In 2011, the Research Ambassador Program (RAP) recruited ten Fellows to come to the Evergreen State College campus for intensive training in communication of their research to non-traditional audiences. This allowed the Fellows to gain personalized guidance on disseminating their own research to established groups and create springboards for outreach in their home communities, and for the RAP staff to evaluate the efficacy of their activities.
Matthew Hurteau has a PhD in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and a BS in forestry from Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff. His research is at the nexus of ecology, economics, and policy on issues pertaining to climate change mitigation and adaptation in forest systems. He has examined the role of ecology in informing carbon accounting policy, and has developed metrics for quantifying the risk associated with sequestering carbon in fire-prone forests and valuing impermanent carbon offsets as a function of their ability to reduce compliance costs in a cap-and-trade framework. His research on the risk of forest carbon loss due to wildfire has been covered by a number of media outlets including National Public Radio, the Guardian, and ClimateWire. Hurteau is currently leading two projects to quantify the carbon trade-offs associated with different forest management practices. Dr. Hurteau also serves as the Graduate Coordinator for the MS in Climate Science and Solutions at Northern Arizona University. This is a professional program designed to train the workforce necessary for climate change mitigation in the emerging carbon economy.
Components of his Fellowship
RAP staff walked through Matt’s draft PowerPoint presentations, offering pointers and clarifications, and adjustments to make the presentations appropriate for specific audiences that Matt spoke to or wrote for, based on established contacts and experiences. RAP staff also helped Matt distill a statement of his primary research interests.
Stafford Creek Corrections Center
In partnership with the Sustainable Prisons Project, Matt spoke to 40 offenders and staff at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Matt described the economic and ecological principles behind climate change and forest carbon sequestration, and then related the material to individual impacts a single person can have to ecological communities.
The inmates demonstrated a high level of understanding of the ecology discussed as they probed into the fire cycle, carbon dynamics, and the supply and demand involved in pricing carbon during the question and answer period.
Matt spent time with RAP staff at local outdoor recreation stores considering how scientific messages could be infused into the experience of purchasing ski or snowboarding equipment, and how scientists may interface with the recreation industry. Interesting ideas emerged of publishing in skiing magazines, as well as collaborating with ski resorts.
Matt presented his work to a group of faculty, students and staff at The Evergreen State College. By quickly transitioning between the presentations to offenders and faculty, Matt developed a sense of the need to adapt presentations to the audience.
Reflections and Lessons Learned
Matt entered the fellowship with some prior experience collaborating and communicating with members of the media. The Fellowship deepened his confidence communicating with diverse audiences, and with a sense that any audience could be receptive to science.
Communication after Matt’s return to his home institution included the following:
- RAP staff arranged to have the Provost at Evergreen send a formal letter of acknowledgment to his Dean so that he receives an appropriate academic reward;
- RAP staff invited him to participate in an upcoming workshop on the RAP at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America
- Matt has continued to offer frequent presentations to area land managers, incorporating new skills and perspectives.
- Presentation on Southern Colorado Plateau Climate Change Impacts – Flagstaff National Monuments Climate Friendly Parks Workshop
- Presentation on forest-based climate change mitigation – 2011 Workshop on Water Management and Climate Change in Arizona
- Keynote address at the Klamath Fire Symposium on stabilizing versus maximizing forest carbon in fire-prone forests
- Based on our discussions of the ecological impacts of recreational activities, Matt is currently working with a student on a life cycle assessment of a renewably sourced/recycled ski pole.