What is Resilience Design?
Through a diversity of social and ecological approaches the Resilience Design Group addresses “wicked problems” — those challenges that result from complex interactions and without clear and straightforward outcomes. We seek to find durable solutions to environmental and social challenges through synergistic approaches using open and transparent processes that are emergent, collaborative, and frequently place-based. Resilience design seeks to move the resilience and complexity paradigms to the next level by actively experimenting with transdisciplinary approaches. We recognize that systems cannot be managed or controlled when dealing with complex, multi-faceted problems. The process of resilience design requires understanding the core underlying processes that sustain the system and developing the institutions that set the preconditions to maintain or restore the key elements that allow the system itself to evolve, respond, or adapt.
Director of the Resilience Design Group
Charles G. Curtin, Ph.D
I have worked at the interface of theory and practice for much of my career with an emphasis on a synthesis of ecological and social perspectives. This work has primarily focused on large, open spaces in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. This includes designing and implementing large-scale ecosystem studies engaging local people in the US Southwest and the coast of Maine, and collaborative projects in the East Africa and the Middle East. The core question is how to apply resilience and complexity-based approaches to dynamic “real world” situations primarily revolving around issues of climate and landscape change by integrating experimental and comparative approaches.
Steven M. Alexander, Applied Human Ecologist
The ‘wicked’ problems and environmental challenges of the 21st century characterized by complexity and uncertainty require not only new approaches, but also new modes of inquiry. If novel solutions are to be devised and developed to address these challenges we must be willing and open to bridging both disciplines and research strategies. As an applied human ecologist, my teaching, research, and writing seek to explore and address the inherent complexity and uncertainty of complex social-ecological systems. More specifically, my work is situated at the intersection of complexity, environmental change, and adaptive governance. As an interdisciplinary educator I have worked with students in a variety of bioregions including the Colorado Plateau, Adirondacks/ Northern Forest, the Greater Yellowstone Geo-ecosystem and the Canadian Rockies. I have taught and developed both curriculum and programs for several non-profits and educational institutions including the National Outdoor Leadership School, Teton Science Schools and Wild Rockies Field Institute.
Peggy Eppig, Agroecologist
My research interests are in wild bee taxonomy, restoration ecology and sustainable agriculture merge in the working landscapes of New England. Investigating this dynamic landscape at the scale of the bee allows me to interpret ecological relationships that have co-evolved over 100 million years and to discover the adaptive responses of pollinator-plant systems as they experienced the environmental changes that resulted from human settlement, resource extraction, fragmentation and agriculture over the past several centuries. Integral to my work are the perspectives of traditional beekeepers and farmers who interpret these landscapes as naturalists, agrarians and keen observers of seasonal patterns, cycles and processes. I work with farmers and landowners to develop and restore wild pollinator habitat and landscape features to ensure key natural elements of sustainable, resilient and thriving local agriculture.
Claudia J. Ford, Ethnographer
I have had a global career in international women’s health and development. My research interests are in women’s traditional ecological knowledge, environmental anthropology, and environmental representation within culture. I am specifically intrigued by the roots of resilience theory within traditional ecological wisdom. I am interested in exploring the ways that traditional ecological information is and is not place-based, using the transferrable and syncretic traditional knowledge of African American slaves, especially women, as an example of uprooted, disrupted, but enduring knowledge of the land.
Brett R. McLeod, Forester, Resource Economist
My primary interest is the integration of social and economic considerations in constructing durable, rural land use policies. Elusive terms such as “sustainable development” often promise, but rarely deliver, truly integrated environmental solutions. As an Assistant Professor in the School of Forestry & Natural Resources at Paul Smith’s College, I challenge my students to address issues from a variety of socio-economic perspectives. Recent work includes ongoing community-based research in the Adirondack Park, as well as serving as a US AID- sponsored resource development consultant in the Dominican Republic.
My interest in resilience and complexity began during my Peace Corps service in the
Republic of Armenia. My current focus is community based adaptive environmental
management. For me, this process of decision-making offers a powerful way to make management choices within situations involving wicked problems and chaotic systems. Most recently I have been exploring community based management within the fields of forestry, agriculture, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Sally Ann Sims, Applied Ecology and Policy, Global Change Science
I’m interested in intersections of biodiversity, global change science, and human ecology. I’m currently studying the effect of projected sea level rise on Piping Plover nesting habitat on beaches in southern Rhode Island. Global environmental change—sea level rise, beach erosion, ocean acidification, plastics pollution, species range shifts—is very visible in coastal and marine habitats. We can see the results on our favorite beaches and harbors and increasingly measure it in distant ocean ecosystems. Our livelihoods, our properties, our health, and the future of marine life biodiversity depend on how we respond in the coming decades to multiple changes in ocean and coastal ecosystems. I’m interested in coalition-building to find solutions that integrate our growing scientific knowledge, our local, ‘in the water’ knowledge, and sustainable economies.
For ten years I have bridged the worlds of U.S. social services and education in my work life, and environmental studies in my academic life. Now I find myself at the interdisciplinary crossroads of these three places. My interests are in community development, agri-food system analysis, social justice, and resilience thinking. My research questions revolve around how society might build food systems – ones that are more local and regional in their breadth than not – that are better prepared to withstand shocks and disturbances like extreme weather events, spikes in global food pricing, and political unrest. Currently my research interests are focused upon agricultural seed banks and their potential for increasing agri-food system resilience, especially in marginalized communities in the Global South. My travels will take me back to Haiti in July 2012 where I hope to build friendships in a burgeoning eco-village created for families affected by the 2010 earthquake.
My research interest is focused around the dynamic complexity of the human and ecological systems in Kalimantan, Indonesia as related to orangutan conservation. In particular, I am studying how community-based reforestation projects enhance landscape level conservation efforts through the creation of wildlife corridors linking isolated habitat fragments across the region. Deforestation for land conversion to palm oil plantations is leading to increased system instability and fragility with serious consequences for local and indigenous communities and the rich species diversity of the tropical rain forest ecosystems. My goal is to integrate the ecological and human paradigms with a collaborative social framework to build resilience into the system in the face of unpredictable environmental, economic, and social change.