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Campus sustainability and natural area stewardship: student involvement in adaptive comanagement

Marianne E Krasny, Cornell University
Jesse Delia

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06787-190327

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Abstract

University campus sustainability initiatives have proliferated over the last decade. We contend that such initiatives benefit from applying conceptual frameworks to help understand and guide their activities and from a focus on campus open space and natural areas management. Informed by an adaptive comanagement framework encompassing social learning, social capital, and shared action, we used semistructured interviews to examine student participation in the immediate response and longer-term policy formulation following a crisis that occurred in a campus natural area. Students exhibited social learning as demonstrated by reflection and the integration of new ideas through discussions with administrators and peers, as well as social capital through increased social trust, which led to a shift in perspective regarding norms of student-administrator interactions. Further, students participated in shared action, such as posting warning signs in dangerous areas, and importantly, through their contributions to longer-term campus natural area safety and recreational access policy. Three conditions explain student engagement in the adaptive comanagement process: the presence of a pre-existing student organization that had built bonding social capital and was committed to campus natural area stewardship, openness to multiple stakeholder viewpoints and commitment to action on the part of the university administration, and the presence of a crisis that spurred emotions and action. Based on these findings, we assert that student organizations can contribute to an adaptive comanagement process and that such a process is consistent with university and campus sustainability values related to the importance of student engagement, mental health, and learning.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; natural areas; sustainability; university

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087