Andrea Scarfo SUST 501

SUST 501: Sustainability Methods

SUST 501, the intermediate class for the Sustainability Dual Major, examined the ways in which people collaborate to address sustainability challenges. After gaining a solid foundation of the meanings and application of sustainability in 401, we were able to critically examine sustainability science and practices. As a class, we explored how collaboration, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary approaches are necessary in order to tackle the sustainability grand challenges we learned about in 401. These lessons were super interesting as most of the students in the dual major come from a variety of different primary majors. When discussing different economic, environmental, and social challenges, we noted the importance of collaboration, particularly transdisciplinary efforts. As a class, we all came to appreciate and understand the different but equally valuable perspectives that an economist would have compared to a scientist or stakeholder, and why it is important that they all have a voice in solving these challenges.

My favorite component of the sustainability 501 course were the three fieldtrips we took exploring local examples of how inter and transdisciplinary approaches were being used to solve some of the grand challenges we learned about in 401. The first trip we took was to Wagon Hill Farm, a natural space loved and frequented by the Durham community. While the avid use of Wagon Hill Farm by community members is positive, we learned the land does take quite a toll from the action it receives. Erosion is prevalent along the frequented coastline, particularly in the salt marshes, which had been receding at a rate of about a foot per year. Salt marshes are a rare, and valuable land type that supports a healthy ecosystem and helps to stabilize the shoreline. The effort to save the receding salt marsh at Wagon Hill Farm had been a collaboration involving the Town of Durham, the University of New Hampshire, the Coastal Program--a program that focuses on the restoration and protection of fish and wildlife habitats on public and private land, and many stakeholders.

Wagon Hill Farm

The second field trip focused on the two problems climate change is causing for the 7 miles of coastal communities in New Hampshire—sea level rise and storm surge. Planners with the Rockingham Planning Commission and Tides to Storms noticed the problem Coastal NH towns were facing and decided to get involved. They reached out to the seven coastal New Hampshire towns; Portsmouth, Rye, New Castle, Hampton, North Hampton, Hampton Falls, and Seabrook. The goal of their project was to conduct a place based assessment of the where these coastal communities were most likely to flood in the future, provide a report and set of maps, and recommended actions to help the towns adapt to the changing conditions in a time of increased storm surge and sea level rise. Learning about the unique collaboration between Julie Lebranch, of the Rockingham Planning Commission, the University of New Hampshire GIS technical staff (interacted with UNH researchers with climate change data), as well as each of the 7 coastal towns on an individual and personalized level taught me that not all collaborative processes are going to look the same, especially when they work to address sustainability grand challenges.

The final field trip of Sustainability 501 addressed an example of how citizen science is used in coastal NH. Citizen science is the practice of the general public getting involved in scientific research to further scientific knowledge. It can mean anything from citizens observing and collecting data on natural events to citizens taking public health issues into their own hands and collaborating with scientists to come up with new solutions. The Citizen Science project demonstrated on our field trip, the collection of sand elevation change, was classified as a collaborative project because Citizen Scientists were involved in tweaking the methods used. We discussed the role that boundary spanner, Alyson Eberhardt, played in the NH Sea Grant Sand Level Citizen Science project. She was the person that communicates primarily between the Citizen Scientists and the scientists working on the project. She shared with us that she had two primary goals. Her first goal was to manage the Citizen Scientists and be a resource to them while they were conducting the field research. Her second goal was to provide some fulfillment for the citizen scientists whether that was in the form of them learning something new or meeting new like-minded people. Each of the field trips we went on reinforced and provided meaning to what we had been taught in class about using interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches in collaborative processes.

Return to my About Me page!