Communication in ecosystem management: A case study of cross-disciplinary integration in the assessment phase of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project

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New York, NY: Springer-Verlag New York, LLC

Effective communication is essential to the success of collaborative ecosystem management projects. In this paper, we investigated the dynamics of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project's (ICBEMP) cross-disciplinary integration process in the assessment phase. Using a case study research design, we captured the rich trail of experience through conducting in-depth interviews and collecting information from internal and public documents, videos, and meetings related to the ICBEMP. Coding and analysis was facilitated by a qualitative analysis software, NVivo. Results include the range of internal perspectives on barriers and facilitators of cross-disciplinary integration in the Science Integration Team (SIT). These are arrayed in terms of discipline-based differences, organizational structures and activities, individual traits of scientists, and previous working relationships. The ICBEMP organization included a team of communication staffs (CT), and the data described the CT as a mixed group in terms of qualifications and educational backgrounds that played a major role in communication with actors external to the ICBEMP organization but a minor one in terms of internal communication, The data indicated that the CT-SIT communication was influenced by characteristics of actors and structures related to organizations and their cultures. We conclude that the ICBEMP members may not have had a sufficient level of shared understanding of central domains, such as the task at hand and ways and timing of information sharing. The paper concludes by suggesting that future ecosystem management assessment teams use qualified communications specialists to design and monitor the development of shared cognition among organization members in order to improve the effectiveness of communication and cross-disciplinary integration.

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Ecosystem management, Ecosystem, Semiarid zones, Surface water, Water, Agricultural ecosystems, Natural resource management, Communication process, Cross-disciplinary integration, Ecosystem management, Interdisciplinary, Interior columbia basin ecosystem management project, Shared cognition, Ecosystem
Environmental Management 33(5): 591-605