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An important non-point source pollution challenge facing municipal officials in southern Maine is the conversion of forested and undeveloped land to development (Krum & Feurt, 2002; Wells NERR, 2003; 2001). There is a critical need, during the next decade, to apply science-based knowledge and facilitate the adoption of practices associated with low impact development, protection of riparian buffers, preservation of wetlands and innovative stormwater management technology to land use decision-making. The science and technology that supports municipal efforts to preserve the ecological services provided by an undeveloped landscape as it is converted to what is considered economic use are the focus for science translation and technology transfer by the Coastal Training Program of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) in Wells, Maine (Krum & Feurt, 2002).

Barriers to watershed stewardship that protects ecosystem services are frequently misunderstood. Timely application of scientific research and technological innovations with potential to sustain or restore coastal water quality can be blocked when potential adopters of the information fail to recognize or understand the relevance or benefits. This project used an interdisciplinary approach to understand and overcome barriers to science translation in municipal decision-making about land use and water management. This project combined knowledge about the cultural models used by southern Maine water managers in environmental decision-making (Feurt, 2007) with the process and strategies of Collaborative Learning (Daniels & Walker, 2001) to facilitate watershed stewardship and community based ecosystem management. Project objectives included creation of watershed councils to support collaboration across municipal boundaries, implementation of watershed management plans, identification of action strategies to reduce non-point source pollution, and adoption of innovative stormwater management technologies.

Collaborative Learning is a stakeholder engagement process designed to make progress to improve environmental problems. The practice of Collaborative Learning employs a toolkit of techniques to stimulate creative discussion, foster dialogue despite conflict and controversy, and develop group-generated implementation strategies. Collaborative Learning is especially amenable to issues involving conflict and scientific uncertainty (Daniels & Walker, 2001).

This project tested, refined and disseminated the cultural models based Collaborative Learning approach through engagement with southern Maine watershed councils and presentations and trainings to coastal managers at national and international conferences and meetings. A practitioners' guide, Collaborative Learning for Ecosystem Management, and training module were developed and are available upon request through Digital UNE.


This project was funded by a grant from NOAA/UNH Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology, NOAA Grant Number NA05NOS4191149.

A practitioners' guide, Collaborative Learning for Ecosystem Management, and training module were developed and are available here:



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