Speaker: Bethany Laursen, UW Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology
Abstract: When researching approaches to complex, social-ecological problems, the plethora of interdisciplinary paradigms can leave even savvy academicians confused or more entrenched in familiar ideas than innovative solutions. University extension agents, often trained in traditional disciplines at the masteraEuroTMs degree level and daily surrounded by tangible rather than theoretical entities, are even harder pressed to understand how these new fields relate to more familiar ones. However, extension agents are also precisely the people most likely to integrate various academic approaches by working in complex, real-world problem-solving situations. It is thus useful and necessary for agents to be able to compare, contrast, and integrate the various epistemologies encountered in social-ecological systems research. I demonstrate a decision support tool that agents can use for this purpose with six example fields of inquiry (environmental history, political ecology, social-ecological systems theory, rural sociology, ecological economics, and adaptive co-management). In addition to aiding an individualaEuroTMs understanding, the tool also promotes collective learning and collaboration by enabling shared understanding; each collaborator can use it to become more aware of their own epistemology and those of others. Through further group negotiation, this awareness minimizes epistemological aEurooeblind-spotsaEuro and vitriol, and it maximizes adaptive problem solving.