Best Student Paper Award Recipients

Best Student Paper Award Recipients

2021 IASNR Conference

Best paper submitted by a Doctoral student:

Emily A. L. Rabung, The Ohio State University

“Soldiers in the Garden: Managing the U.S. Military Training Landscape”

Despite a reputation for destruction, militaries across the world may maintain important biological natural resources that are key to achieving global biodiversity conservation goals. On lands used by militaries for soldier training or weapons testing, numerous rare and endangered species can be found. In the United States, the Department of Defense hosts a considerably higher density of federally listed threatened and endangered species than the other federal land management agencies. The study presented here explores the relationship between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the species it hosts by considering the military training landscape as perceived by DoD employees who manage the training lands. To construct a more complete understanding of the imagined ideal training landscape that drives management decisions, I interviewed land managers at six DoD training installations.

I found that the underlying beliefs that managers have about training, war, and nature influence their view of the ideal training landscape. I describe this ideal landscape in detail through the metaphor of the medieval garden. These beliefs have indirect yet tangible impacts within the environment as the management practices implemented to bring about the ideal training landscape contribute to achieving conservation objectives and promoting threatened and endangered species on military land.

Best paper submitted by a Master’s student:

Michala Hendrick, Old Dominion University

“Do Rising Flows Lift All Boats?: Ecosystem Service Elasticity in the Dolores River Watershed”

In the Colorado River Basin, annual variability and climate change projections complicate transboundary planning, management, and the allocation of water resources. As dynamic pressures alter this complex watershed, individual stakeholders make sense of these changes and form context-dependent mental models of the ecosystem services afforded. We characterized recreational and conservation stakeholder perceptions (n=40) of the relative (in)elasticity of ecosystem services afforded by the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado River, to inform ongoing regional planning. Findings indicate perceived vulnerability of water resources to climate change, an increased value ascribed to cultural services (i.e., recreation) due to scarcity, and the political prominence of provisioning services. Improvement to the allocation of supporting services (i.e., habitat) is, in part, dependent on aligning ecosystem management with flow regimes through collaborative management and adaptive water governance in the watershed on a multiyear scale.

2020 ISSRM

Best paper submitted by a Doctoral student:

Kathleen ("Katie") Epstein, Montana State University

“Managing wild emotions: The affective and emotional labor of wildlife managers in the Western US”

Securing hunting access to private land for managing game species is an essential component of wildlife management in the Western US and depends on a set of institutional norms and cooperative practices between hunters, private landowners, and wildlife agencies. In rural agricultural landscapes where changes in demographics and land use accompany shifts private land use and access, wildlife managers can have difficulty controlling the density and distribution of wildlife across the landscape. The result is often intense conflict between individuals seeking hunting access for sport, agricultural producers fearing economic loss from game damage and disease, and landowners harboring large populations of game species on private property. Drawing from four years of ethnographic engagement with wildlife managers in rural working landscapes of Wyoming and Montana, I argue that a requisite feature of managing wildlife on private lands has become managing the private landowners themselves, and more specifically their fear, anger, and frustration with institutional structures.

To assuage environmental conflict, wildlife managers use practices and strategies to deliberately modify and control the emotional experiences of private landowners. I code this labor as both emotional (Hochschild 1979) and affective (Hardt and Negri 2000). Thinking through the affective and emotional labor of wildlife managers illuminates enduring limitations for wildlife governance in the Western US related to the power of landowners to control access to private wildlife habitat. At the same time, the potential for wildlife managers to generate and build alternative subjectivities and ways of being amongst landowners, wildlife, and agents of the state suggests that relational approaches are a means to reconcile challenges related to wildlife conservation, rural livelihoods, and issues of access.

Best paper submitted by a Masters student:

Haisu Huang, University of Oregon

““We Have Nothing”: Coal Miners’ Perceptions of Air Pollution in China”

Coal directly impacts climate change in two primary ways: 1. Extracting coal releases methane, a known greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere; and, 2. Burning coal as fuel increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. How do coal workers perceive air pollution produced by their own industry? To answer this question, I interviewed coal mining company employees in a coal mining city in China. My findings present a paradox:

Although miners have identified definite sources of air pollution, these same miners nevertheless deny the existence of air pollution. My analysis of the miners’ employment experience reveals that, in order to collectively avoid the mention of any air quality issues, the miners must avoid a direct confrontation with authority – that same authority that has forged a formulated acquiescence among miners at work.

Acknowledging air quality issues could disturb the miners’ employment stability by creating anxiety and chaos, lessening their ontological security.

Best paper submitted by a Undergraduate student:

Nadia Rahimatpure, College of Idaho

“Development in Dubai: Exemplar of Ecological Modernization or Manifestation of the Treadmill of Production?”

In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund publicly reported that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had the highest ecological footprint of any country in the ­world. This pronouncement inspired

the government of Dubai (the most populous city in the UAE) to make efforts to improve their ecological impact, including notable reductions in per capita carbon dioxide emissions. Is this evidence of what many scholars characterize as Ecological Modernization? Dubai is an exemplar of modernization in many ways, rapidly developing from a desert trade port in the 1950s to an international commercial hub and destination for luxury tourism in 2020. However, the Ecological Modernization proposition is that environmental gains are market innovations rather than top-down government directives, as seen in Dubai. Furthermore, as a contemporary monarchy, Dubai does not perfectly fit Ecological Modernization theory. Alternatively, are the environmental improvements that have emerged in the most recent stage of Dubai’s rapid modernization simply the product of what other scholars define as the Treadmill of Production?

This paper investigates the relationship between Dubai’s economic expansion and its carbon dioxide emissions to test the applicability of Ecological Modernization and/or Treadmill of Production theories. Fourinear regressions are employed to examine the relationship between GDP and carbon emissions. Results provide partial support for both theories. For instance, evidence of a potential Kuznets curve was found between change in carbon dioxide emissions and GDP per capita. However, changes in GDP per capita is still strongly correlated with increases in carbon dioxide emissions per capita. These and other conflicting results suggest that neither theory fits this context perfectly. Although there is evidence that Dubai is fulfilling its long-term goals of environmental sustainability and economic growth, efforts to attract tourists and investors ultimately serves to increase the emirate’s impact. These results also provide insights into conducting research on this topic in different, non-western contexts and provide some directions for future research that further elaborate the utility of these environmental sociological theories.

2019 ISSRM

Best paper submitted by a Doctoral student:

Megan Butler, University of Minnesota

“Enterprises for Conservation and Development: Lessons learned from community-forest enterprises in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve”

This paper contributes to literature on the relationship between governance and successful community-based initiatives through investigating governance at the scale of the community forest enterprise (CFE). The goal of this research is to investigate and understand factors that influence CFE governance through a comparative cross-case analysis of CFEs operating in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR).

Best paper submitted by a Masters student:

Carolyn Conant, Colorado State University

“From Extractive to Nonconsumptive Natural Resource Dependency: Transitions, Traditions, and Traps in Three Southeastern Utah Towns”

In this paper, I use three ex-uranium communities in southeastern Utah as comparative case studies to demonstrate how nonconsumptive natural resource dependency (NRD) may tend to reproduce the vulnerabilities that characterize extractive N RD. I present the histories and contexts of Moab, Monticello, and Blanding, Utah to provide an overview of the impact of extractive NRD on each community and their varying attempts to transition away from uranium economies, then introduce NRD concepts such as internal colonialism, extralocal control, and fictitious commodification to evaluate the impact of the transition to nonconsumptive NRD on each community. These discussions include important implications and applicability for all natural resource dependent communities that are currently facing the slow death of their traditional extraction economies and are grappling with transitions to different economic models, a trend that currently defines many rural communities across the American West.

2018 ISSRM

Best paper submitted by a Doctoral student:

Megan Bonham, Northwestern University

“Experiences with the Nighttime Environment: How Darkness Affects Human Relationships with Nature”

Through artificial lighting, humanity has undertaken a decades-long, global initiative to conquer the nighttime environment. Despite the Global North’s overwhelming success in this endeavor, limited areas of natural darkness persist, and this darkness is increasingly valued as a natural resource. Through interviews and participant observation of guided nighttime interpretive programs, I examine how program guides ‘produce,’ and how program participants ‘receive,’ experiences in natural darkness. My data illustrates how darkness facilitates a different sensory encounter with nature, as well as affective responses including fear and awe. I argue that darkness challenges our sense of domination over the rest of nature and that nighttime recreational experiences can introduce greater humility into human-environment relationships. Therefore, nighttime interpretive programs should become valued and essential work for national, regional, and local parks. Finally, I extend a call to fellow environmental social scientists to join me in studying the night—a largely neglected temporal dimension of nature—including how darkness impacts our behaviors, values, and the meanings we attach to the natural world.

2017 ISSRM

Best paper submitted by a Doctoral student:

Marian Hubbard-Rice, Utah State University

“Caffeine Demonstrates Anthropogenic E. coli: Drives Policy Change”

In 2006 Emigration Creek in Salt Lake County Utah was placed on the United States Clean Water Act list of Impaired Waters for being contaminated for Escherichia coli (E. coli). Since there are no active point sources in that section of Emigration Creek the contamination is classified as a nonpoint source. The E. coli contamination is likely attributed to failing septic systems leaking raw sewage into the waterbody. However, many residents and entities still attribute the source of E. coli to wildlife and dogs in the canyon. As a result, residents and policy makers are hesitant to address and proceed with implementing a solution to the many failing septic systems.

This interdisciplinary paper demonstrates the use of science to drive policy implementation. Utilizing a linear regression analysis this study finds that caffeine has a relationship to flow (Q) in the creek indicating the source of E. coli is human caused. This correlates to the seasonality of the water quality impairment. Using Kingdon’s Multiple Streams framework, this study analyzes the potential for public policy implementation related to the failing septic systems, including the problem stream, policy stream, and political stream. This paper hypothesizes the identification of caffeine in the water demonstrates an anthropogenic source of pollution thus driving policy change via a well-timed policy window.

2016 ISSRM

Best paper submitted by a Doctoral student:

Timothy R. Silberg, Michigan State University

“Legume-Cereal Intercropping in Central Malawi–Determinants of Practice”

In Malawi, increased population growth has reduced opportunities for farmers to expand operations and cultivate new areas of land. The country’s primary farming population is comprised of smallholders (cultivating less than two hectares), many of whom cultivate cereals (e.g., maize) as a monoculture. The repeated practice of cultivating cereals can lead to soil erosion and fertility-loss. Intercropping cereals with legumes has widely been promoted to smallholders. The intensified practice has shown to sustain crop productivity without undermining soil fertility. Unfortunately, the number of practitioners has remained low countrywide. To elucidate drivers behind intercropping, the following study used multiple logistic regression to analyze 2013 household survey data from Central Malawi.

Best paper submitted by a Masters student:

Kaitlyn Cyr, University of Alberta

“Identifying Social Norms in the Context of Wetland Conservation on Agricultural Lands”

The Canadian Prairie Provinces are home to an extensive area of North America’s wetlands, which have been continuously drained to make way for farmland, urban construction, and other human development. The development of new wetland management policies has created the opportunity to test market-mechanisms, such as incentive programs, as a tool for wetland restoration.

Social and cultural factors, such as social norms, impacting participation in these programs are relatively unstudied. Using a sample of rural landowners (n=165) across Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, this study explores the existence of social norms relating to wetland restoration on productive land. We were interested in whether different types of norms can be identified, and how these norms relate to other values and beliefs. As an exploratory study, our paper proposes that different types of social norms exist surrounding wetland drainage and that these measures can be used to better understand environmental behaviour in conservation programs on productive agricultural land. We include these norm constructs in a model of environmental behaviour with a measure of values, beliefs, and participation to investigate the role of norms in conservation program participation. Our results indicate that norms are related directly to values and beliefs and are a significant factor in behaviour.