Telecoupling: science to inform understanding of coupled
Environmental disruption in one location can ricochet across space, impacting human well-being in other locations. For example, forest loss in one part of the United States may cause agricultural production to decline in another part of the country. In the field of coupled natural-human systems, these long distance connections are called telecouplings.
Our lab has contributed to theoretical advances with a method – spatial subsidies – to quantify how the benefits a migratory species provides to people in one area depend on habitat in other locations, often across political boundaries. This has led to the creation of new ecological knowledge of migratory species, and new information and approaches to support their conservation across borders.
We are expanding our work to consider how forest loss in one area may create hidden climate change risks to crop production, agricultural markets, and farmer livelihoods elsewhere. Our long-term objective is the development of governance approaches that respond to the new reality in which environmental problems can span multiple jurisdictions and cause ecological and social harms in geographically distant regions.
Data science tools
for environmental policy analysis
We are developing a knowledge platform called NEPAccess, to provide access to the data contained within, and analysis of, policy documents, such as environmental reviews. The platform makes available for the first-time analytical tools—using natural language processing—to enable systematic research on critical questions about the human environment.
The platform provides access to tens of thousands of documents and integrates documents across multiple repositories. It links text to metadata even when text comes from one source and the metadata from another allowing inference of more detailed types of metadata that are not present in any of the existing repositories from analysis of the text. Once the platform is well established, the team will build a user community to catalyze scholarship and develop long-term mechanisms to ensure the sustainability, management, and use of the platform. The platform will be useful to scholars from the natural and social sciences.