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Citizen science and natural resource governance: program design for vernal pool policy innovation

Bridie McGreavy, Department of Communication and Journalism, Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, University of Maine
Aram J. K. Calhoun, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, University of Maine
Jessica Jansujwicz, Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, University of Maine
Vanessa Levesque, Department of Sustainability, University of New Hampshire


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Effective natural resource policy depends on knowing what is needed to sustain a resource and building the capacity to identify, develop, and implement flexible policies. This retrospective case study applies resilience concepts to a 16-year citizen science program and vernal pool regulatory development process in Maine, USA. We describe how citizen science improved adaptive capacities for innovative and effective policies to regulate vernal pools. We identified two core program elements that allowed people to act within narrow windows of opportunity for policy transformation, including (1) the simultaneous generation of useful, credible scientific knowledge and construction of networks among diverse institutions, and (2) the formation of diverse leadership that promoted individual and collective abilities to identify problems and propose policy solutions. If citizen science program leaders want to promote social-ecological systems resilience and natural resource policies as outcomes, we recommend they create a system for internal project evaluation, publish scientific studies using citizen science data, pursue resources for program sustainability, and plan for leadership diversity and informal networks to foster adaptive governance.

Key words

adaptive governance; citizen science; leadership; natural resource policy; vernal pools

Copyright © 2016 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