Announcing a new partnership with the National Research Council and the Ocean Frontiers Institute via their Tier 1 Ocean Graduate Excellence Network (OGEN), drawing together two existing streams of my research: landscape culturomics and nature-based coastal adaptation. Globally the need to integrate social sciences and humanities work with STEM -based projects is being recognized in the coastal and marine spaces. An example of increasing urgency is the need for climate-change resilient anthropogenic and natural coastal infrastructure. These are not merely science and engineering challenges. The political will to implement nature-based options will falter if the social dimensions of such options are not given equivalent attention as the technical.

This 4.5-year NRC-OGEN PhD Studentship (2021-2026) will take a longitudinal culturomic approach to understanding the process of nature-based adaptation methods such as salt marsh restoration from the perspective of affected people. Culturomics involves the counting of cultural output (e.g. social media) as a way of understanding society, providing a new research ‘instrument’ to view patterns of human interests and behaviours otherwise not accessible. Longitudinal research designs (i.e. with multiple instances of data collection over time) are critical to understanding how people live in a place, interpret the options presented during times of change, and adapt (or not) to the resulting landscape.

This project sets out to delineate a curve of support over time for a nature-based adaptation installation, based on opinion-based media coverage (e.g. Twitter), and to contextualize it through comparison with culturomic insights about land use and landscape values elicited through lifestyle-oriented media (e.g. Instagram). Conventional media such as newspaper coverage will be mined in parallel on both counts, given the challenges of rural internet and the demographic biases of social media. Case study work in the Chignecto Isthmus is likely, given ongoing work with TransCoastal Adaptations in that area, to compare with a similar site that is not having any infrastructure change, or that is facing a hard-infrastructure solution installed, to allow us to control for general cultural changes.

An interdisciplinary team has been assembled to oversee this research, in addition to me:

  • Enda Murphy, Senior Research Engineer, Oceans, Coastal and River Engineering, National Research Council
  • Dr. Patricia Manuel, Full Professor, School of Planning, Dalhousie University
  • Dr. Mike Smit, Associate Professor, School of Information Management, Dalhousie University
  • Dr. Ian Stewart, Associate Professor, History of Science and Technology Programme, University of King’s College, and Adjunct Faculty, Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University

Recruitment is currently underway.