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Civic Ecology in the Portland/Vancouver ULTRA inquiry: Information for Decision Making

Project Leaders: Sean Gordon, Anita Morzillo

Using the four Illustrative Research Projects as case studies, this cross-cutting activity will apply a common research framework to study how ecological information feeds back into social decision making processes.


  1. Conduct a synthesis study of how ecological information is being used in the social contexts of each of the core research project domains and for each jurisdiction. For the decisions in each research project area we propose three basic questions:
    1. What ecological conditions are being assessed, and (if so), how is this information being incorporated into land management?
    2. Are there ecological principles that are regularly adapted, and (if so) what are they, what are the sources of the information, and how is the information used specifically?
    3. As applicable, what factors determine the incorporation of ecological conditions and principle information into decision making, and what other factors may result in decision making that does not fully consider such information?
  2. Take a participatory action research approach by working with Metro and other stakeholders to prototype and test one or more new tools or approaches designed to actually use data described in pursuit of Objective #1 in decision making.
    1. Metro's Regional Environmental Information Network: a web based clearinghouse for environmental projects and citizen engagement.
    2. The Institutes for Natural Resources Oregon Explorer tool: a set of online mapping tools for topics such as land use, wildlife, and natural hazards.

Methods for Objective #1:

  1. Construct case studies of specific decisions by using the information gathered by each of the four research projects, and building on it as necessary by reviewing historical and current policy documents and conducting interview with key stakeholders and decision makers.
    1. Step 1: Selecting one or more decisions to study in each project area.
      1. Compare across projects at this level how much influence did the policies in each project area have on the focal ecological resource for each project?
      2. Focus on the role of ecological information on policy development.
    2. Step 2: Prepare a framework oriented at advancing theory on why information is or is not used in decision making.
    3. Step 3: Compile the case study based on the theoretical framework and some overarching questions.

Methods for Objective #2:

  1. Use information from the results of Objective #1 to construct the conceptual design of a research tool that features the items identified as important in Objective #1.