July 2009-December 2014
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Goals: Maine's Sustainability Science Initiative (SSI) seeks to catalyze and expand the state's interdisciplinary research capacity for understanding the coupled dynamics of social-ecological systems (SES) and determining how such knowledge can best inform stakeholders and their decision-making processes. The core SSI objective is to create a new statewide Center for Sustainability Solutions (CSS) where place-based systems research, knowledge to action focus, and strong stakeholder partnerships will serve as a testbed for developing solutions to sustainable development challenges in and beyond Maine. The research focuses on three interacting drivers of landscape change (urbanization, forest ecosystem management, and climate change) that affect Maine and other regions. Although Maine has faced some serious environmental challenges, its ecosystems have not reached crisis points. As a result, Maine can be a valuable model for exploring proactive, cost-effective approaches to sustainable development, The proposed research will employ three innovative strategies: 1) model development and testing based on an integrated analysis of interactions among drivers of landscape change; 2) a quasi-experimental approach to evaluate the ability of alternative modeling techniques to account for SES thresholds, feedbacks, and resilience; and 3) close stakeholder partnerships to ensure that the work is shaped by the demands of social and institutional systems to enhance the value of the research for decision-making. These strategies depend upon a high-level of interdisciplinary integration, and build on past EPSCoR investments that created research teams characterized by diverse expertise. This project aims to increase the capacity and productivity of those teams, and create the foundation for a green innovation economy in Maine.
In concert with the novel approach to innovative research, the project activities effectively integrate research and education to bolster the STEM training and scientific expertise of Maine's future workforce. In collaboration with "Maine STEM Coalition Initiative", the project engages K-12 students, integrates the Center for Sustainability Solutions' research (a center that would be created with funding requested in this proposal) with K-12 education, and coordinates teacher professional development. At the postsecondary education levels, the project includes design of new courses that emphasize interdisciplinary and systems modeling and that integrate stakeholders into service-learning activities; development of interdisciplinary academic research and private sector internships; design of a mentoring program; and engagement of students in the development of use of innovative technology.
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Eckardt, Michael; Nemeth, Vicki; and Hart, David, "Maine's Sustainability Science Initiative" (2015). University of Maine Office of Research Administration: Grant Reports. 442.