• Science, perception and scale: an interdisciplinary analysis of environmental change and community adaptive capaciy

      Grunblatt, Jesse E.; Wipfli, Mark; Adams, Barbara; Carothers, Courtney; Monahan, John (2020-05)
      The discrepancy between science-based assessments of climate change and public acknowledgement of climate change has been extensively documented at a national level. The relationship of science-based assessments and public awareness of environmental change at the local community level is less studied. An understanding of how science-based information informs local perception is important to ensure that science communication effectively supports community decision making. This dissertation explores the gap between science-based assessments and local perception of environmental change within a framework of adaptive capacity. The research is divided into three interrelated studies that provide: 1) an assessment of community perception of local environmental change, 2) a local study that illustrates science-based assessment and reporting, and 3) an evaluation of the role news media plays in communicating science to the public. The first study implemented a survey of residents on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula to evaluate individual perception of environmental change as well as attitudes regarding climate change and natural resource management. Differences in perception of local environmental change were identified among respondents as well as shared perceptions. The use of property regulation to protect the Kenai River was identified as a divisive issue; however, there was a shared concern regarding the condition of local salmon populations. A second science-based ecological study was developed that examined those issues and linked conservation of riparian vegetation to juvenile salmon rearing habitat. This study examined the diet of stream-rearing juvenile Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and determined that the proportion of invertebrates which enter the stream from riparian habitats varied based on vegetation type for three streams in the Kenai watershed. The third study investigated how news media play a role in the interpretation of technical, science-based reporting for the public. It demonstrated that local news media provide a unique opportunity to promote communication of science-based information to their audiences by providing content that is familiar and relevant, offering a variety of topical framings, developing authoritative or trusted voices, and providing frequent exposure to content.