Date of Award

Winter 12-18-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Gayle Zydlewski

Second Committee Member

Jessica Jansujwicz

Third Committee Member

Tora Johnson

Abstract

Coastal community resilience requires connecting people with useful information that reflects their needs and interests and empowers them to make informed marine resource decisions. In this thesis, I explore how to effectively integrate disparate data from different disciplines and sources to make information more useful and usable at federal, state, tribal, and local levels in order to support more holistic and integrated management. To accomplish this, I draw on different types of knowledge and approaches, including Western science, local ecological knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge, and citizen science, to incorporate the social perspective and community values for holistic marine resource management. The central focus among all three thesis chapters is understanding knowledge gaps related to information use, accessibility, and sharing by taking an engaged research approach to co-produce potential solutions.

Chapter 1 focuses on understanding information usability and accessibility from the perspectives of federal and state regulators, industry developers, and tribal representatives. I investigated these ideas in the context of proposed tidal power development in Downeast Maine, and applied concepts of knowledge co-production to engage these groups of decision-makers. I organized a series of workshops to explore strategies to improve information production and sharing. Through this process, I identified essential steps for researchers who want to make their science more useful to decision-makers, which include incorporating diverse stakeholder perspectives and co-producing holistic data integration strategies based on stakeholder needs and interests.

Chapter 2 focuses on engaging indigenous communities in meaningful partnerships to address questions about information use and accessibility at a local level. I partnered with the Passamaquoddy Tribe Sipayik Environmental Department to co-organize collaborative community meetings to discuss traditional ecological knowledge, stories, memories, and values associated with the local ecosystem. I built on well-established best practices in working as non-indigenous researchers with indigenous researchers and communities, but I also acknowledge our lessons learned during this process. I propose a set of key components from our lessons learned to share capacity with indigenous researchers and communities through GIS training, engaging local youth and elders, and addressing intellectual property concerns with dignity and respect. These key components can be applied to partnerships in other contexts to encourage more meaningful collaborations that prioritize community needs and interests, while also empowering the next generation of community decision-makers.

In Chapter 3, I focus on filling a knowledge gap identified by regulators: fish species in the Western Passage, a proposed tidal power project site in Downeast Maine. Traditional fisheries survey methods do not work well in this area and regulators were interested to know whether there were alternative ways to fish in the Passage. Coastal communities have extensive local and traditional ecological knowledge associated with how and where to fish. We built on this knowledge by using recreational fishing methods (hook-and-line gear). We also trialed two pilot citizen science projects to engage local fishers in data collection. These collaborative approaches to data collection allowed us to collect important information on fish species presence. This chapter concludes with proposed strategies to improve this protocol for future work.

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