Linking place-based science to people through spatial narratives of coastal stewardship

J. Silbernagel, George E Host, Cynthia A Hagley, D. Hart, Richard P Axler, R. Fortner, M. Axler, V. Smith, A. Drewes, W. Bartsch, N. Danz, J. Mathews, M. Wagler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Stressor gradients and spatial narratives of the St. Louis River Estuary, a joint Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant study, connected aquatic science research with spatially-explicit stories of local resource issues and place-based geo-quests to enhance spatial awareness and stewardship of the estuary. The goal of this paper is to report and reflect on an integrated study that combined environmental humanities and technology with aquatic science in a spatial context. Our study was organized into three objectives around research, outreach, and evaluation. First, we summarized anthropogenic stressors within high resolution watersheds and linked the watershed stress estimates to aquatic habitats within the estuary. Second, we designed tools to deliver place-based environmental science and technology to targeted users to increase awareness, learning, and the potential for long-term stewardship. And third, we evaluated the responses of targeted end users to their interaction with the project’s integrated science and innovative delivery methods. Finally, central to all three objectives, we created a dynamic website to facilitate regional to national coastal outreach and education goals. We found significant correlations between the stressor index and the water quality and biotic data, along with variability attributed to landscape elements. Connecting this science with the place-based experiences we collected is expected to expand the scope and reach of state, bi-national and non-governmental outreach programs. The project also has direct applications to classroom science education. Developing this integrated project contributed to our shared knowledge of environmental and cultural aspects of the estuary for place-based education, and offers several lessons for future work of this nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-198
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Coastal Conservation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 22 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Our team also had extensive in-kind support from the University of Minnesota-Duluth Natural Resources Research Institute, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant Institutes. We would especially like to acknowledge J. Reed (Red Pebble Web Design) for website design.

Funding Information:
This work was supported primarily by a joint Minnesota and Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute (NOAA) project. This work was funded by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute under grants from the National Sea Grant College Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, and from the State of Wisconsin. Federal grant number NA100AR4170070, project number R/RegHCE-08-10. The Minnesota Sea Grant portion of the project was funded under grant number R/RegHCE-8-10.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Area of concern
  • Geoquests
  • Place-based learning
  • Spatial narratives
  • St. Louis River estuary
  • Stressor gradients


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