Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Kathleen P. Bell

Second Committee Member

Jessica Leahy

Third Committee Member

Phil Camill


This human dimensions research, consisting of three manuscripts, explores the social and ecological dimensions of river restoration through an examination of the restoration trajectories of the Androscoggin, an impaired system, and the Kennebec, a restored system. Manuscript one examines the influence of biophysical and community attributes and institutional rules on policy stakeholders goals and actions within the two watersheds. For manuscripts one and two, we conducted semi-structured interviews with key informants, assembled documents pertaining to restoration actions, and conducted participant observation at stakeholder meetings. We qualitatively analyzed transcripts and documents. Results suggest that policy stakeholders’ understandings of biophysical and community attributes influence watershed goals. Collaborations leverage institutional rules in use differently as a function of restoration state to achieve goals. Within impaired systems, collaborations invest in shifting public perception to build support for longer term restoration actions.

Manuscript two examines factors contributing to emergence of boundary management processes associated with addressing river restoration challenges. Our second objective was an examination of the influence of restoration state on four functions of boundary organizations: convening, collaborating, translating, and mediating. Results indicate that the underlying restoration state influences the nature of collaborations at an individual and organization level differently. At an individual level within the impaired watershed, stakeholders valued the role of researchers in lending neutrality. At an institutional level, boundary organizations occupied varying roles, shifting public perception at one end of the restoration spectrum and leveraging restoration gains into community benefits at the other end. Certain functions transcend the state of restoration such as the role of student learning in fostering collaborations.

Manuscript three examines the social dimensions of river restoration. Using spatial analysis, we examine spatial-temporal patterns of water classification shifts, and interaction with the creation of amenity infrastructure and landscape patterns along the river corridors. Despite historical differences in patterns of water classification levels, these two systems were comparable in the level amenity infrastructure and in many landscape metrics. The pace of amenity development differed over time and along the rivers, raising questions about the larger role of amenity investment in increasing community awareness of river systems.