In recent years, the scientific community has become increasingly aware of the need to address a gap between scientific research and policy and management decisions. Collaborative research, which integrates scientists and decision makers into the research process and fosters two-way communication and learning, presents an alternative to traditional research that can help bridge this gap.
In November of 2017, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative team organized a workshop for their research and integrated assessment grant recipients. Participants included 37 people that lead or co-lead 20 projects funded by the Science Collaborative in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Workshop discussions were facilitated by Dr. Julia Wondolleck, an associate professor of environmental policy and planning at the University of Michigan and a member of the Science Collaborative team.
We have captured the collective findings and advice of workshop participants in this guidance document in hopes that it can serve as a resource for those interested in developing end user-driven collaborative research projects, both in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and beyond.
From 2015 to 2017, Georgetown County, South Carolina, experienced threats to life, ecosystems, infrastructure, housing, schools, and businesses due to a thousand-year rainfall event, Hurricane Matthew, and repeated flooding episodes. The increased frequency and severity of these rainfall events mirrors climate scientists’ projections for the region as climate change intensifies. Like many small counties in the United States, Georgetown County is challenged by financial limitations and burgeoning infrastructure needs, creating a difficult decision-making environment for considering climate adaptation and mitigation planning.
This project will develop and implement a novel approach to climate adaptation planning, first conducted in New England from 2013 to 2014. Georgetown County will use role-play case studies developed using local climate information and sociopolitical context to engage local citizens and community leaders in exploring climate change impacts and potential decisions in their local context. The goal of the simulations is collective community learning and engagement with the potential for policy and planning recommendations to emerge.
The University of Michigan Water Center and partners are working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to implement the NERRS Science Collaborative, by coordinating regular funding opportunities and supporting user-driven collaborative research, assessment and transfer activities that address critical coastal management needs identified by reserves.
Megan Czerwinski, a doctoral student in nursing, is using data from the U-M Sustainability Cultural Indicators Program (SCIP) survey as part of her dissertation. Her research focuses on sustainability education in the nursing profession, and she wants to understand “what nurses know or feel” in regards to sustainability.
“The foundation is there” for nurses to be engaged with sustainability, she says. “Florence Nightingale talked about the environment patients are in and how we need to pay attention to that.” What’s more, nurses are the largest component of the US healthcare workforce, and have been consistently rated as the most trusted profession by Gallup Polls. “Nurses can play a role as trusted, nonpartisan voices in starting sustainability discussions and pointing out the immediate impacts and health impacts of [sustainability issues],” she says. For instance, talking about reducing medical waste, or location-specific contamination like the current dioxin pollution impacting Ann Arbor groundwater.
Keywords: Case Study, Nursing, SCIP
In Dr. Victoria Campbell-Arvai’s class, The Science and Practice of Social Change, students learn about how social science methods can be used to study human behavior as it relates to the environment, and how it impacts sustainability efforts. Campbell-Arvai is using the U-M Sustainability Cultural Indicators Program (SCIP) data as a teaching tool to help students understand the use of surveys in environmental social science.
Keywords: Case Study, SCIP, Learning, Teaching
Drs. Levine and Yan study transportation behavior and choice as part of the RITMO project, to improve the understanding of the feasibility of a university ride-sharing program. They used the U-M Sustainability Cultural Indicators Program (SCIP) data set to help identify the travel modes of university affiliates, such as the percentage of faculty or students using buses, the percentage that own cars, etc. SCIP data provides the “revealed preference” for transportation, a measure of what people are actually doing. Revealed preference data is input into Mode Choice models to allow researchers to examine current behavior. Using the model, researchers can review behaviorial prevalence (i.e., how frequently people actually exhibit a certain behavior). In Levine and Yan’s study, it will help them model potential use of a university ride-share program. The other piece they need for their Mode Choice model is “stated preference” data, which is data on what people say they will do in the future–a statement of what they would like to do, not what they are actually doing. Levine and Yan are collecting stated preference data by re-surveying people who have already taken the SCIP survey.
Keywords: Case Study, SCIP, Campus Transport, RITMO
São Paulo, Brazil, is a booming city. Growing, thriving, and leaving far too many people behind in the process. According to the Washington Post, a 2013 government survey found Brazil is short over 6 million housing units, a shortage demonstrated in São Paulo. A solution many urban residents consider is joining a land occupation, or “Ocupação” in Portuguese. These are settlements organized on land owned by someone other than the inhabitants.
Ocupação Anchieta started four years ago in Grajaú, a city district on the southern periphery of São Paulo, on land owned by the nonprofit organization Instituto Anchieta Grajaú (IAG). Over 800 families now live on the land, negatively impacting the Mata Atlantica forest and natural springs on the site. Currently, AIG and the residents are collaborating on a solution that balances a right to safe housing with environmental health. As part of this ongoing process, an interdisciplinary team of University of Michigan (U-M) students and faculty is working with residents, IAG, and local architectural and engineering firms to create an environmentally and socially sustainable community.
The concept of energy democracy is for people and communities to have control of their energy supply, like choosing whether it comes from fossil fuels or renewables, infrastructure considerations, and other options. Energy democracy focuses on poor and working class people of color, often most impacted by energy purchase decisions. In the case of Highland Park, the city has a majority African-American and Black population, with nearly half of residents living below the poverty line. Approximately 40% of the population reported difficulty in paying their energy bills, and multiple people reported illegal shut-offs, all of which suggest a high and possibly unjust energy burden on the population. These were some of the findings from the community survey on which Soulardarity and the Dow Fellows team collaborated.
Keywords: Energy democracy, Community Solar Calculator, Community Solar Power, Highland Park
Yuan’s trip to Ghana centered on market research for the Solar-Powered Mini Electric Vehicle (EV) Project. The project originated as a collaboration between a start-up driven by MIT adjunct professor Dr. Christopher Borroni Bird (Afreecar), and the University of Michigan School of Engineering. The overall goal is to a) create a solar electric bike trailer to be used for transportation and as a charging station, and b) demonstrate that such a vehicle can improve quality of life for urban and rural populations in developing countries and impoverished communities. Keywords: Solar-Powered Mini Electric Vehicle (EV) Project, Solar, Electric bike, Trailer, Transportation
Over the course of 2017, a team of University of Michigan (U-M) Dow Sustainability Fellows partnered with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin to assess NELD impacts experienced by their community. Students collaborated with the tribe to document and illuminate the potential adverse health, cultural, and psychological impacts stemming from biodiversity losses and destruction or alteration of landscapes. Their research highlights the interconnected relationship between the environment and tribal members’ identity, spirituality, and culture. Moreover, it demonstrates how dedicated the community is to being environmental stewards.
Keywords: Non-economic losses and damages (NELD), Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, emotional, health, psychological impacts stemming, climate and environmental change, Wisconsin
The return of large harmful algal blooms to Lake Erie, as well as low oxygen levels (hypoxia) in lake bottom waters, have led to an intensified effort to understand, predict, and reduce nutrient loading to the lake. Coastal wetland restoration has been identified as a management tool for achieving an international goal of 40 percent reduction in phosphorus loading to Lake Erie. For example, wetland restoration is central to nutrient reduction plans for Sandusky Bay, Ohio. However, the capacity of different coastal wetlands to retain nutrients and improve water quality is not well understood.
This project will address key information gaps identified by land managers, regulators, and conservation groups involved in coastal wetland restoration and management efforts around Lake Erie. Specifically, these groups require more precise estimates of nutrient retention in wetlands in order to inform decisions around wetland management, hydrologic reconnection of diked wetlands, and the potential creation of coastal wetlands to manage nutrient run-off. The ability to quantify and communicate the role of wetlands in nutrient management is critical for the development of achievable plans for meeting agreed upon water quality targets for Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay.