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Student Focus - Michelle Johnson

Early on, my career interests centered on habitat conservation. My Master’s research at the University of Vermont (M.S., Natural Resource Planning) focused on identifying optimal reserves for representing biodiversity, while incorporating tradeoffs with economic-based land uses. Over time, as my understanding of the causes of threats to habitat expanded, my research interests have shifted from how we can best protect habitat to understanding the inter-relationship of humans and our environment. As such, I recently returned to school for a PhD to focus on exploring sustainability as it applies to land use.
At the University of Maine, I am on the Alternative Futures team within the Sustainability Solutions Initiative, a 5-year NSF-funded initiative for exploring sustainable solutions within the state of Maine. My advisors are Rob Lilieholm here in the School of Forest Resources and Chris Cronan, an ecosystem ecologist in the School of Biology and Ecology. Our team is currently investigating complementarity and conflict among land uses within the Lower Penobscot River Watershed in Maine. By identifying suitability of areas for each of these land uses and then examining what happens under multiple scenarios, such a process can identify where potential land use conflicts may occur in the future. This highly visual approach provides an easy way of communicating complex processes as we look towards an uncertain future. I am excited by the prospect of contributing to an effort with such utility and potential for application to planning.
Related to our team’s research, I am currently in the process of identifying and honing in on my dissertation research. At present, my research interests include understanding individual preferences for household location, developing spatial models of land use change based upon individual decisions within regulatory constraints, and understanding the causes of decentralized and centralized land use patterns and the success of related economic incentives.
A newcomer to Maine, I am enjoying the snowy winters, expansive forests, and numerous recreation opportunities found within the small-town New England settlement pattern.

 


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