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Icon for: J. Amy Belaire

J. AMY BELAIRE

University of Illinois at Chicago
Finalist Community Choice Winner

Abstract

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It's a small world: Mapping connections in urban ecosystems with network analysis

Natural resource management in urban ecosystems is often a collaborative effort involving a complex web of diverse stakeholders. This study examined the social context of urban environmental stewardship. We applied social network analysis to the environmental community in the Calumet region – a highly industrialized, unique ecosystem on the south shore of Lake Michigan. Our analysis focused on two broad questions. First, what are the patterns in flow of information and ideas in the environmental community of Calumet? Specifically, we looked at the importance of geography and organization type in connections. Second, are there any communication gaps that could be bridged to promote environmental goals in the region? The network of attendees at a regional environmental summit indicated that organizations in this region are remarkably well connected. Geographic distance appeared to influence network connections, with groups closer to one another having more connections. Federal government agencies were well connected and may serve as “hubs” in the network, but commercial and industrial stakeholders were less well connected. Regional conservation network analyses like this one can help identify potential avenues for improving collaboration among diverse groups to strengthen ecological stewardship efforts.