Achievements: Dissertation Defenses

Jeremiah O. Asaka, pictured here collecting water samples from River Ewaso Nyiro as part of his dissertation fieldwork in Northwestern Kenya.

Jeremiah O. Asaka, Global Governance and Human Security PhD and 2014 IGERT Fellow, successfully defended his dissertation on December 6th, 2017. Jeremiah’s research covered transformations in conservation governance and outcomes for human security: the case of Kenya’s Northern rangelands. Jeremiah’s transdisciplinary dissertation explored the link between biodiversity conservation and the security dimensions of human well-being. The dissertation’s analysis is premised on a juxtaposition of global governance, norm diffusion, human security, and gender theoretical frameworks. Jeremiah’s research seeks to understand change and continuity in conservation governance and the implications for human security in indigenous communities. Congratulations Jeremiah!



Alexander Metzger presenting a talk on participatory modeling for climate change adaptation management as part of the Annual School for the Environment Research Colloquium at UMass Boston.

Alexander Metzger, School for the Environment PhD and 2014 IGERT Fellow, will present and defend his dissertation entitled “Models that matter: using participatory FCM to integrate mental models into an adaptive co-management process.” on Friday February 23, 2018 from 1:00PM – 2:00PM in the Integrated Science Complex room ISC 5300.

Abstract: Boston, Massachusetts has periodically experienced damage and negative impacts from storms and flooding events, and is currently planning for a more hazardous future due climate change. Contemporary approaches often rely on vulnerability and resilience to describe system capacities, and use adaptation as a means of adjusting its trajectory. The adaptive co-management (ACM) framework acknowledges the importance of integrating stakeholder mental models, or the diverse array of internally-held understandings and dynamic representations of a system, into the decision-making process. Linking stakeholders in collaborative problem-solving, mental models become a wealth of valuable information for shared learning and adaptation, and an opportunity to understand the diversity of perspectives that define effectiveness and equitability. However, several obstacles emerge from the mismatch of decision-maker perspectives, and tools are needed to better structure the utilization of mental models. Fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) is a growing approach in the field of participatory modeling that could fill these needs. FCM allows “mapping” of mental models as a web of concepts and weighted relationships that represent stakeholder perspectives, knowledge, and understandings. In this dissertation, we present our research on the use of participatory FCM to better understand variation in mental models among flood managers in Boston, MA and discover opportunities for social learning and collaboration. We first discuss our typology of approaches to participatory FCM research created through literature review. This typology guided our participatory modeling process with organizations involved in mitigation and adaptation at different jurisdictional scales. We then discuss our novel method of knowledge classification, and findings on the variation in flood manager perspectives by jurisdictional scale. Next, we discuss our analysis of individual FCM’s, which we used to identify boundary objects and bridging organizations that could facilitate learning and collaboration among Boston’s flood managers. Last, we discuss findings of a participant focus group in which participants react to the findings and completed a collaborative modeling exercise.


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