to and from Maine) around the globe. I’m also hoping that by increasing consumption of local seafood, we can strengthen the connection consumers have with Maine food products in general.
Why did you decide to join SSI?
During my masters program I developed a passion for place-based sustainability research, and I was really hoping to continue that work. SSI’s focus on sustainability and commitment to linking knowledge with action allows me to pursue my research alongside scholars who share that passion.
What’s the best part about collaborating on SSI research projects?
By far, my favorite part is getting the opportunity to work toward sustainability solutions with people from different disciplines. My background is primarily in communication and philosophy, so it’s really great to collaborate with and learn from the perspectives of biophysical/ecological scientists.
Where’s your favorite place in Maine?
Different areas on the coastline, particularly Bar Harbor.
What’s your ultimate Maine experience?
I can’t say that I’ve had one yet, but I definitely enjoy the beautiful fall colors and how friendly Mainers are.
Mud season survival strategy?
Hot coffee and staying busy!
What sustains you?
The support of my amazing husband, the support of my colleagues and the passion I have for applied social science research.
Additional information on Brianne and her SSI team
SSI Project: The Knowledge-to-Action Collaborative
Advisors: Laura Lindenfeld & Linda Silka