Dept of Ecology & Environmental Science
Research Advisor: Shaleen Jain
Adaptation Strategies in a Changing Climate: Maine’s Coastal Communities and the Statewide Stakeholder Process
B.A. Environmental Studies, Connecticut College. As an undergraduate I studied how juvenile fish populations were being affected by Connecticut DEP’s methods of clearing a common reed plant (Phragmites australis) that was invasively growing in areas along the Lieutenant River, a Connecticut River tributary. The majority of my time after Connecticut College was spent working as a consultant for Sealed Air Corporation in their Protective Packaging Business Unit. There, I educated current and prospective customers about packaging solutions that would protect their products while also reducing their carbon footprint.
Describe your role on the SSI project:
My role on the SSI project involves developing a framework for producing solutions that will address impacts from climate change in Maine’s coastal communities. This research focuses on the risks and vulnerabilities that coastal communities face as climatic conditions change, as well as the barriers that make adapting to these changes difficult, by using city and town municipal officials as stakeholders for the decision-making processes. Studying how these communities prepared for, and were affected by extreme weather events like Hurricane Bob, The Perfect Storm and Patriots’ Day Storm, we can begin to understand how decision-support tools and information tailored to specific locations can improve a community’s resiliency to storms, which are projected to increase in frequency and intensity.
Describe your experience collaborating with SSI faculty:
Understanding coupled human and natural systems requires collaboration across multiple departments and areas of expertise, and as a result the SSI faculty is more than willing to seek opportunities for synergy. I have maintained a steady working relationship with faculty members from Civil and Environmental Engineering, UMaine’s Cooperative Extension and Climate Change Institute, as well as members of other social science arenas which have added to the depth and breadth of our project.
Describe your interactions with stakeholders and partners:
This project depends on continual interaction with stakeholders so that the solutions developed are grounded in bottom-up decision-making processes that can be valued by coastal residents. Understanding the range of issues facing coastal communities required meeting with municipal officials of both large and small communities to discuss the challenges they face making decisions in a changing climate. We have also relied on members of the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and National Center for Atmospheric Research to access our research approaches and help guide our project in a successful direction.
How is SSI different from other projects in which you have been involved?
I believe that the interdisciplinary approach of the SSI projects will allow our research results to have a greater impact on solving knowledge-to-action problems than most other projects. Our lives today are so complex and interconnected that, more often than not, finding solutions to many of today’s problems requires collaboration across departments and areas of expertise. While navigating through this process can be a challenge, our conclusions will undoubtedly apply to a much wider audience by addressing such real-world problems.
What experiences have you had on the SSI project that has changed your approach to how we solve problems?
Working with municipal officials has taught me that solving problems related to climate change impacts is not a straightforward process. Finding solutions to these complex problems requires keeping an open mind and being aware that solutions for some, can be problems for others. Listen, listen, listen.