Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Sciences/Environmental, Earth & Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Ellen M. Douglas

Second Advisor

Paul Kirshen

Third Advisor

Nardia Haigh


Boston, Massachusetts has experienced frequent damage and negative impacts from storms and flooding events and is currently planning for a more hazardous future due climate change. Contemporary, social-ecological system (SES) approaches rely on vulnerability and resilience to describe system capacities and use adaptation as a means of adjusting its trajectory. The adaptive co-management (ACM) framework builds upon these approaches by emphasizing the importance of stakeholder mental models; the diverse array of internally-held understandings and dynamic representations of a system. Stakeholder mental models contain a wealth of information to support adaptation and present an opportunity to understand the diversity of perspectives that define effectiveness and equitability. Fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) is a growing approach in the field of participatory modeling that facilitates elicitation of mental models as a web of concepts and weighted relationships. In this dissertation, we explored the utility of participatory FCM to better understand variation in mental models among flood managers in Boston and discover opportunities for social learning and collaboration. We first conducted a literature review of participatory FCM case studies to create a typology of approaches. This typology guided our participatory modeling process with organizations involved in flood mitigation and adaptation at various jurisdictional scales. We then used a novel method of knowledge classification with participatory FCM to study variation in flood manager perspectives. Next, we explored the utility of using FCM's to create boundary objects meant to facilitate shared learning among Boston’s flood managers.


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