Session: Utilizing traditional and local knowledge to advance climate resilience

Denise Pouliot

Lynn Vaccaro

The communities that are most vulnerable to climate change are typically excluded from actively participating within the resilience decision-making process. This session will feature four examples of how engagement and inclusion of these diverse community perspectives can help identify local impacts of climate change and find more creative and equitable strategies for advancing resilience while protecting the environment.


Photovoice: A Participatory Approach to Exploring the Social Dimensions of Coastal

Presentation Description: If a picture is worth a thousand words, how can coastal managers harness the power of images to better understand community values and beliefs in places threatened by sea level rise? Photovoice is a qualitative method developed by participatory action researchers that can also be adapted as a community engagement tool for practitioners. It is useful for exploring community knowledge, perceptions, and aspirations, particularly with people who do not typically have a voice in planning or decision-making processes. The Photovoice process asks participants to take photographs in response to a research question or management issue. They write short narrative statements about their photographs, and then participate in a process of group-based image sharing, reflection, and knowledge building. This presentation focuses on the experience of using Photovoice as part of research investigating the role of place attachment in decision-making about climate change adaptation. Research participants, who were seasonal or full-time residents of two small coastal communities located near the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in southern Maine, took photos in response to the question, “When it comes to [this place], what do you care about most?” Although the study was not explicitly presented to participants as being about climate change, concern about the impacts of sea level rise emerged as a key theme throughout the Photovoice process. The process elicited valuable local knowledge in the form of observations of change over time and lived experience with sea level rise impacts. Participants also expressed concern about the longer term impacts of residing in these areas as the risk of flooding increases. These results suggest that Photovoice can be a powerful approach to exploring the social dimensions of climate change with communities who care for and are concerned about the future of coastal places.

Jessica Brunacini, Wells Reserve

Jessica Brunacini (she/her) is the Margaret Davidson Graduate Fellow at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and a PhD candidate at Michigan State University. Her work explores the social dimensions of climate change adaptation, including how people are connected to coastal places and why that matters for decision-making. She is a community engaged scholar-practitioner who specializes in using participatory methods to conduct collaborative research.


Swimming Upstream: Indigenous Environmental Justice for Our Waterways

Indigenous Peoples’ have been concerned about the numerous and rapid coastal changes that have affected our coastline, rivers and streams since colonial settlement. The Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective and the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People will discuss the human interference that has resulted in aquatic life loss and other areas of degradation containing Indigenous sacred and historical places of interest. This presentation will explore the short film and educational materials created for ‘‘Swimming Upstream:  Indigenous Environmental Justice for Our Waterways’, a film about estuary restoration, dams, invasive species and water quality.  Attendees will gain a better understanding of Indigenous waterway concerns, have the opportunity to have questions addressed by the presenters, and leave with ways to take action to help us meet our social and environmental justice goals.

Denise Pouliot, Sag8moskwa (Head Female Speaker) Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People

Paul Pouliot, Sag8mo (Head Male Speaker) Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People

Paul W. and Denise K. Pouliot are the Sag8mo and Sag8moskwa (Male and Female Head Speakers) of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook Abenaki People. Paul is an Indigenous historian, lecturer and a founding member of the New Hampshire Commission on Native American Affairs where Denise currently serves as Vice Chair. In her spare time Denise creates coil, bark or woven baskets and produces traditional ceremonial clothing.  Together they serve as Federal Religious Advisors, Affiliate Faculty members of the UNH Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor, are founding members of the Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective, and recipients of the UNH Platinum Sustainability Award for community building and also named as one of The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) 60 individuals and organizations that have positively impacted the natural world in honor of TNC’s 60 years of conservation in New Hampshire.


Engaging the Traip Academy Community in the Development of a Climate Action Plan

The Town of Kittery has recently committed to developing a Climate Action Plan for the entire Town. Climate action plans are often best developed by those who have intimate knowledge of the place where they live and work. Students at Traip Academy will present initial results of their background research, data collection, analysis, and recommendations as part of a developing Climate Action Plan for Traip Academy. The plan will include a Traip Academy specific energy use and greenhouse gas emission inventory, analysis of vulnerabilities to climate change and sea-level rise, and recommendations for improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and building resilience to our changing climate. We expect this effort can serve as a model of other schools in Southern Maine and coastal New Hampshire.

Cameron Wake, Kittery Climate Adaptation Committee

Carrigan Cyr, rising Senior at Traip Academy at Traip Academy

Cameron Wake, PhD, Climate scientist at UNH and Chair of the Kittery Climate Adaptation Committee. Carrigan Cyr, rising Senior at Traip Academy and member of the 2022 Climate Action Plan class at Traip.


Collaboration to Increase Social Resilience in Midcoast Maine

Remote, rural communities in coastal Maine face unique challenges in response to climate change impacts. Communities in the Midcoast Maine region are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of storms due to a combination of social and geographic vulnerability. Partners from federal, state, NGO, university and consulting organizations are working with eight communities in Maine’s Midcoast to strengthen regional networks. Central to this vision is looking beyond the physical impacts of coastal hazards such as power outages, and washed out road culverts, and instead focuses on how these physical impacts pose risks to socially vulnerable community members. To build collaborative capacity in the region, a multi-sector approach is being applied involving providers from emergency management,  social services, and natural resource conservation organizations and municipalities. To bring together partners from these diverse sectors, a virtual scenario planning exercise has been conducted to test how the partners respond to a coastal storm scenario that threatens socially vulnerable people. We will share lessons learned to help other coastal communities consider approaches to meet the needs of vulnerable residents during coast hazard events.

Kristen Grant, Maine Sea Grant and University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Kristen Grant is Senior Extension Program Manager for Maine Sea Grant and UMaine Cooperative Extension. Working with extension since 1999, her work focuses on coastal community resilience. Kristen’s roles include manager of the Southern Maine Beach Profile Monitoring Program and Program Chair for the Beaches Conference since it began in 2000.