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Systems thinking has evolved as both a psychological concept and methodology to understand how individuals make sense of the complex structures they work with and are a part of. Whether you are working in environmental conservation or agriculture, both require that managers and stakeholders are able to clearly understand the complex systems involved, their inputs, outputs, and relationships, and be able to communicate them to each other. This seminar will provide an overview of systems thinking and introduce two tools that extension agents can utilize with stakeholders to (1) develop mental maps of how stakeholders understand their systems (e.g., agricultural operations or forest holdings), (2) identify relationships between system components, and (3) discuss perceived outcomes to changes in these systems as a result of a proposed change in management practice or policy.

Dr. Brooke McWherter is a natural resource social scientist and is currently working as a Mitacs postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Kate Sherren at Dalhousie University in the School for Resources and Environmental Studies. Brooke is interested in using both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine decision-making and collaboration in agriculture and natural resource management. She has worked with livestock producers and farmers in Bolivia, the United States, and now Canada. She is currently working in collaboration with Canadian Forage and Grassland Association and Farmers for Climate Solutions to examine motivations for participation in the FCS peer mentor-based advanced grazing program and its long-term impacts on the adoption of adaptive grazing. Brooke is also interested in systems thinking and its application in understanding adaptive management choices as well as how we can utilize participatory methods to include local stakeholders in the knowledge-building process.  

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