What Does It Say?

For the past year I’ve been working with Dr. June Hammond Rowan on an analysis of New Hampshire master plans and regulatory documents.  When I started on this project I didn’t know exactly what ‘regulatory document’ meant, let alone what a master plan was.

In case you don’t know either, a master plan is a document that lays out a community’s plan for the future.  It’s a collection of standards, goals, hopes, and ideas, all meant to make that community a better place.

A regulatory document, like a zoning or subdivision ordinance, should be based on the master plan and contain the same design standards.  The regulatory document gives the community guidelines that can be enforced.

Our research started with the collection of documents from 56 communities spread throughout New Hampshire.  We read through the master plans first, looking for environmentally focused language; phrases like conservation, open space, climate change, and storm water.  Once we found them, we had do figure out what they meant.

We broke all of this environmental language into one of three categories: Background, where communities provide general information on a topic; Mention, where communities quickly touch on a topic but don’t say anything meaningful; and Action, where communities lay out specific environmental goals and the steps they’ll take to achieve them.

Recently, we’ve been focusing on storm water regulations.  This half of the research is still in the early stages but themes are starting to emerge.  A common way to reduce storm water runoff is to limit impervious surfaces, things like parking lots and driveways. We’re also seeing communities require vegetated buffer strips along high runoff areas.

So far, the biggest hurtle we’ve run into is the way information gets presented.  There aren’t defined standards to writing these regulatory documents.  Some communities have clear guidelines in a Design Standards section, but others spread these instructions throughout different documents.  Because of this, an early recommendation we have is to develop a set of standards, one that makes this information easier for developers, planners, and community members to find.

Science Cafés: A Modern Take on Historical Precedent

The scene: 30 eager faces crowd a small backroom of a pub anxiously onlooking three individuals with microphones. The event begins, holding the throng in attendance at rapt attention from the first word to the last. As the event closes, some of the crowd lingers waiting to get a chance to speak to those who had taken center stage moments before.

Was it the scene of a concert? A reading? Perhaps a poetry slam? No, it was a spectacle of science.

A science café.

Born from the desire to engage and inspire scientific inquiry in the public, science lectures and cafés are not a modern invention. Reports and transcripts of Aristotle and Plato’s public scientific lectures are still reviewed by students in present times. At the dusk of the age of enlightenment, Michael Faraday begun the now famous science Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution of the United Kingdom. These lectures are ongoing to this day. Science cafés follow in these footsteps, bringing the public and experts together to talk and converse on neutral ground to help invoke curiosity and interest in the sciences.

Image result for faraday lectures

A Faraday lecture in 1885 Source: http://www.sciencefocus.com/news/christmas-lectures-brief-history

The café held at Biederman’s took this tried-and-true approach, however, it included a spin not many were expecting: the inclusion of ethics in the discussion.

The topic of the night was all about the Northern Forest of New Hampshire, an area sparsely populated and arguably in the midst of an identity crisis. Industries which dominated the landscape for the past century, mainly logging, are on the decline and how the region will adapt to the future is up for speculation. To aid in that speculation were experts Anne Duncan Cooley, Dr. Brian Eisenhower, and Ken Desmarais representing the fields of regional economic development, sociology, and forestry management respectively.

discussion

As the audience asked a scope of questions ranging from the future of the forestry industry in the region to how the cultural identity was influencing development of the region. As I was the designated camerawoman for the event, it was hard to take everything in while still keeping everyone in frame, however one question stood out to me. A graduate student pointed out how “brain drain” was occurring in New Hampshire, and asked the panel what was being done to help keep young people in the region. This was the panel’s response:

 

As both a participant and facilitator of this science cafe, I walked away from it both hopeful and proud. The cafe proved that people do still care about science and the discussion of it. There are inquisitive minds who are invested enough in their pursuit of knowledge to come to a pub and talk with people who are experts in the subject. It has reinforced my belief that in making science more accessible to all, it will only enhance the discipline by bringing in more minds, perspectives, and backgrounds. Though Aristotle and Plato may have been wrong on many of their theories, their method of discussing science with the public seems just as important now centuries later as it was back then.

Upcoming Local Science Café!

By: Roy Fruit, M.S. Candidate ES&P

As described by the organization sciencecafes.org, science cafés can be defined as “events taking place in casual settings such as pubs and coffeehouses,” that are “open to everyone, and feature an engaging conversation with a scientist about a particular topic.” These social gatherings arose from a grassroots movement to bridge the gap between scientists and the general populace. As we’ve discussed in our Environmental Ethics course this semester, we as scientists cannot deny this inherent disconnect. Coming from a small town in Ohio, I can testify to the gap between these two worlds. To many blue-collar families and individuals, academia and science itself represent a kind of elitism, a world in which they cannot relate (and are not welcome.) Let’s face it: who among us has not wagged our finger at those questioning the theory of evolution, or thought (or referred to) those denying climate change as fools? I believe it is because of this attitude we can attribute some of our nation’s grander problems; specifically, the lowering rates of literacy and interest we are facing among our youth in mathematics and science. How can we get the future leaders of our society excited about science when those closest to them regard it as at best unattainable and at worst as a fallacy?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it should also be mentioned that many scientists find themselves in a difficult position when it comes to communicating information with the public. Not only are many of us untrained in leading public engagement, but also face pushback on lobbying for and advocating our findings and methodology (both from the public and our institutions.) Luckily, the idea of a science café is just what the conflict resolutions specialist ordered! Through informal discussions in settings where we can all relax, science can cross any boundary. Reading up on a topic of interest, testing a new recipe for dinner, approaching fixing that leaky faucet several ways, these are all examples of how many people use science everyday without even realizing it!

Those of us with the privilege of a scientific education should also be aware of another beneficial outcome of the science café: hearing perspectives outside of our own bubble. While an education in the sciences can undoubtedly prepare us for many of the challenges and problem solving situations in which we may find ourselves, local knowledge (be it passed through generations or picked up through happenstance) is an undeniably important piece of the greater puzzle.

I’d therefore like to invite you all to our local science café, “What’s in Store for Northern New Hampshire: Changing Values, Changing Times.” Hosted by the Environmental Science and Policy graduate course “Environmental Ethics” under Dr. Shannon Rogers, scientific experts and community members will discuss the economic, ethical, and social importance of New Hampshire’s Northern Forest. This includes the vast natural resources and living space it provides, with changing values of the region taking center stage of the discussion. Panel members will include Dr. Brian Eisenhauer, a professor of sociology at PSU and Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability; Ken Desmarais, an assistant ranger of forestry for the Pemigewasset District of the U.S. Forest Service; and Anne Duncan Cooley, Executive Director of the Grafton Regional Development Commission. The event will be held at Biederman’s Deli & Pub in downtown Plymouth on Monday, May 8th, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Admission is free for everyone, with food and beverage available for purchase. So come out, grab a beer, grab a bite, and grab some knowledge!

cafeflyer

Driving to the NEAEB Conference through a Storm at Midnight

By Anju Shrestha, Second Year Graduate Student of ES & P

I had immense pleasure in participating in the 41st New England Association of Environmental Biologist (NEAEB) conference on March 14-16, 2017 in the Hilton Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut. This conference was hosted by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC). Hundreds of people from the New England region (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and beyond gathered to exchange their research projects in this annual forum which provided a temporary formal gathering place to enhance the advancement of environmental protection and management of the region’s aquatic resources. This conference also helped to build professional networks that allow for meaningful collaboration.

To escape the winter storm, Donovan King and I drove down to Connecticut at 2 am on March 14 to attend the conference. The storm began midway, but we drove cautiously and reached the destination at 6:30 am. This journey started at midnight and has given me a fruitful memory.

I also gave a poster presentation of preliminary results from my research on phosphorus analysis. I am working as graduate research assistant under Dr. Mark B. Green, my supervisor. Dr. Green is working as a hydrologist in the Northern station of the US Forest Service and he is an associate professor of hydrology at Plymouth State University (PSU). Dr. Joseph N. Boyer is also helping in our research with his extensive knowledge on phosphorus. We are looking at the temporal variability of the concentration of phosphorus in a stream that feeds into Squam Lake, New Hampshire. I did three storm samplings in summer 2016 by using an ISCO sampler to measure phosphorus concentration in the stream to Squam Lake in an hourly resolution during storm events and tried to see how it changed with the percent of new water and unit discharge in the stream.

At the conference, many people from all around visited my poster heavily and interacted with me about the results of my research and the methods I used. They were interested to use the methods I followed in their region to monitor phosphorus for better management of the streams. I was so glad to explain my work to distinguished persons from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service (NHDES), United States Geological Service (USGS), Maine Department of Environmental Protection, United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), and many others. The conference gave me the platform to see the work of people from the New England region with similar interests as mine. It helped us to meet, discuss common issues in the region, and exchange ideas. I am so grateful to my supervisor for giving me opportunity to participate in the NEAEB conference.

Presenting poster in 41st NEAEB Conference in Hartford, Connecticut

Presenting my poster at the 41st NEAEB Conference in Hartford, Connecticut

Tales from a First-Year Graduate Student

As a first-year graduate student, the most frequent question I am asked upon meeting people is, “And what do you want to do with that?”. This question, of course, is in response to learning that I am a Master’s candidate in the Environmental Science and Policy field. I used to wholeheartedly humor these people with “maybe this” or “probably that” answers, when I really wanted to say I had no idea. That’s not the case so much anymore. I still don’t have a dream job in mind, but my research project and related thesis have definitely given me more direction.

Along with my advisor, Dr. Shannon Rogers, I am part of an EPA project focused on the valuation of water quality improvements in small streams flowing into the Great Bay Estuary (tributaries), and associated ecosystem services. Simply put, ecosystem services are benefits derived from healthy and functioning ecosystems such as clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and increased wildlife presence. This assessment is necessary because the state of the Great Bay is at risk due to increased development and human activity throughout the watershed. So who will be judging the value of these improvements and ecosystem services you might ask? Well the answer is stakeholders and citizens throughout the four-targeted tributaries, namely: the Lamprey, Winnicut, Cocheco, and Oyster rivers.

map-of-great-bay Map of the Great Bay Estuary aerial-picture-of-great-bayAerial photo of the Great Bay                                                                                                    Estuary

Branching off this topic, my thesis research concerns which characteristics, if any, will affect people’s decision-making in relation to water quality improvements and associated ecosystem services. The characteristics I will address are distance, community type, time of residence, tributary, and demographic. These characteristics, as well as the valuation, will be determined by way of a questionnaire that respondents will fill out during a series of workshops.

But what does all of this have to do with my future aspirations? Quite a lot actually! Doing research for this aspect of the project, along with many experiences throughout my time at PSU thus far have shown me that I am fascinated by people. More so than this, I am intrigued by thought processing, human interaction, and effective communication. For example, if my research finds that certain characteristics correlate with less value of the Great Bay than others, it could reveal the necessity for more effective education and communication to those groups. This is where my passion comes in. I love talking to new people, learning from them, and sharing my knowledge with them.

Anyways, I am still in shock that it is already my second semester of graduate school. Nonetheless, the pieces to the grand puzzle that is my life slowly fall in place evermore. It definitely helps to be in such a beautiful area surrounded equally beautiful people who are quickly becoming some of my closest friends.

plymouth-2Beautiful area

esp-classBeautiful people

 

My Path to Plymouth- Bridging Lake Science with Management

By Carrie Greenough, 2nd year MS Candidate in ES&P

Prior to coming to Plymouth State I worked at an environmental consulting firm and gained a strong passion for lake science. During my time there, I came to the realization that all the work that we were doing to figure out these systems was futile without collaboration with stakeholders. If the solutions we came out with were not reasonably priced, or if the customer did not see the need to implement it, the research would often be filed away in a filing cabinet never to be seen again. I came to PSU to round myself out as a scientist and to gain experience in the integration of science and decision-making. Scientists often complain that decision makers ignore their input but if scientists want the science to be heard they need to make it more accessible and they need to present it in a usable format.

This past November I attended and presented a poster at the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) Conference in Banff, Canada. The location was beautiful and the science and passion that was presented was amazing. I have been attending the NALMS conferences for a few years now and every year I am amazed at some of the work that is being done. This year’s theme was “Science to Stewardship: Balancing Economic Growth with Lake Sustainability”. I found this theme extremely interesting, especially considering my current drive to learn more about gaining a sustainable balance between development and conservation.

View from Sulphur Mountain

View from Sulphur Mountain in Alberta Canada

At this conference I discovered how everyone seems to be facing similar issues, and not just the overarching themes surrounding climate change. Currently I am researching the valuation of scenic views with Dr. Shannon Rogers. We are looking specifically at the alterations that large-scale energy projects impose on the landscape. While I saw a clear connection between the conference’s theme and this topic, I did not think that my poster would be highly visited at the conference, because I thought it didn’t have a very obvious direct connection to lakes and we were at a lake management conference. To my surprise, I was heavily visited and many people had interest in our research and what we were finding. People from all around came over and expressed how areas they were living were facing similar issues and how they wanted to know either how to make these green energy projects more acceptable to people in their watershed or how to prevent these projects from coming in.

The conference proved to me even further that we need to involve people in the research we pursue and the decisions we make. It made it even clearer to me that coming to PSU was a good decision and that learning how to involve stakeholders and learning what stakeholders to involve is extremely important if we want anything to be accomplished.

Life Beyond the Undergraduate World

View from the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain

View from the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain

View of Cardigan Mountain from Cardigan Mountain Orcahard

View of Cardigan Mountain from Cardigan Mountain Orcahard

It has been over a month here at Plymouth State University in the Graduate Studies for Environmental Science and Policy. What first comes to mind is “wow, what a huge transition from an undergraduate degree to a master degree”. I cannot even begin to explain the differences between the two.

The Masters for Environmental Science and Policy program has been great. The professors, staff, and graduate students are one of a kind. I have never experienced such a “tight niche group” in my life. I experience new challenges every day and look forward to learning more in the future. A few goals of mine for this year are: learn more about research (everything that it entails), networking, learn more about hydrology and GIS, and to take classes that will help me with my research.

Being new to the school and also the town of Plymouth, I must say I have and have been already loving the area. For the past 5 years I have been use to the seacoast area of New Hampshire. Transitioning to the rural Plymouth has been a great experience. Having a passion for the outdoors really helps me as well. I want to take advantage of having the White Mountain’s National Forest in my backyard. Every week I try to go outside and explore the area.

This past weekend, I visited two amazing areas: Cardigan Mountain Orchards and Rattlesnake Mountain in Rumney. The orchard really stood out to me because not only did it have amazing apples to pick from, there was an amazing view of Cardigan Mountain from the orchard. If you want an awesome experience apple picking, I definitely recommend going there. They also have the best apple cider I have ever tasted! I was also able to do a short, but also awesome hike at the local Rumney Rattlesnake Mountain. It was a fairly easy hike, took about 30 minutes to get up top, and the view was SPECTACULAR. The foliage was unbelievable, and you almost have a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. I think this past weekend deserves an A+

Beach life: chronicling the summer field season of a PSU ES&P grad sdtudent

HigginsEvening

I spent this summer soaking up the summer sunshine and inhaling the sweet salty air and up and down the coast from Scarborough, ME to Seabrook, NH.

All in the name of research!

(Tough work, I know.)

For my masters thesis work Dr. Shannon Rogers and I are investigating local ecological knowledge and risk perception in the surfing population of southern Maine and New Hampshire. Our work is part of the New England Sustainability Consortium’s Safe Beaches and Shellfish project.

Within the NEST project our work is focused on the surfing population of southern Maine and New Hampshire.

Why surfers?!

Well, surfers are an ideal population to study when investigating regional water quality. This is because

  1. Surfers are in the water for longer periods of time and become fully emerged (versus wading
  2. Surfers participate in the sport year round (yes, even in the slushy waves of January and February). This is important due to seasonal variation in rainfall as well as changes in WWTP outputs.
  3. Surfers are more likely to ingest water or get cuts or scrapes through which microbial pathogens can enter.
  4. Surfers often surf during or after storms when water quality is the lowest.

 

This storm drain at Long Sands beach in York is one of several along the beach.

This storm drain at Long Sands beach in York is one of several along the beach.

At Fortune's Rock surf spot in Biddeford Pool, ME the lineup occurs at the outflow of a pipe.

At Fortune’s Rock surf spot in Biddeford Pool, ME the lineup occurs at the outflow of a pipe.

Faded lettering warns of potential E. coli contamination

Faded lettering warns of potential E. coli contamination

 

Over the course of the spring, summer, and fall we successfully recruited over 250 surveys respondents! I am forever grateful for the help of Trina Lafata, an awesome summer intern for The Stewardship Network and undergrad studying environmental engineering at UNH. Malin Clyde, Project manager for The Stewardship Network and UNH Cooperative Extension specialist, was kind enough to generously share Trina. She was a great asset to the surfer survey!

Trina and I at the Maine Beaches Conference in July

Trina and I at the Maine Beaches Conference in July

In July we presented some of our preliminary findings at the Maine Beaches Conference in South Portland, ME. We are currently wrapping up our data collection with final surveying and interviews to be completed by the end of this month.

While our work is wrapping up for many of the surfers of Maine and New Hampshire the prime season is just beginning. Fall is notorious for righteous waves and gnarly swells, SO pitted brah.

Chasing waves

Chasing waves at Higgins Beach, Scarborough, ME

 

 

My work on NEST is supported by the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR programs in Maine and New Hampshire.

Flying the Coop

Around this time in August two years ago seven fellow new-kids and I huddled in a full and startlingly muggy Russel House conference room, munching on pistachio muffins and sipping coffee. It was kick-off of the MS ESP new student orientation 2013. We had each been tasked with presenting ourselves to the program in a single-slide presentation, one of the most stressful slides I’ve made to date. A year later we attended orientation 2014 as a group of pals, battle hardened by a course in Law & Policy and a New Hampshire ‘polar vortex’ winter. That year we sat back and observed others navigate the awkwardness of new-student ice breakers as we welcomed five new members to the RadGrad roster. This August I sit 533 miles southwest of Plymouth at my desk on 14th and L Street in the U.S. Capitol. Almost two months into my position at American Rivers, I still feel pretty fresh out of the Northeastern woods as I reflect on the past two years in graduate school and Plymouth life that got me here.

Diaries of the travelling bottle.

Diaries of the travelling bottle.

I feel that I should start this post by announcing to those currently (and soon to be) in Boyd 219 Grad Office that there is life after thesis! I know that it doesn’t seem plausible at times, but there’s a whole bustling world out here that’s thrilling to be a part of. That being said, flying the Plymouth-coop isn’t without sentimental looks over the shoulder or jarring come-to-realities. For instance, late succession doesn’t always mean a quiet hardwood-spruce-fir forest, in some places this refers to the stand of trees and manicured bushes down the block. Also, trail-ready shoes aren’t acceptable daily wear everywhere, and terms like “old-growth,” “nonpoint source,” or “watershed” aren’t necessarily appropriate conversation topics at all happy hours. These things I’m learning the hard way. All sorts of new things balance out these changes, however. One of the most exciting has been meeting people on a daily basis who are just as passionately driven by the things they study and work on as we are on ours, many of which I know nothing about. Additionally, I have an array of options from which to buy my groceries and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve used my vehicle since July 1. So hold steady rad grads and keep your eyes on the prize, it all counts for something.

A little bit of the 'old growth' system in Washington, D.C. Somewhere along the spectrum of the mosaic steady state...

A little bit of the ‘old growth’ system in Washington, D.C. Somewhere along the spectrum of the mosaic steady state… A daily lunch spot at Franklin Park on 14 and K St.

I’m now the new kid on the block at American Rivers, a river conservation and policy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. with field offices in major river basins across country. A non-profit environmental organization, American Rivers’ core mission is to protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers, and conserve clean water for people and nature. As a research fellow, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to directly apply and continue much of my graduate research on flood adaptation and ecosystem services to a new project. Specifically, American Rivers is interested in developing a new floodplain restoration program across the country, expanding their current flood policy portfolio to include on the ground floodplain projects. Well known for dam removal work (propelling over 200 dam removal projects since 1973), the organization would like to become equally effective at floodplain reconnection to rivers, restoration, and information sharing. Working within the conservation and restoration teams, I’ll be contributing to the development of this new program internally by composing a framework for restoration, and by implementing a pilot floodplain restoration project within a river system of focus. While the exact trajectory of this two-year project is still unfolding, I’m excited and fortunate to have Shannon Rogers, my graduate adviser at PSU, on-board as a continuing colleague and adviser in this project.

The transition from student to work world has been palpable. I’m finding that in many ways we’ll probably always be a ‘student’ of sorts at whatever we’re doing in career and life. This is good because after 18+ years of schooling, being a student is likely what many of us do best. Now outside of the campus, I’m learning how to apply myself towards projects that are collaborative and application driven, and measured by outcome (AKA: not working for a grade or a thesis product). The good news is that much of what we focused on in the ESP MS program was geared towards these same ends. Every course I took had some avenue for incorporating a community or regionally applicable project. The first assignment I was handed in my current position was to carry out an assessment of landcover and values of floodplain properties along a segment of the Neuse River in Raleigh, and to test a scenario of landcover change on nutrient loading- not unlike something I might have been assigned a few months earlier in grad school!  Being able to tackle such work and then communicate what it means to those who aren’t familiar with it (also part of what I was tasked with), is something I’m very glad to have done in our MS program. Those projects are also great talking points and resume bullets for other pursuits.

This week I’ll be trading out my New Hampshire license plate for a District of Columbia version. This is a very bittersweet transition. The memories, experiences and friendships built during my time in Plymouth are too significant to try and communicate, so I won’t. Graduate school is such a unique time in life, when nothing seems too permanent, except a growing view of the world and the sense of opportunity ahead. I will say that I have no doubt I’ll be seeing many Plymouth folks again, and that what I learned in life and work while there will contribute to my life forever. I’m so excited to follow up with everyone over the years, and to see where life’s trails take us each.

A groupie from a graduation 2015  celebration BBQ. Photo credit to Mr. Dan Demers.

A groupie from a graduation 2015 celebration BBQ. Photo credit to Mr. Dan Demers.

In reflection of my time in Plymouth I’ve put together a few numbers, in true science form. I think they give a nice look into the interdisciplinary nature of attending the ESP graduate program at PSU.

613 – Emails sent to my adviser (just sent, not received)

352 – Miles hiked during two years in New Hampshire[1].

101 – The best room in Boyd for conference calls, quiet work, or group work, with a ton of natural light and a killer view of the Whites.

42 – Minute drive to get to Concord from Plymouth. A trip made periodically for work, Nutella milkshakes, climbing walls, and other needs.

29 – 4,000 footers hiked (19 I’m coming back for).

18 – Stored GB of graduate work related data.

17th – Day of May 2015, the last spring hike that still required post-holing through thigh-deep snow, atop the Twins.

12 – Miles, the distance of the Squam Ridge Trail Race in September completed by a crew of ESP students and faculty. Will we be represented again this year?

10 – Computer monitors in the grad student office for coursework and research use, with many hours stared into each.

9 – Graduate courses completed.

8 – Grads in my ‘13-15 cohort.

7.99 – $ cost per lb. of bulk raw almonds at Plymouth’s local organic goods store when I moved to town in 2013. ($10.99 per lb upon leaving, influence of CA drought?)

7 – Official snow days or delays over two winters in Plymouth (in orientation we we’re told to never expect one).

6 – Poster sessions presented at (also the number of times on top of Mt. Washington).

5 – NH breweries added to my favorite beers list; Smuttynose, Moat, Woodstock, Tuckerman’s, 603.

4 – Skis acquired through second hands to tackle NH’s endless cross-country ski trails.

3 – $ the cost of the monthly featured regional brew at Biederman’s.

2 – times attended the Highland Games in Lincoln, NH (highly recommend).

1 – Thesis completed and Master’s Degree received.

-10°F – lowest temperature I ever saw my car record.

I hope nobody hesitates to get in touch in the future, whether to catch up or for a place to stay in Washington!

Cheers and happy trails.

Jonathon

[1] Estimated by assuming average 4,000 ft. mountain hike = 8 miles round trip, (29 peaks, 5 peaks were repeated, 3 Washington ascents) + ~8 Rattlesnake Rumney hikes (2 mi) and ~12 assorted non 4,000 foot hikes (4 miles average round trip). = 352 miles.

 

Surf’s Up at the Maine Sustainability and Water Conference

photo (6)

 

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Maine Sustainability and Water Conference in Augusta, ME. Hosted by the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions and the United States Geological Survey, the conference had14 different sessions ranging from Citizen Science to Urban Sustainability to Ocean Acidification. The session of interest to me was Safe Beaches and Shellfish. I am working as a graduate research assistant under Dr. Shannon Rogers. Dr. Rogers is the adviser and project manager for “Exploring the Local Ecological Knowledge of Surfers in Maine and New Hampshire”. This work is part of the New England SusTainability Consortium (NEST),  a solutions-driven, outcome-oriented and place-based sustainability project focused on socio-environmental systems in the Gulf of Maine. The project is a transdisciplinary collaboration between eight universities and colleges in Maine and New Hampshire. The overarching goal of the consortium is to bridge the gap between science and decision making with respect to shellfish bed closures and recreational beach advisories in the Gulf of Maine. Success of the consortium in achieving its goals relies on collaboration between biophysical scientists and social scientists as well as integration across different institutions and states. It is an exciting project to be a part of!

Under the NEST umbrella, Dr. Rogers and I have focused on the surfing population of southern Maine and New Hampshire. We chose surfers because they represent a subpopulation of beach goers that are at a higher risk of suffering from the effects of microbial pathogens. This occurs for a number of different reasons. 1), Surfers are in the water for longer periods of time and become fully emerged (versus wading), 2), surfers participate in the sport year round (seasonal variation in rainfall, changes in waste water treatment plant outputs), 3) given the nature of the sport surfers are more apt to ingest water or get cuts or scrapes, and 4), they often surf during or after storm events when water quality is at the lowest.

Dad_Surf

Given the level of pathogen exposure and the corresponding health risk, coupled with a strong sense of environmental sustainability within the local surfing community, Maine and New Hampshire surfers may provide valuable insight and local ecological knowledge into water quality issues. Through this study we hope to gain a better understanding of the local environmental knowledge held within this group and if risk perception plays a role in the decision to surf or not to surf.

surf

It is certainly the ‘gnarliest’ research around and I’m looking forward to the field season. Soon we’ll be commencing the interview process. The plan is to conduct scoping interviews followed up with intercept surveys and additional in depth interviews. This summer you’ll find me on surf beaches of Maine and New Hampshire! Hopefully I’ll get lessons and ride some Gulf of Maine waves!

 SurfBeaches

 

My work on NEST is supported by the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR programs in Maine and New Hampshire.