Welcome to the Human-Environment Interactions Lab at Michigan State University!

Our group is interested in understanding how human behavior relates to the sustainability of socio-ecological systems. Understanding the complexity of human-environment interactions requires significant collaboration between both scientists from other environmental fields (economists, mathematicians, sociologists, ecologists, agronomists, marine scientists) and the humans that are interacting with the environment (fishers, farmers, land-owners and the general public).

human-environment interaction scenario 1human-environment interaction scenario 4

We think that it is this collaboration that makes environmental research interesting and will ultimately help us better understand the nature of current environmental problems and help us create more sustainable solutions for the future.

Recent News
Dr. Steven GrayPrincipal Investigator
Steven is an assistant professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. Prior to this position he was an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii (UH) in the Department of Natural Resources and Lead of the Social Science Division at the Water Research Resource Center at UH. His research focuses on developing decision-support software to help communities, resource managers, and other decision-makers to understand, and to adapt to, the social impacts of climate and other environmental changes. Currently his lab is working on a participatory modeling software called Mental Modeler, which he, his students, and colleagues are applying in a variety of environmental planning and research contexts including marine spatial planning in Ireland, coastal hazard planning in the Pacific Islands, conservation agricultural planning in Nepal and India, understanding the bushmeat trade dynamics for conservation planning in Tanzania, and modeling landowner decision-making in relation to wildfire risks the Northwest US.

 Steven Gray CV
Graduate StudentsCurrent
Noleen ChikoworePhD
Noleen is a native Zimbabwean and a Fulbright Scholar, passionate about using participatory modelling tools in community engaged scholarship. Her current work focuses on understanding how stakeholder dynamics (i.e. values, attitudes and perceptions) in urban areas influence environmental decision making in sustainable household waste management practices in developing countries.

Noleen is a faculty member at the Catholic University of Zimbabwe where she has been teaching and supervising undergraduate students in areas of Human Geography and Natural Resources Management and Conservation. She holds a B.A (Hons.) in Geography and English from the Catholic University of Zimbabwe, a M.A in Environmental Policy and Planning from the University of Zimbabwe and currently she is working on her PhD in Community Sustainability at Michigan State University.
Laura YoungMS
Laura’s research focuses on Michigan’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Process and examines how a diverse set of stakeholders perceive groundwater dynamics and water use in the state. She is also interested in evaluating outcomes from the use of environmental decision support systems (EDSS). Laura, an Outreach/Research Associate at the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research, has worked on multiple projects that developed and deployed EDSS for the Great Lakes region. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Agriscience and a B.A. in Russian from MSU.
Alison SingerPhD
Alison is interested in the role that narrative and story play in science communication and the uptake of scientific information.
Payam AminporPhD
Payam received a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a Master’s degree in Civil engineering-water resource management from Iran University of Science and Technology and is currently doing his PhD in Community sustainability at Michigan State University. His professional interests focus on modeling the complex Socio-Environmental-Systems when it comes to the group decision-making process. Before joining the lab, Payam was working on the impact of unsustainable human behavior on his country’s water resources, Iran.

His current researches include Knowledge Integration, collective intelligence, and modeling the group behavior and information exchange among diverse individuals via Agent-Based Modeling (ABM). With this question that how individuals’ mental models change as a result of interaction and communication through participatory decision-making processes, he is trying to develop a simulation platform using computer programming to evaluate group performances encountering with complex problems.
Alex MetzgerPhD
Alex's background in urban sustainability and resource flow analysis, sustainable forest management, and land conservation has led to his interest in stakeholder involvement with common pool resources. His current research focusses on analyzing the interplay among mental models, social networks, and resource management decision-making in order to understand the underlying factors that determine successful management strategies. He earned his B.S. in Conservation Biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, M.S. in Natural Resources from North Carolina State University, and M.S. in Forest Ecology from the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has also worked in both the government and non-profit sectors in positions related to natural resource conservation, environmental research, and land management.
Graduate StudentsFormer
Noelani PunawaiPhD, 2015
Born and raised in rural Puna on Hawai'i Island, Noe is passionate about protecting our islands, and specifically the ocean or seascape. Her work focuses on understanding the subjective meanings of the seascape and using this knowledge to inform management. Noe is academically trained in marine (BA UH Hilo) and environmental science (MSc. WSU) and is working on her PhD in the Natural Resources and Environmental Management program at UH Manoa. Noe is now a tenure-track assistant professor of at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Department of Hawaiian Studies.
Jackie Chan-HalbredntPhD, 2014
Jackie is interested in the individual (mental models), family (household), and social (community) implications of international agricultural development. Her dissertation research was funded by USAID and evaluated the different human dimensions of conservation agriculture. This research has been featured in leading journals like Global Environmental Change and in development relevant publications like Mountain Research and Development. Jackie recently traded the beautiful shores of Hawaii for the bucolic yet cosmopolitan scenery of Wageningen in the Netherlands. She continues collaborating with our group as part of the NSF Belmont Form Project working with rural farmers in India.
Molly MillerMS, 2014
A native of Massachusetts, Molly decided to take some time off from the New England winters to spend a few years in Hawaii. While at the University of Hawaii, Molly's research focused on evaluating the degree of fishermen participation in NOAA's cooperative research program in to understand (1) how fishermen participation in science changed since the program was started in 2000 and (2) the outcomes associated with scientists/fishermen collaboration.

Before heading to Hawaii, Molly received a BS in Biology from Vassar College in New York and since graduating, has returned to the beautiful and unforgiving coastline of Maine.
Angela NyakiMS, 2013
Angela joined the group in 2011 as a graduate student and Ford Foundation Fellow at the University of Hawaii in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management. Before joining the lab, Angela was a wildlife officer with the Tanzania National Park Service working in the Serengeti. Angela‘s research interest are in collaborative management of wildlife resources and with funding from the Frankfurt Zoological Society engaged in participatory modeling with the illegal hunters in the park to better understand the drivers of illegal poaching from the community perspective.
Mary PleasantMS, 2013
Mary's primary goal is to facilitate sustainable management of natural resources through engaging local community in conservation, and studying their effects on and interaction with the environment. Understanding how humans interact with the natural world requires an interdisciplinary approach of both the social and natural sciences, using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods.

Mary holds a B.S. is in Wildlife Biology from Humboldt State University, and M.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Management from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Professionally, she has worked for the Bureau of Land Management and California State Parks in natural resource management. In addition, while at the University of Hawaii, she was both a research assistant studying ecosystem services and project coordinator for an international development project in the Philippines that provided under-served youth access to agricultural entrepreneurship training and resources. She is now professional faculty in the Department of Applied Economics at Oregon State University.
  • Gray, S., M. Palissio, R. Jordan and S. Gray (Eds.) Participatory modeling for adaptation: Theory, methods, and applications. Springer Publishing, New York City (Springer 2017)
Refereed/Peer Reviewed
(graduate student/advisee co-author underlined; undergraduate co-author noted with asterisk*)
  • Gray, S., A., Voinov, M. Paolisso, R.C Jordan, Todd BenDor, P. Glynn, B. Hedelin, K. Hubacek J. Introne, 1N. Kolagani, B. Laursen, C. Prell, L. Schmitt-Olabisi, A. Singer, E. Sterling, M. Zellner. Purpose, Processes, Partnerships, and Products: 4Ps to advance participatory socio-environmental modeling. Ecological Applications. (in press).
  • Gray, S., A. Singer, L. Schmitt-Olabisi, J. Introne, and J. Handerson*, Identifying the causes, consequences, and solutions to the Flint Water Crisis through collaborative modeling. Environmental Justice (in press).
  • Sterling E, C. Filardi, J. Newell, S. Albert, D. Alvira, N. Bergamini, E. Betley, M. Blair, D. Boseto, K. Burrows, N. Bynum, S. Caillon, J.E. Caselle, J. Claudet, G. Cullman, R. Dacks, P. B. Eyzaguirre, N. Gazit, S. Gray, J. Herrera, P. Kenilorea, K. Kinney, N. Kurashima, S. Macey, S. Mauli, J. McCarter, H. McMillen, P. Pascua, P. Pikacha, A. Porzecanski, P. de Robert, M. Salpeteur, A. Sigouin, M. Sirikolo, M. H. Stege, K. Stege, T. Ticktin, A. Toomey, R. Vave, A. Wali, P. West, K. B. Winter, and S. Jupiter. Biocultural approaches to sustainability indicators: bridging local and global scales to foster human adaptive capacity and ecological resilience. Nature: Ecology and Evolution (in press)
  • Frensley, T., A. Crall, M. Stern, R.C. Jordan, S.A. Gray, M. Prysby, G. Newman, C. Hmelo-Silver. Bridging the benefits of online and community supported citizen science: A case study on motivation and retention with volunteers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice (in press).
  • Santo, A., Guillozet, K., Sorice, M.G., Baird, T, Gray, S., and J. Donlan. Examining private landowners' knowledge systems of an invasive species. Human Ecology (in press).
  • Giabbanelli, P., S.A. Gray, and P. Aminpour. 2017. Combining fuzzy cognitive maps with agent-based modeling: frameworks and pitfalls of a powerful hybrid modeling approach to understand human-environment interactions Environmental Modeling and Software. 95:320-325.
  • Stier, A., Samhouri, J., Gray, S., Martone, R., Mach., M. Halpern, B., Kappel, C., Scarborough, C., and P. Levin. 2017. Integrating expert opinion into food web conservation and management. Conservation Letters 10(1), 67–76
  • Newman, G, B. McGreavy, M. Clyde, M. Chandler, M. Haklay, H. Ballard, S. Gray, D. Mellor, and J. Gallo. 2017. Leveraging the power of place in citizen science for effective conservation decision making. Biological Conservation 208, 55-64
  • Gray, S., R. C. Jordan, A. Crall, G. Newman, C. Hmelo-Silver , J. Huang, W. Novak, D. Mellor, T. Frensley, M. Prysby, A. Singer. 2017. Combining participatory modelling and citizen science to support volunteer conservation action Biological Conservation. 208, 76-86
  • Jordan, R.C., Gray, S., Hmelo-Silver, Sorensen, A. and G. Newman. 2017. Modeling with a conceptual representation: Is it necessary? Does it work? Frontiers in Education, 4,7.
  • Gray, S.A. and S. Scyphers. 2017. Innovations in Collaborative Science: Advancing citizen science, crowdsourcing and participatory modeling to understand and manage marine social-ecological systems. In Levin, PS and M. Poe Editors. Conservation in the Anthropocene Ocean: Interdisciplinary Science in Support of Nature and People. Elsevier, San Diego
  • Gray, S. A., Paolisso, M., Jordan, R., & Gray, S. 2017. Introduction to Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders. Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders: Theory, methods and applications. Springer Publishing, New York City (in press)
  • Gray, S., Sadler1, A., Brown, R., Alison, S., Schmitt-Olabisi, L., Lopez, M., Henderson*, J., Gorman*, M., Wallace1, R., & Kaplowitz, M. 2016. Voices of Flint: Flint resident perceptions about the causes, consequences, and solutions to the Flint Water Crisis. CFGF Report
  • Singer, A., Jetter, A. Ellsworth, L., Gray, S., Zhang, P., and O. Lariarchi, 2017. Policy Scenarios for Fire-Adapted Communities: Understanding Stakeholder Risk Perceptions in Ashland, Oregon. BLM Report
  • Htun, H., S.A. Gray, C. Lepczyk, A. Titmus, and K. Adams. 2016. Combining watershed models and knowledge-based models to predict local-scale impacts of climate change on engendered wildlife. Environmental Modeling and Software. 84:44-457.
  • Li., O. S.A. Gray and S. Sutton. 2016. Mapping recreational fishers' informal learning of fisheries science using a fuzzy cognitive mapping approach to mental modeling. Fisheries Management and Ecology 23(4), 315–329.
  • Punawai, N., S.A. Gray, C. Severance, C. Lepczyk, 2016. Mapping ocean currents through human observations: Insights from Hilo Bay, Hawai'i. Human Ecology. 1-10.
  • Douglas, E., Wheeler, S., Smith, D., Overton, I., Gray, S., Crossman, N., and Doody, T. 2016.Using mental-modelling to explore how irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin make water-use decisions. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies. 6, 1-12.
  • Jordan, R.C., A.M. Crall, S.A. Gray, La Deau, S., Sorenson, A., Hmelo-Silver, S. Newman, G., and D.T. Mellor. 2016. Studying citizen science, adaptive management, and learning feedback as a mechanism for improving conservation Conservation Biology. 30(3), 487-495.
  • Henly-Shepard, S., Gray, S., and Cox, L. 2015. Facilitating community adaptation through participatory modeling and social learning.. Environmental Science and Policy. 45:109-122.
  • Barnes-Mauthe, M., Gray, S., Arita, S., Lynham, J. and, P. Leung. 2015. What determines social network capital in a social-ecological system? Environmental Management. 55. 392-410.
  • Hmelo-Silver, C., Liu, L., Gray, S., Jordan, R. 2015. Using representational tools to learn about complex systems (in press) Journal of Research in Science Teaching
    *Cover Article for January 2015
  • Gray, S., McFall, A., Hilsberg, J., and Arlinghaus, R. 2015. The impact of specialization and target species choice on the structure of mental models about fish population dynamics (in press) Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism
  • Gray, S., Gray, S., De-Kok, J.L., Helfgott, A., O'Dwyer, B., R.C. Jordan and A. Nyaki 2015. Using Fuzzy-Logic Cognitive Mapping as a participatory approach to measure resilience, change, and preferred states of social-ecological systems (in press) Ecology and Society
  • Jordan, R.C., A.M. Crall, S.A. Gray, T. Phillips and D.T. Mellor. 2015. Citizen science as a distinct field of inquiry BioScience. 65: 208-211.
  • Mellor, D., Brooks, W., Gray, S., and R.C. Jordan. 2015. Troubled transitions into college and the effects of a small intervention course (in press) Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice
  • Halbrendt, J., S. Gray, S., Radovich, T., Crow, S., Kimura, A. 2014. Differences in farmer and expert beliefs and the perceived impacts of conservation agriculture. Global Environmental Change. 28: 50-62.
  • Nayaki, A., Gray, S., Lepczyk, J. Skibins, D. Rentsch. 2014. Understanding the hidden drivers and local-scale dynamics of the bushmeat trade through participatory modeling Conservation Biology 28(5) 1403-1414.
  • Halbrendt, J., Gray, S., Radovich, T., and Kimura, A., Reed, B., and Tammang, B. 2014 Implications of conservation agriculture for men's and women's workloads among marginalized farmers in the Central Middle Hills of Nepal. Mountain Research and Development. 34(3) 214-222.
  • Punawai, N., Canale, L., Haws, M., Potemra, J., and Gray, S. 2014. Development of a GIS-based tool for aquaculture siting. International Journal of Geo-Information. 3:800-816.
  • Gray, S., Gray S., and Zanre, E. 2014. Fuzzy Cognitive Maps as representations of mental models and group beliefs: theoretical and technical issues. In Fuzzy Cognitive maps for Applied Sciences and Engineering -From fundamentals to extensions and learning algorithms Ed: Elpiniki I. Papageorgiou. Springer Publishing. pp 29-48.
  • Gray, S., D. Mellor, D, RC Jordan, and G. Newman. 2014. Modeling with citizen scientists. Proceedings of the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society (iEMSs) 7th Intl. Congress on Env. Modelling and Software, San Diego, CA, USA, Daniel P. Ames, Nigel W.T. Quinn and Andrea E. Rizzoli (Eds.)
     View Article
  • Gray, S., Gagnon, A.,Gray, S., Mahony, C., Muir, D., Falaleeva, M. 2014. Are local coastal managers detecting the problem? Assessing stakeholder perception of climate vulnerability using Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping. Ocean and Coastal Management. 94:74-89
  • Pleasant, M., Gray, S., Lepcyzk, C. Fernandez*, A., Hunter*, N., and D. Ford* 2014. Managing cultural ecosystem services: Local management yields large-scale benefits. Ecosystem Services. 8: 141-147.
  • Nicosia K, S. Daaram, B. Edelman, L. Gedrich, E. He, S. McNeilly, V. Sheno, A. Velagapudi, W. Wu ,L. Zhang, A. Barvalia, V. Bokka, B. Chan, J. Chiu, S. Dhulipalla, V. Hernandez, J. Jeon, P. Kanukollu, P. Kravets, A. Mantha, C. Miranda,V. Nigam, M. Patel, S. Praveen,T. Sang, S. Upadhyay, T. Varma,C. Xu, B. Yalamanchi, M. Zharova, A. Zheng ,R. Verma, J. Vasslides, J. Manderson, R.C. Jordan, and S.A. Gray. 2014. Determining the willingness to pay for ecosystem service restoration in a degraded coastal watershed: A ninth grade investigation. Ecological Economics. 104: 145-151.
  • Jordan, R.C., Brooks, W., Gray, S., Delisi, J., and A. Berkowitz. 2013. Rising to the challenge of 'broader impacts' Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(5) 234-235.
  • Sinha, S., Gray, S., Hmelo-Silver, C.E., Jordan, R.C., Eberbach, C., Goel, A., and S. Rugabar 2013. Conceptual representations for transfer A case study tracing back and looking forward. Frontlines in Learning Research 1(1) 3-24.
  • Gray, S. Gray, S., Cox, L., and Henly-Shepard, S. 2013. Mental modeler: A fuzzy-logic cognitive mapping modeling tool for adaptive environmental management. Proceedings of the 46th International Conference on Complex Systems. 963-973.
  • Jordan, R.C., C. Hmelo-Silver, L. Liu, and S. Gray. 2013. Using a complex system ontology to foster ecosystem learning. Applied Environmental Education and Communication 12(1) 55-64.
  • Barnes-Mauthe, M., S. Arita, S. D. Allen, S. A. Gray and P. Leung. 2013. The influence of ethnic diversity on social network structure in a common-pool resource system: Implications for collaborative management. Ecology and Society 18 (1): 23.
     View Article
  • Jordan, R.C., DeLisi, J., Brooks, W., Gray, S., Alvarado, A., Berkowitz, A. 2013. A collaborative model of science teacher professional development. International Journal of Modern Education Forum 2(2) 31-41.
  • Jordan, R.C., Gray, S., Brooks, W., Hemlo-Silver, C.E., Honwad, S. 2013. Process-based thinking in ecological science. Natural Sciences Education 42(1): 68-74
  • Gray, S., Nicosia, K.; and Jordan, R. C. 2012. Lessons learned from citizen science in the classroom. Democracy and Education, 21(1) 14.
  • Gray, S., R. Shwom, R. C. Jordan 2012. Understanding factors that influence stakeholder trust of natural resource science and institutions Environmental Management 49, 663-674.
  • Gray, S., Chan, A.*, Clark, D.* and R.C. Jordan. 2012. Modeling the integration of stakeholder knowledge in social-ecological system decision-making: Benefits and limitations to knowledge diversity. Ecological Modeling 229, 88-96.
  • Jordan, R.C., Ehrenfeld, J., Gray, S., Brooks, W. & C.E. Hmelo-Silver. 2012 Cognitive considerations in citizen science. Eds: R. Bonnie J. Dickenson. In Citizen Science: Public Participation in Environmental Research. Cornell University Press
  • Kohut, J. Palarama, L., Bochenek, E., Jenson, O., Manderson, J. Oliver, M., Gray, S., and C. Roebuck 2012. Using ocean observing systems and local ecological knowledge to nowcast butterfish bycatch events in the Mid-Atlantic Bight longfin squid fishery. Oceans, 1-6
  • Palarama, L., Manderson, J., Kohut, J., Oliver, M., Gray, S. and Goff, J. 2012 Improving habitat models by incorporating pelagic measurements by coastal ocean observatories. Marine Ecology Progress Series 447, 15-30.
  • Jordan, R.C., S. Gray, D. Howe, W. Brooks, and J. Ehrenfeld. 2011. Knowledge gain and behavior change in citizen-science programs. Conservation Biology. (25) 1148-1154.
  • Vattam, S., Goel, A., Rugaber, S., Hmelo-Silver, C., Jordan, R., Gray, S., Sinha, S., 2011 Understanding complex natural systems by articulating Structure-Behavior-Function models. Educational Technology and Society 14(1) 66-81.
  • Gray, S. and R.C. Jordan. 2010. Ecosystem-based angling: Incorporating recreational fishermen into ecosystem-based management. Human Dimensions of Wildlife. 15(4) 233-246.
  • Gray, S., M. Ives, J. P. Scandol, and R.C. Jordan. 2010. Categorizing the risks in fisheries management. Fisheries Management and Ecology. 17(6) 501-512.
  • Sinha, S., Gray, S., Hmelo-Silver, C.E., Jordan, R.C., Honwad, S. 2010, Appropriating conceptual representations: A case of transfer among middle school science teachers Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences.(1) 834-841.
  • Gray, S. Ives, M., Scandol, J., and Jordan, R 2009. Classifying the risk in fisheries management in Australia and the U.S. Atlantic coast. In: Scandol JP, Ives MC and Lockett MM Development of national guidelines to improve the application of risk-based methods in the scope, implementation and interpretation of stock assessments for data-poor species. Final report to the Fisheries Research & Development Corporation for Project No. 2007/016.3 Industry & Investment NSW Final Report Series No. 115. Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre of Excellence, NSW, Australia pp 164-179.
  • Jordan, R.C., S. Gray, C. Hmelo-Silver, M. Demeter, and L. Lui. 2009. An assessment of students' understanding of ecosystem concepts: Conflating ecological systems and cycles. Applied Environmental Education and Communication. 8(1) 40-48.
  • Gray, S., C. E. Hmelo-Silver, L. Liu, R.C. Jordan, H. Jeong. 2008. Learning with ecosystem. models. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of the Learning Sciences. 1: 289-296.
  • Jordan, R.C., S. Gray, and R. Golan-Duncan. 2008. Teachers and scholarship: Self-definition of teachers in the scientific enterprise. Education and Society, 26(3) 33-44.
  • Hmelo-Silver, C. R. C. Jordan, L. Lui, S. Gray, M. Demeter, S. Rugaber, S.Varrtam, and A.Goel. 2008. Focusing on function: Thinking below the surface of complex natural systems Science Scope, 31: 27-35
  • Jordan, R.C., S. Gray, M. Demeter, L. Lui, and C. Hmelo-Silver. 2008. Quick fix: Don't forget behavior in systems thinking! American Biology Teacher, 70: 329-330.

Our research concentrates on understanding how individuals and groups make decisions about complex social-ecological systems with a focus on how values, attitudes, beliefs or local conditions influence human behavior. It is always our goal to link these data to other datasets (although not always possible!) so that we can explain environmental or social change.

human-environment interaction scenario 2human-environment interaction scenario 3

To understand the various ways in which humans' interact with their environment, we use several social science (e.g. interviews, surveys, focus groups), participatory modeling (e.g. fuzzy-logic cognitive mapping, agent-based models) and natural science (e.g. watershed modeling, agricultural measurements) methods. In addition, we are currently developing new frameworks and software tools to make this type of interdisciplinary research more commonplace in the future.

This work draws from a range of disciplines (e.g., cognitive psychology, systems sciences, planning, ecology, and computer science) and has been supported by NSF, NOAA, USEPA, BLM, USDA, the Leibniz Institute (Germany) and the Australian Academy of Sciences.

Research FundingCurrent
National Academy of Sciences
Collaborative modeling with Fuzzy Cognitive Maps:A novel approach to achieving safety culture
Engaging commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishers to improve management of Striped Bass fisheries in New England 
Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
Public participation and participatory modeling for action-oriented outcomes
Predicting the social impacts of climate change on fisheries in communities on the Atlantic coast
Research FundingSelected Past
Department of the Interior (Bureau of Land Management)
Policy Scenarios for fire-adapted communities: understanding stakeholder risk-perceptions
Forecasting climate change impacts on coastal ecosystem services in Hawaii through integration of ecological and social models
NSF (Belmont Forum)
Agriculture, food security & climate change: Sustainable management of agro-ecological resources for tribal societies
NSF Cyberlearning
Sustaining ecological community through citizen science and online collaboration
USGS Water Resources Research Institute Programs
Forecasting climate change impacts on watershed-based ecosystem services in Hawaii
Mental Modeler: Developing a software tool to support community-based decision-making
Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries
Freshwater Understanding the relationship between natural resource decision-maker mental models and sustainable natural resource management in freshwater recreational fisheries
NOAA Cooperative Research, Conservation Engineering
Evaluation of broad and fine scale models of butterfish biomass applied to by-catch reduction in the longfin inshore squid fishery in the Mid-Atlantic Bight
NOAA Cooperative Research, Conservation Engineering
Integrating habitat models and stakeholder knowledge into commercial fishing to reduce by-catch
NSF Office of International Science and Engineering
Improving the management of data-poor fisheries: Evaluating risk and uncertainty in fisheries management in Australia and the United States
Mental ModelerA Participatory Modeling Tool for Communities and Researchers

Participatory modeling has grown in popularity in recent years with the acknowledgement that stakeholder knowledge is an essential component in effective environmental decision-making. Including stakeholders in model building and model analysis allows decision-makers to understand important conceptual components in the system under management, build trust and common understanding between often diverse and competing groups, and reduce uncertainty by mining information that might not be a part of scientific assessment performed by experts alone. Although the benefits of participatory modeling are somewhat clear, scientific modeling software used routinely by experts is often too complicated for many novice users.

For the last four years, I have been developing open-source participatory-modeling software called Mental Modeler (www.mentalmodeler.org) that utilizes a fuzzy-logic cognitive mapping (FCM) approach and allows environmental stakeholders opportunities to develop semi-quantitative models of social-ecological systems. This software is designed with two goals in mind. The first is to afford stakeholders and other decision-makers an opportunity to understand the perceived structure of a managed system as well as how the system may react under a range of social and environmental scenarios. This appropriation uses the software as a collaborative learning tool which standardizes knowledge across types (local ecological, traditional ecological, scientific, etc.), allows real-time understanding of potential outcomes of future scenarios, and can create meta-models of stakeholder knowledge.

The second goal of the software is to popularize and facilitate "mental modeling" as a social-science method by collecting and quantitatively comparing the beliefs of individual stakeholders and to characterizing community-level knowledge about environmental or social issues. This appropriation allows the knowledge of different stakeholders to be quantitatively compared using network measures and can be used to understand conditions under which the predicted outcomes associated with different environmental policy or change scenarios are shared or divergent across stakeholder groups. The following examples illustrate how this approach has been used in a range of studies