Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Anthony W. D'Amato

Second Advisor

Rachel E. Schattman


Increasingly, the socio-environmental challenges confronting forest systems such as climate change, invasive plant species, insects, and pathogens will demand that forest stewards leverage their adaptive potential across multiple spatial and temporal scales. However, adaptation is not occurring evenly across regions, resulting in adaptation gaps. These gaps are projected to have disproportionately greater impacts on vulnerable populations, such as Indigenous Nations, whose cultures, economies, and rights to self-determination are tied to the landscape through generations of stewardship. Despite their vulnerability, these multifaceted relationships between Indigenous peoples and their homelands, have led to a growing recognition that Indigenous knowledge systems and knowledge holding communities hold critical insights to strengthen adaptability to environmental change. In order to advance equitable adaptive actions across regions, there is a need to explore the context-specific conditions that enable climate adaptation, collaboration, and knowledge exchange within and across unique governance arrangements (e.g., state and Tribal Nations) responsible for forest stewardship.

This thesis describes how forest stewards from state agencies and Tribal Nations in present-day Maine, in the Northeastern U.S., perceive their capacity to adapt to climate change, and potential for engagement in collaborative environmental governance to enhance knowledge exchange for climate adaptation. To fulfill those aims, our research explored how study participants i) identify barriers and opportunities for adaptive capacity, ii) understand and value diverse knowledge systems, and iii) describe ongoing Tribal-state relations in the context of knowledge exchange and forest stewardship. To explore these questions, this study conducted a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with 22 forest stewards across state agencies (n=12) and Wabanaki Tribal Nations (n=10) in Maine. The most salient barriers for climate adaptation were organized into three themes i) resource availability, ii) operational capacity, and iii) decision making practices. Participant perceptions of these barriers illuminated their interconnected relationship with potential opportunities to overcome adaptive constraints. Our analysis presented cross-cultural collaboration as a primary emergent opportunity to enable knowledge exchange and reduce the likelihood of maladaptation. It was demonstrated that forest stewards across state agencies and Tribal Nations value bridging knowledge across different ways of knowing (i.e., western scientific, local and Indigenous knowledge). However, they also experienced challenges related to socio-political tensions, institutional incongruities, and finite capacity that limit cooperation. Our study calls for further research into identifying the enabling conditions for collaboration with Indigenous Nations as government-to-government partners. We also suggest that adaptive capacity is strengthened by recognizing the inherent adaptability and sovereignty of Indigenous Nations and co-creating flexible institutions that enable cross-cultural collaborations to sustain forest stewardship.



Number of Pages

145 p.

Available for download on Tuesday, April 15, 2025