About: Developing the Manager Climate Corps

Attendees listen to a presentation during the Climate Change Boot Camp
Photo: During the first full day of the Climate Change Boot Camp at the Kiolakaʻa Ranger Station in Kaʻū, Lahela Camara, a natural resource manager and cultural practitioner, teaches members of the MCC network how to haku (weave) leis using native plants on site. The leis were later utilized during foundational cultural ceremonies of the boot camp. During the 4-day, 3-night experience Lahela and a wide range of other professionals within MCC networks shared with boot camp fellows some of the challenges that must be overcome to protect extant native and endemic plants and animals that are inextricably tied to the region's cultural heritage. Photo credit: McClymont, USGS

“Information, in itself, is not knowledge, nor do we become any more knowledgeable through its accumulation. Our knowledgeability consists, rather, in the capacity to situate such information, and understand its meaning within the context of direct perceptual engagements with our environments” (Ingold 2011: 21).

“Rooting the process of adaptation in communities allows important communal practices... to be identified and used to facilitate change from within, rather than attempting to force change from without” (Ensor and Berger 2009: 231).

“Social inclusion will result in more socially sustainable processes, yielding collectively higher levels of societal well-being” (Dujon et al. 2013: 2).

Our Focus


Our mission is to deliver science that helps fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate.

To accomplish this mission, we work to increasingly "get to know our neighbors" through the process of knowledge co-production. This collaborative process unites natural and cultural resource managers with researchers in every stage of the research pathway (development of research question, methods, analysis, etc.).

Knowledge Co-production: “the process of producing usable, or actionable, science through collaboration between scientists and resource managers who use the science to make policy and management decisions” (Meadow et al. 2015:179).
- a more recent definition of knowledge co-production directly accounts for multiple knowledge forms and the related ideas of situated or embodied knowledge (Ingold 2011:21): "iterative and collaborative processes involving diverse types of expertise, knowledge and actors to produce context-specific knowledge and pathways towards a sustainable future" (Norström et al. 2020:183).

Knowledge Network: the collective group of natural resource managers, policy professionals, cultural practitioners, and scientists that employ the knowledge co-production process (Laursen et al. 2018).

By supporting diverse professional networks, the MCC helps communities adapt and become increasingly resilient to the impacts of climate change and other complex "adaptive challenges" by directly supporting the needs of local natural resource managers, cultural practitioners, social and biological scientists, community leaders, and policy professionals (O’Brien and Selboe 2015, Laursen et al. 2018). We are focused on expanding in-person relationships across diverse local networks and subsequently producing actionable products that are readily utilized in a timely manner. See our approach to developing action (e.g., behavior change) and actionable science products. The knowledge co-production process can be applied in any location and at any spatial, organizational, or stakeholder scale. Our program chose to locate and support diverse professional networks that are accountable to specific landscapes and seascapes on Hawaiʻi Island and that are accountable to the human communities that utilize the natural resources within these landscapes. As the scientific process, research output, and long-term professional networks increasingly root within the needs, values, identities, and practices of specific places, these pathways and networks increasingly expand the capacities of adaptation, resilience, and sustainability within local communities.


Our goal is to support long-term, in-person relationships and collaborative research projects by uniting local research and management networks through the process of knowledge co-production.


  1. Identify and directly engage existing professional networks on Hawaiʻi Island.
  2. Develop increasingly diverse in-person professional networks of managers, policy professionals, graduate students, cultural practitioners, researchers, and community leaders through a) novel interactive networking opportunities and b) stakeholder-driven research projects that offer immediately useful products to local natural resource managers and communities through the process of knowledge co-production.
Kamilo Coast
Photo: Bethany Morrison from Hawaiʻi County's Planning Office explores the coasts of Kaʻū. Bethany guided the MCC's coastal erosion graduate research project (see Funded FY2016 section on Research Projects page), which directly aids her long range planning capacities in the coastal zone. Photo Credit: Ryan McClymont, USGS

flow chart of research project developmentFig. 1. Flow chart of MCC's process for developing collaborative research projects.

flow chart of MCC's programmatic pillarsFig. 2. Flow chart of MCC's core pillars in developing science products that are readily utilized by stakeholders.

Our Programmatic Process

In addition to the following steps, see Figures 1 and 2 immediately above for flow charts depicting our programmatic process and Laursen et al. 2018 for a more thorough overview.

Step 1: Identify Manager Networks

In 2015, the Manager Climate Corps began searching out existing long-term local professional networks that would create the MCC's foundation and guide its climate research efforts at UH Hilo. We conducted a needs assessment of 29 local managers and policy implementers across Hawaiʻi Island. Fig. 3 in our Manager Needs Assessment section below displays 13 of these managers that are focused at site and watershed scales; remaining managers were at island-wide scales. Understanding the needs of diverse local professional networks would guide our subsequent knowledge co-production and networking efforts and the types of products that result (see MCC Press and MCC Products pages). The MCC foundation was deliberately built on sustained, long-term, and in-person interaction with local managers. By focusing on iterative, growing relationships, rather than a momentary needs assessment, the MCC can maintain support for local professional networks through time by sustained understanding of individual managers' perceptions, norms, values, needs, information sources, and experiences (collectively their worldviews).

While there is a national focus on conducting “stakeholder-driven” science, our review of research efforts in the U.S. indicated that managers, decision makers, stakeholders, and end users are frequently poorly defined and management scales are often not clearly outlined. In identifying stakeholders, we chose to connect with individuals whose positions are largely focused within Hawaiʻi Island and who are directly accountable to explicit areas of land, water, and the surrounding communities that utilize the managed natural resources. For instance, we targeted policy implementers, rather than policy makers, as implementers regularly experience discrete geographic areas and are often immediately accountable to communities within them.

From June through October of 2015 we interviewed local managers across a variety of organization levels (e.g., county, state and federal government, NGOs, and private land managers), as well as a diversity of management sectors that may be influenced by changing climate (e.g., county planning, agriculture, and infrastructure). We initially interviewed managers in those different organizations and sectors who were familiar with faculty and staff (e.g., recent Masters graduates). Via referral sampling from those people, we then identified additional interviewees. Rather than an exhaustive survey of individuals, this snowball sampling approach enabled us to locate, engage, and build upon existing professional networks. Wide-ranging management perspectives were heard throughout our interviews discussing native ecosystems (terrestrial and marine), traditional cultural sites, traditional cultural homelands, marine recreation, open ocean harvesting and transport, near-shore safety, ranching, agriculture, county planning, community-based management, fire hazards, and invasive species. For additional perspectives shared by local natural resource managers and policy professionals and more extensive information on our methods, please see the the Manager Needs Assessment section below, our recent publication in Environmental Management, and/or our needs assessment report.

Step 2: Unite Local Manager and Researcher Networks

After analyzing our manager interviews, we invited all interested UH Hilo faculty to attend knowledge co-production workshops on campus in January, 2016, and again in November, 2019, that were led by local natural and cultural resource managers. The meetings were well attended by diverse faculty representation, including sociology, Hawaiian studies, anthropology, geography, environmental engineering, environmental economics, marine sciences, and ecology. The MCC program staff presented our knowledge co-production process and participant resource management groups from around the island and from ridge to reef presented their organizations' research needs in relation to climate change adaptation. The second half of the meetings were dedicated to round table discussions exploring possible collaborative research projects, workshops, and coursework development at the university. Three formal calls for manager-driven research project proposals were distributed university-wide and across manager networks as a result of such collaborative workshops in 2016, 2018, and 2020. The first call for proposals in 2016 led to funding four manager-driven graduate research projects covering a wide range of interests that were expressed in our interview process and further developed during the faculty-manager round table discussions. One project from this cohort was published as a case study in the US Climate Resiliency Toolkit. See the FY2017 section of our Research Projects page for more information on the MCC's first four collaborative research projects, as well as subsequent projects. Because managers are co-leading each research project from inception to completion, the research products have a higher likelihood of being readily put to use and shared with broader professional networks on Hawaiʻi Island.

Step 3: Develop New Forums for Collaboration across Disciplines and Worldviews

A large and diverse collection of MCC members from the above research and management collaborations worked with MCC staff to organize a three-night, four-day immersion camp in August 2016 bringing together a wide array of managers, scientists, traditional Hawaiian cultural practitioners, graduate students, and policy professionals (see our Immersion Camp page). Attendees collaboratively discussed current and near-future needs for adapting to local climate change impacts. Knowledge co-production, multiple ways of knowing, and place-based adaptive management were themes of the event. The camp took place outdoors amid rendemic forest species at the Kiolakaʻa Ranger Station in Kaʻū and showcased our four manager-led graduate research projects as collaborative examples for other participating professional networks. Post event surveys indicated strong interest in further developing diverse professional networks as a mechanism of building local capacities of resiliency, adaptation, and sustainability in the face of change.

In the years following the immersion camp, the MCC has developed a number of diverse interactive conference forums locally, regionally, and nationally. The forums are all focused on building adaptive capacity, knowledge co-production, and growing strong in-person networking opportunities between graduate students, scientists, and managers.

Coastal Connection
Photo: Chandra Ledgesog (graduate student, University of Guam) and Monika Frazier (graduate student, UH Hilo) discuss the rugged intertidal zones of the Kamilo coast. These young professionals represent the future of natural resources management in Hawaiʻi and Guam as they transition from their graduate research into the next phase of their natural resources careers in the Pacific. Photo Credit: Ryan McClymont, USGS

Manager Context

Manager Types

Examples of managers involved in MCC networks: ranchers, farmers, traditional native Hawaiian managers of biocultural resources, fire managers, coastal managers, infrastructure planning and development professionals, managers of native marine and remnant terrestrial ecosystems, and invasive species managers.

Manager Scale

Spatial Scale
While knowledge co-production can be utilized at any geographic, organizational, or political scale, we focus on a specific spatial scale: Hawaiʻi Island (managers and policy professionals primariy focused on Hawaiʻi Island). Managers can be site-specific, focused on larger watershed/moku scales, or island-wide. The central requirement is direct and regular involvement within and, therefore, accountability to a specific, well-defined landscape or waterscape as well as accountability to the communities (group norms and values) that utilize the natural resources within the area.

Organizational Scale
MCC projects and events include a wide range of organizational scales, including non-governmental organizations as well as federal, state, county, and for profit organizations.

Manager Roles

Custodians of Context
Cooperation and context from grassroots stakeholders are vital to achieve a common vision, which is paramount in determining the societal capacity for adaptation. Field managers and local decision makers function as custodians of context in the socio-ecological systems in which they are embedded. Informed by their regular experiences in the places they influence and are influenced by, field practitioners are immediately accountable to an explicit extent of land, water, and communities of people (Brown et al. 2012; Laursen et al. 2018).

Multiple Ways of Knowing

MCC projects emphasize and integrate multiple knowledge forms and distinct worldviews by supporting diverse networks of natural resource managers, cultural practitioners, policy professionals, social scientists, climate scientists, and biological scientists (Laursen et al. 2018, Ingold 2011). The phrase "multiple ways of knowing" includes logical knowledge forms (articulate knowledge) that result from rational intellect, technical analysis, and reason, as well as intrinsic knowledge forms (tacit knowledge) that result from experience, instinct, perception, cultural practice, intuition, and emotion.

Articulate Knowledge - codified knowledge (e.g., formal education, books, rule sets, and legal codes) that is readily transferable (Dampney et al. 2002; Brown et al. 2012)

Tacit Knowledge - personal knowledge residing within the mind, behavior, and perceptions of individuals that is largely derived from experiences. Such visceral knowledge can be derived through intuition, emotion, sensory engagement, instinct, as well as cultural beliefs, norms, or values that become evident as a result of experience (Dampney et al. 2002; Brown et al. 2012).

Tacit knowledge is largely experiential and often place-based in that it is achieved through direct person-to-person and person-to-nature interactions. It can be difficult to characterize in explicit form (Dampnew et al. 2002; Brown et al. 2012). Though at times challenging to define or quantify, tacit knowledge forms are often stronger drivers of human behavior than articulate knowledge forms (Kahan et al. 2012; van der Linden et al. 2015; Amel et al. 2017). Similarly in relation to intrinsic knowledge, Ingold (2011:21) states that “information, in itself, is not knowledge, nor do we become any more knowledgeable through its accumulation. Our knowledgeability consists, rather, in the capacity to situate such information, and understand its meaning within the context of direct perceptual engagements with our environments."

Volunteers from Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance work the soil
Photo: Cheyenne Perry, Coordinator of the Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, teaches a field crew an effective method of outplanting māmane, an endemic dry forest tree species, in the Kanakaleonui Bird Corridor high on the flanks of Mauna Kea. Our manager interviews discussed in our needs assessment report revealed that trial and error within daily field practice and in-person manager networks are vital sources of information in the day-to-day management activities of individuals like Cheyenne. Photo credit: Scott Laursen, PI-CASC

Manager Needs Assessment

The Participants

In Step 1 of Our Process (above), we heard wide-ranging management perspectives throughout our interviews discussing native ecosystems (terrestrial and marine), traditional cultural sites, traditional cultural homelands, marine recreation, open ocean harvesting and transport, near-shore safety, ranching, agriculture, county planning, community-based management, fire hazards, and invasive species. Our interviewees manage a geographic range across Hawaiʻi Island in roughly equal percentages of coastal and mountain systems. The native-rich high-elevation systems are largely zoned for conservation land use, while the lower elevations are dominated by non-native species and have mainly human-centered land use (Fig. 3).

Manager-Driven Interview Method

Our manager-based interview approach, including open-ended questions and discussion as well as traveling to managers’ areas of work, was universally well received by managers and highly productive. The interview lengths ranged from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours, with most managers providing more than an hour of their time for the exploratory interview process. Many managers verbalized surprise that the interviews’ purpose was to create opportunities to better understand their worldview by listening to their day-to-day experiences, perspectives, and priorities. Some managers mentioned they rarely have the opportunity to share their perspectives with institutional researchers.

5 Most Common Interview Themes

In completing our thematic analysis of interviews, we identified 46 independent themes. Five of these themes were mentioned by more than 50% of the interviewees:

  1. Utilizing professional colleagues as a key source of information
  2. Employing personal and institutional observation and practice as sources of knowledge
  3. Investing in sustainable communities (both natural and human) as a goal
  4. Restoration and conservation of native ecosystems and traditional Hawaiian cultural sites and practices as a goal
  5. Increasing capacity for networking with other professionals on the island as a need

Additional Interview Themes

We summarized theme responses to interview questions into the following categories:

  • Knowledge Sources
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Needs
  • Climate Concerns

Some examples of themes mentioned by managers and policy professionals that fit into these categories are listed below. For more themes and additional information on our methods, see our recent publication and/or needs assessment report.

  • Far more often than consulting peer reviewed literature directly most managers rely on professional colleagues as their most common source of knowledge, including conferring with scientists in their professional communities or consulting other local experts.
  • A significant goal for many managers is to involve communities directly in the lands and waters they manage by supporting recreation, restoration efforts, and food acquisition (farming, ranching, fishing, hunting) to increase personal experience, investment, and, ultimately, value in protecting natural resources.
  • A universal challenge managers encounter is the impacts of environmental hazards such as invasive species, fire, and extreme weather events.
  • Managers mentioned a need to obtain knowledge from scientists that is usable in both subject scope and spatial/temporal scale, and particularly in relation to climate change impacts.
  • Extreme weather events were the most concerning topic related to climate change impacts.
  • A diversity of managers made it clear that they would greatly benefit from improved information regarding localized shifts in storm frequency and intensity, sea level rise impacts, and future temperature and rainfall regimes, so they could assemble plans for small boat harbor use, cultural or historical sites, fire safety, native and invasive species management, possible flood water or waste water inundation, farmlands, ranchlands, water quality in near-shore reefs and loko iʻa (traditional fishpond systems), coastal erosion, or coastal water safety.

Watershed map of Hawaii Island
Fig. 3. County of Hawaiʻi General Plan Land Use Pattern Allocation Guide (current as of 2012) with centroids of land managed by interviewees, site (squares) and watershed (circles) scales, by manager type on Hawaiʻi Island, Hawaiʻi. Inset showing area (63% of island acreage) managed by interviewed site- and watershed-scale managers. Data courtesy of interviewees, County of Hawaiʻi, State of Hawaiʻi Planning Office, and NOAA

Image of rocky shoreline with remnants of dockPhoto: Landscapes of Hawaiʻi, such as Honuʻapo, display rich ecological and cultural histories marked by constant change. Photo Credit: Ryan McClymont, USGS


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