On Monday, Oct. 28, Dr. Andrea Feldpausch-Parker gave a lecture on environmental communication and her personal experiences working in the field. This lecture was a part of the Department of Communication and Journalism Fall 2019 Colloquium Series. As an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) she has researched and worked on projects relating to environmental communication, public participation in environmental decision-making, environmental and natural resources conflict, environmental social movements and energy policy.
“Dr. Parker is a leader in the field of environmental communication and studies a range of contemporary topics, including decision making about dams, renewable energy development and public participation in natural resource management, among others,” Laura Rickard, the graduate coordinator in the Department of Communication and Journalism (CMJ), said.
“Her engaged research approach and attention to public participation complements many ongoing research efforts here at UMaine involving the Department of Communication and Journalism faculty, including me and Dr. Bridie McGreavy. As her former colleague, I was confident that faculty, students and community members could take away valuable lessons from her experiences,” Rickard said.
Parker began her undergraduate career as a biological sciences student but felt a desire and a need to work in environmental communication. She has worked on projects like the Edwards Aquifer restoration implementation plan, the Brazos Valley Natural History Museum board of trustees retreat, the Hudson Undammed project and has worked on trail development in the Adirondack State Park.
In her lecture, titled “Breaking barriers and building bridges: A personal journey of scholarship and practice in public participation,” Parker discussed conflict management in terms of avoiding, accommodating, competing and collaborating. Collaboration is the ultimate goal in conflict resolution, but this isn’t always easy or possible to achieve, according to Parker.
She described how, in order to collaborate, one has to consider different value systems, or the interests and positions on interests, as well as characteristics of shareholders in each project. Understanding everyone’s perspectives and taking their wants and needs into consideration helps Parker collaborate on her projects.
Parker described how her work in environmental communication functions through an example of Yellowstone national park grizzlies being removed from the endangered species list. There were a lot of different interest groups, and some wanted the grizzly to be delisted to show that their methodology in rehabilitating endangered species works. But other groups wanted to keep the grizzly on the list because they were worried that factors like climate change would affect the bear population in the future. Parker’s job would be to bring these groups together and communicate in order to form a resolution.
“Through hearing about Dr. Parker’s experiences on a variety of different natural resource and conservation-oriented projects over the last decade or so, I hope that students realized that research is necessarily messy, especially when we involve communities with strong interests at stake. Despite this messiness and the challenges it may present to the social science researcher, research is also fun, rewarding and endlessly surprising,” Rickard said.
The next lecture in the Department of Communication and Journalism Fall Colloquium Series is on Nov. 4 at noon in Dunn Hall. Nathan Stormer, a professor in the CMJ department, will be giving a talk titled “All diseased things are critics.”