Research Focus

Understanding, enriching, and improving human relationships with water has been a core focus in my career as a researcher and educator. My environmental communication research is engaged, which means that I shape my research to respond to needs for information and inquiry and collaborate with research partners, other faculty, and students at all stages of the research process.  I use mixed methods to link science and critical practice with decision making to promote resilience and sustainability. My research usually starts with intensive information gathering where I co-define problems, research questions, and general areas of inquiry with the people who will eventually use the final research and writing products.  In addition to taking an engaged approach, much of my work is interdisciplinary and I regularly collaborate with people in  disciplines such as ecology, oceanography, marine policy, marine biology, economics, information and computer sciences, psychology, engineering, and more.

I am deeply interested in how communication shapes perceptions and decisions about environments, and especially freshwater and marine ecosystems. I work closely with clammers along Maine’s coast on a series of ongoing projects to support shellfish co-management and communicate clamming as a livelihood and way of life.

I am also a UMaine co-PI on the Future of Dams Project, which seeks to study and support decision making about dams in New England. I’m interested in how citizen science may help democratize science processes and change how people become involved in and informed by scientific research efforts, and this interest grows from my longtime involvement in  water quality monitoring on inland lakes and rivers.

I actively seek grants with collaborators and students to support our engaged research projects, and here are some of the grants I have recently received (see my CV for a complete list)

  • National Science Foundation, EAGER Program, Development of a contest-based crowdsourcing scheme for public water quality monitoring. 2018-2019, $100,000, Role: co-PI.
  • National Science Foundation, RII Track-2 FEC, Strengthening the scientific basis for decision-making about dams: Multi-scale, coupled-systems research on ecological, social, and economic trade-offs. 2015-2019,  $1.7 million, Role: UMaine co-PI, collaborating author, co-lead on social science research and integration design.
  • Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental education grant, building school and community collaborations to eliminate arsenic from drinking water in Maine and New Hampshire: A model for the United States. 2015-2017 $286,000, Role: Collaborating author and evaluator
  • UMaine Research Reinvestment Fund, Graduate Student Assistantships: Fund a Master’s student in marine policy and communication to support engaged research in the Medomak River watershed. 2017-2018, $20,000,  Role: co-PI and collaborating author.
  • Mitchell Center Sustainability Research Grant, Getting Over the Dam: Overcoming institutional barriers to the recovery of Atlantic salmon by navigating the social science/policy interface. 2017-2018, $50,000, Role: co-PI
  • University of Maine Humanities Center, Promoting
    Community Engagement in Clamming through Interactive Media Production. 2017 $1,000,  Role: co-PI.