Date of Award

Fall 12-17-2021

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Ecology and Environmental Sciences


Heather Leslie

Second Committee Member

Bridie McGreavy

Third Committee Member

Joshua Stoll

Additional Committee Members

Christine Beitl

Esperanza Stancioff


Climate change increasingly impacts coasts worldwide. The ability of coastal ecosystems and the human communities who are part of them to absorb disturbance and maintain function or transform, or resilience, is of critical importance to managing these impacts. However, to date, climate resilience largely has focused on biophysical impacts and technocratic solutions, while issues of social and environmental justice and human well-being become more acute and entrenched. Consequently, I ask: How can coastal communities cope with climate change? To answer this question, I leverage traditional, emergent, and novel social research methods in Mexico, Central America, and Maine. Using ethnography, interviews, storytelling, writing-as-method, and sailing-as-method, I build upon and propose to broaden the ways in which resilience is studied and acted upon in climate research and action. Specifically, I use concepts of care, which builds on perspectives from critical feminist theory, to orient action towards equity, and to question dominant paradigms that drive the climate discourse.

In the chapters that follow, I show how a framework of care can be reflective of community identity and needs, and can be made actionable through the development of social resilience indicators. Using sailing as a research method, I enable a critical and reflexive engagement with the ocean and coastal communities. I further draw upon social research methods to demonstrate how they can be used to further polyvocality and equity in participatory and coproductive climate processes, in Latin America and Maine.

As scientists, our challenge is not simply to adjust climate resilience to include more stories, people, and beings, but to have the reflexivity to acknowledge that research legitimizes some forms of knowledge over others while creating imaginaries or collective social visions of the future. Consequently, the paradigms, methods, and tools in this dissertation provide pathways for climate counternarratives, transformative and pragmatic knowledge coproduction, and more equitable climate resilience.