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  1. Transdisciplinary collaboration offers great potential for meaningfully addressing complex problems related to climate change and social inequities. Communication shapes transdisciplinary collaboration in myriad ways, and interdisciplinary and rhetorical approaches to communication can help identify these influences as well as strategies to transform inequitable communication patterns. In this paper, we share results from an engaged and ethnographic research project focused on strategic communication in a large-scale transdisciplinary collaboration to develop environmental-DNA (eDNA) science for coastal resilience. In this context, definitions of eDNA, perspectives about communication, and constructions of audience and expertise shape the ways in which collaborators co-produce knowledge across disciplines and with diverse partners. Identifying relationships among strategic communication, knowledge co-production, and power enables the development of strategic collaborative practices, including asking questions as a means to identify and negotiate differences in definitions of eDNA and using participatory methods and anti-oppressive data management platforms for ethical praxis.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 14, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. Abstract

    We conducted a spatially explicit vulnerability assessment of the forest industry in Maine, USA, to climate change in an effort to (1) advance a spatial framework for assessing forest industry vulnerability and (2) increase our understanding of Maine’s specific vulnerabilities to climate change in order to guide decision-making. We applied a bottom-up indicator approach to evaluate exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to climate change using both biophysical and social indicators, largely driven by participatory processes. Our approach enabled us to synthesize and aggregate indicators of regional importance to evaluate vulnerability, allowing us to simultaneously examine combinations of potential changes. We found that each Maine county had its own unique combination of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity indicators, with overall vulnerability highest in the rural northern and western parts of the state, where forest industry activities are most prevalent. However, results also indicate that although increased stress from climate-related changes can negatively affect Maine’s forest via high exposure, reduced sensitivities and increased adaptive capacity have the potential to largely decrease overall vulnerability in many parts of the state.

  4. The need to train sustainability scientists and engineers to address the complex problems of our world has never been more apparent. We organized an interdisciplinary team of instructors from universities in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island who designed, taught, and assessed a multi-university course to develop the core competencies necessary for advancing sustainability solutions. Lessons from the course translate across sustainability contexts, but our specific focus was on the issues and trade-offs associated with dams. Dams provide numerous water, energy, and cultural services to society while exacting an ecological toll that disrupts the flow of water, fish, and sediment in rivers. Like many natural resource management challenges, effective dam decisions require collaboration among diverse stakeholders and disciplines. We linked key sustainability principles and practices related to interdisciplinarity, stakeholder engagement, and problem-solving to student learning outcomes that are generalizable beyond our dam-specific context. Students and instructors co-created class activities to build capacity for interdisciplinary collaboration and encourage student leadership and creativity. Assessment results show that students responded positively to activities related to stakeholder engagement and interdisciplinary collaboration, particularly when practicing nested discussion and intrapersonal reflection. These activities helped broaden students’ perspectives on sustainability problems and built greatermore »capacity for constructive communication and student leadership.« less
  5. Aging infrastructure and growing interests in river restoration have led to a substantial rise in dam removals in the United States. However, the decision to remove a dam involves many complex trade-offs. The benefits of dam removal for hazard reduction and ecological restoration are potentially offset by the loss of hydroelectricity production, water supply, and other important services. We use a multiobjective approach to examine a wide array of trade-offs and synergies involved with strategic dam removal at three spatial scales in New England. We find that increasing the scale of decision-making improves the efficiency of trade-offs among ecosystem services, river safety, and economic costs resulting from dam removal, but this may lead to heterogeneous and less equitable local-scale outcomes. Our model may help facilitate multilateral funding, policy, and stakeholder agreements by analyzing the trade-offs of coordinated dam decisions, including net benefit alternatives to dam removal, at scales that satisfy these agreements.