Participatory Modeling of Tidal Circulation on Maine Mudflats to Improve Water Quality Management of Shellfish Areas
Date of Award
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Master of Science (MS)
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Third Committee Member
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Over the past decade, researchers have become increasingly aware of the vital role stakeholder knowledge plays in understanding complex social and environmental problems. Incorporating stakeholder knowledge into understanding complex problems allows for greater awareness and identification of community needs and can help build partnerships to support the development of applied research. In this thesis, I demonstrate the value of stakeholder knowledge and research partnerships by focusing on the soft-shell clamming industry in Maine and how a complex collaboration between clammers, municipal officials, representatives from state agencies, researchers, and other partners relied on and build adaptive capacity to address complex water quality issues within a watershed. One of the major threats facing the soft-shell clam industry is mudflat closures due to water quality concerns. Many of these large area closures are based on sparse monitoring and enforcement constraints that can cause clam flats to be closed due to presumed fecal coliform contamination when they do not need to be. This thesis is organized into two chapters. In the first chapter, I address this research need and opportunity using hydrographic and bacterial monitoring data coupled with knowledge from local clammers in an engaged research project to describe circulation dynamics that influence the fate and transport of fecal coliforms in the Medomak River estuary, the most productive clam flat in the state of Maine from 2015-2017. The novel aspect of this engaged approach is the direct participation of clammers and other stakeholders in the design of research questions and methodology. I worked with the Medomak Taskforce to understand their information needs and tailored the research to meet those needs and this thesis is organized into two distinct studies. Bucket drifter experiments were used to calculate tidal excursion and provide dispersion metrics during varying environmental conditions (i.e., tide stage and river flow). These experiments found the dominate environmental factors effecting circulation in this estuary were changes in cross sectional area, tidal forces, and wind, and using a computer model that included drifter data, I was able to calculate residence time of fresh water in these areas. In the second chapter of this thesis, I focus more specifically on how collaborative projects can improve the overall management of the soft-shell clamming industry. I used semistructured interview protocols, along with extended engagement methods provided for qualitative datasets, which were analyzed through NVivo Software®. Interview data was to understand the communication between state management and community management in regards to adaptive capacity. I found that the collaborative project, the Medomak Taskforce, influenced and supported multiple aspects of adaptive capacity. A major goal of this research was to use engaged research approaches to design the research so it would support decision making needs for water quality monitoring and for ongoing collaborative efforts in this watershed. It is hoped that the results will be used by state agencies to better characterize the temporal and spatial dynamics of pollution sources in an effort to make more informed decisions.
Hillyer, Gabrielle V., "Participatory Modeling of Tidal Circulation on Maine Mudflats to Improve Water Quality Management of Shellfish Areas" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3136.
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Master of Science Oceanography