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Communication and sustainability science teams as complex systems

Bridie McGreavy, New England Sustainability Consortium, University of Maine
Laura Lindenfeld, Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center & Communication & Journalism, University of Maine
Karen Hutchins Bieluch, Dartmouth College
Linda Silka, Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, University of Maine
Jessica Leahy, School of Forest Resources, University of Maine
Bill Zoellick, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park


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Communication is essential to resilience, as interactions among humans influence how social-ecological systems (SES) respond to change. Our research focuses on how specific communication interactions on sustainability science teams, such as how people meet with each other; the ways in which they categorize themselves and others; the decision-making models they use; and their communication competencies affect outcomes. We describe research from a two-year study of communication in Maine's Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a statewide network of sustainability science teams. Our results demonstrate that decision making and communication competencies influenced mutual understanding, inclusion of diverse ideas, and progress toward sustainability-related goals. We discuss our results in light of key resilience themes and conclude with recommendations for communication design in sustainability teams for improved collaborative process and outcomes.

Key words

communication; interdisciplinary collaboration; public participation in scientific research; resilience; Structuration Theory; sustainability science

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087