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Forest Governance for Resilient Systems
Forest Governance for Resilient Systems

Rebecca McLain, research assistant professor at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, is conducting applied research to support collaborative forest governance in a time of rapid climate change, urbanization, and technology evolution.

A key part of this work includes providing training opportunities for students in the development and application of cutting-edge tools in social science research and geographic information systems. 

Forest governance has to do with how people make decisions about forests and their use. It includes the rules and processes that shape who holds the responsibility for making resource decisions, how that authority is exercised, and the ways in which decision makers and implementers are held accountable.

Forest governance systems play a key role in determining how the costs and benefits associated with forested ecosystems are distributed within and across societies. 

Methods include:

Cultural value mapping

Cultural values mapping is increasingly being used to collect spatial information about the meanings that people attach to places and the activities associated with those places. Cultural values maps are useful tools for identifying and visualizing human-environment connections that entail complex and place-based relationships not easily captured using secondary data or written surveys. Cultural values data can be overlaid with other biophysical and land use layers to help land managers understand the variety of landscape values, how proposed activities at a particular site are likely to affect users, and where potential value conflicts may occur.

Social network analysis

Social network methodology examines the structural and functional elements of a social network and is increasingly being used to better understand and enhance collaborative natural resource governance. Employing social network analysis, the research team is identifying existing forest stewardship networks and elucidating network characteristics that may impede or support landscape-wide collaboration. Data obtained will be used to provide recommendations for strengthening organizational capacity, enhancing citizen monitoring, promoting broader public engagement, and building effective partnerships among stakeholders involved in rural resource sustainability. 

For more information about current projects, contact Rebecca McLain at