Bringing Them to the Table
Agencies, universities and other environmental interests are no strangers to data. Research is part of everyday life. Sharing that information across organizations and across disciplines is not.
The University of Idaho College of Natural Resources is bringing together agencies, researchers and scientists with myriad investment in complex mountain landscapes with the help of a $750,000 award from the National Science Foundation.
Seven awards for creating Research Coordination Networks were given nationally. The goal of each is to advance research or education by creating lines of communication across disciplinary, organizational, geographic and international boundaries.
“It is an award to provide coordination,” says James Gosz, research professor at the College of Natural Resources and principle investigator on the project.
Complex mountain landscapes are a common geographical trait around the world and are a prime location to study the effect of natural ecological changes as well as the human impact in such areas. By bringing together those who work with regional mountain landscapes, Gosz says, the guidelines can then be applied internationally.
To date more than 40 collaborators from agencies, universities and environmental groups from around the world have come together to work on the new project. The next task is identifying what data each entity has or needs, and creating small groups to address identified priorities.
“Researchers—university faculty—can come up with questions all day long,” Gosz says, referring to what research should come from the collaboration. “What we needed was some input from the user community.”
Discussion in that large group led to six initial research questions the participating entities will address, including what influences most effect complex mountain landscapes and how land use can be sustainable, adaptive and interconnected.
It also led to development of a leadership team to help direct the scope of the larger group.
From the relationships formed, data shared and collaboration created, new research projects will most certainly be generated. While this money pulls the people together, those future projects would then seek funding to do research.
Because the outlined collaboration for this project pulls together not only those in biophysical science but also social science, it attracted early attention from the National Science Foundation, Gosz said.
Social scientist and Co-Principal Investigator Sandra Pinel, Ph.D., is identifying natural resource and planning governance in complex mountain landscapes. The lands have multiple local and national jurisdictions, cultural and ethnic diversity, and varying land tenure rights. From there, she will introduce and study the effect of collaborative management rather than the traditional decentralization-style of management.
Other University of Idaho participating faculty members include Lilian Alessa, Ed Galindo, and Arthur Taylor.