Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Troy W Hartley

Committee Member

Mark J Brush

Committee Member

Andrew M Scheld

Committee Member

Inga M Carboni


Participatory, collaborative modeling processes represent a unique decision-making technique within natural resources management that allows for the combination of stakeholder involvement with the analytical and predictive power of scientific models. The continued use of participatory modeling within decision-making processes depends in part upon the willingness of stakeholders to participate. Continued participation of stakeholders is key to the persistence and overall success of these processes, and yet limited information exists concerning the impacts of these processes on participants. The consideration of human dimensions advances our understanding of the design and function of participatory modeling processes, including their ability to create consensus outcomes, their capacity to integrate natural and social sciences, and their capability to advance sustainable natural resources policy and management. Within this thesis, I analyzed stakeholders’ advice and communication social networks and their attitudes towards scientific models to better understand the impact of these participatory modeling processes on participants. I found that the development of group cohesion was more heterogeneous than previously thought. While there was a significant increase in advice ties between OysterFutures members, silos of advice within stakeholder groups remained. There was also a high level of between-stakeholder group advice ties that existed prior to the OysterFutures process. This history between stakeholders and stakeholder groups is also thought to have impacted the development of advice ties. Lastly, the transition of the advice network structure over time supports arguments in the literature that suggest that different network structures are necessary at certain time points during participatory processes. Stakeholder group silos also persisted within the communication network. These silos are thought to have helped stakeholder groups develop their own attitude towards scientific models based on their unique “way of knowing”. As a result, attitudes towards models were significantly different between stakeholder groups. This strength of stakeholder group impact on attitudes likely limited overall changes in attitudes towards models over the course of OysterFutures. The importance of considering social network structure of participatory modeling processes was demonstrated through results that certain brokering network positions significantly impacted attitudes towards models. Methods to facilitate more between group communications during participatory modeling processes could help mitigate the strong impact of stakeholder group membership on attitudes. Overall, results for attitudes towards models support the idea that models are acting as “boundary objects” that help facilitate discussion during these processes.




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