Manager Climate Corps
Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

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 work with natural and cultural resource managers, policy professionals, community leaders, and other end users to co-develop and deliver scientific information, tools, and techniques that allow stakeholders to anticipate and adapt to climate change in the Pacific Region

Working to increasingly "get to know our neighbors", we utilize the process of knowledge coproduction as a mechanism to achieve this networking mission.

Knowledge Coproduction: “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).

Knowledge Network: the collective group of natural resource managers, policy professionals, cultural practitioners, and scientists that employ the knowledge coproduction process (Laursen et al. in review).

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 professsionals (O’Brien and Selboe 2015). 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, such as applied research, software tools, networking forums, and assessments that track the evolving needs of professionals within MCC networks.The knowledge coproduction 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, resulting research products, and long-term professional networks increasingly root within the needs, values, identities, and practices of well-defined places, they profoundly expand the capacities of adaptation, resilience, and sustainability within local communities.


1) Identify and directly engage existing professional networks on Hawaiʻi Island.
2) Develop local transdisciplinary networks between university researcher networks and local manager networks.

Transdisciplinary: involving extensive collaboration with local professional groups (end users) that are outside academic institutions, or "extra-scientific" in nature (Jahn et al. 2012).

3) Develop increasingly diverse in-person professional networks of managers, policy implementers, 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 coproduction.

Kamilo Coast
Photo: Bethany Morrison from Hawaiʻi County's Planning Office explores the coasts of Kaʻū. Bethany helps guide the MCC's coastal erosion graduate research project, which will directly aid her long range planning capacities in the coastal zone. Photo Credit: Ryan McClymont, USGS

Our Process

Step 1: Discovering 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. 1 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 coproduction networking efforts and the types of products and programs that result from such networking opportunities (see MCC Products page). 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 (Nash et al. in review). 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. We targeted policy implementers, rather than policy makers, as implementers are immediately accountable to discrete areas and communities.

From June through October of 2015 we interviewed local managers across a variety of organization levels—county, state and federal government, private land managers—as well as a diversity of management sectors that may be influenced by changing climate—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 implementers and more extensive information on our methods, please see the the Manager Needs Assessment section below and/or our needs assessment report.

Step 2: Linking Local Manager and Research Networks

After analyzing our manager interviews, we invited all interested UH Hilo faculty to attend a transdisciplinary knowledge coproduction presentation on campus. The meeting was well attended with diverse representation of fields from sociology, Hawaiian studies, anthropology, geography, environmental engineering, environmental economics, marine sciences, and ecology. Program staff presented our knowledge coproduction process and four participant resource management groups talked about their programs and research needs related to climate change and adaptation. The second half of the meeting was dedicated to round table discussions exploring possible collaborative research projects, workshops, and coursework development at the university. Subsequently, a formal call for research project proposals was distributed university-wide which led to funding four transdisciplinary 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 (See Graduate Projects page). Because managers are co-leading each research project from inception to completion, the products and questions answered by the research will be immediately put to use and shared with broader professional networks on Hawaiʻi Island.

Step 3: Developing New Forums for Transdisciplinary Collaboration

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 intensive Climate Change Boot Camp in August 2016 bringing together a wide array of managers, scientists, traditional Hawaiian cultural practitioners, graduate students, and policy professionals (see Climate Change Boot Camp page). Boot Camp attendees collaboratively discussed current and near-future needs for adapting to local climate change impacts. Knowledge coproduction, multiple ways of knowing (tacit and articulate knowledge sources: see Manager Context section), and place-based management were themes of the event. The camp took place outdoors amid rare, endemic forest species at the Kiolokaʻa 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 transdisciplinary professional networks as mechanisms to build local capacities of resiliency, adaptation, and sustainability in the face of change.

Following the Climate Change Boot Camp, the MCC developed diverse interactive forums locally, regionally, and nationally. The forums were focused on building adaptive capacity and created networking opportunities between graduate students, scientists, and managers at the following conferences:

  • November 2016: UMASS National Climate Science Center Student and Early Career Training
  • April 2017: University of Guam Island Sustainability Conference, Tumon, Guam
  • May 2017: National Adaptation Forum, St. Paul, MN
  • July 2017: Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference, Honolulu, HI
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, port/harbor managers, infrastructure planning and development professionals, managers of native marine and remnant terrestrial ecosystems, and invasive species managers.

Manager Scale

Spatial Scale
While knowledge coproduction can be utilized at any geographic, organizational, or political scale, we focus on a specific spatial scale - Hawai'i Island (anagers 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 private 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. in review).

Multiple Ways of Knowing
MCC projects integrate multiple knowledge forms and distinct worldviews through supporting diverse transdisciplinary networks of natural resource managers, cultural practitioners, policy professionals, social scientists, climate scientists, and biological scientists. The phrase "multiple ways of knowing" includes logical knowledge forms (articulate knowledge), such as rational intellect, technical analysis, and reason, as well as intrinsic knowledge forms (tacit knowledge), such as experience, instinct, perception, 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; Laursen et al. in review)

Tacit Knowledge - personal knowledge residing within the mind, behavior, and perceptions of individuals. This knowledge involves experiences, insight, emotion, individual values, group norms, intuition, instinct, and judgement—collectively an individual’s identity or worldview (Dampney et al. 2002; Brown et al. 2012; Laursen et al. in review).

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, Amel et al. 2017).

Manager Needs Assessment

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-CSC

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. 1).

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 implementers that fit into these categories are: (for more themes or addional information on our methods, see our 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. 1. 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 dock
Photo: Landscapes of Hawaiʻi, such as Honoʻapo, display rich ecological and cultural histories marked by constant change. Photo Credit: Ryan McClymont, USGS


  • Amel E, Manning C, Scott B, Koger S (2017) Beyond the roots of human inaction: fostering collective effort toward ecosystem conservation. Science, 356(6335), 275-279.

  • Brown PR, Jacobs B, Leith P (2012) Participatory monitoring and evaluation to aid investment in natural resource manager capacity at a range of scales. Environ Monit Assess 184:7207-7220

  • Dampney C, Busch P, Richards D (2002) The meaning of tacit knowledge. Australasian J of Information Systems Dec. 3–13. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3127/ajis.v10i1.438

  • Dujon V, Dillard J, Brennan EM (2013) Social sustainability: a multilevel approach to social inclusion. Routledge

  • Ensor J, Berger R (2009) Community-based adaptation and culture in theory and practice. In: Adger WN, Lorenzoni I, O’Brien KL (eds) Adapting to climate change: thresholds, values and governance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 227-239

  • Ingold T (2011) The perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill, 2nd edn. Routledge, London.

  • Jahn T, Bergmann M, Keil F (2012) Transdisciplinarity: between mainstreaming and marginalization. Ecol Econ 79:1-10

  • Kahan DM, Peters E, Wittlin M, Slovic P, Ouellette LL, Braman D, Mandel G (2012) The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nat Climate Change 2:732-735

  • Laursen S, Puniwai N, Genz A, Nash S, Canale L, and Ziegler-Chong S (in review) Collaboration across worldviews: managers and scientists on Hawaiʻi Island utilize knowledge coproduction to facilitate climate change adaptation. Environmental Management

  • Meadow AM, Ferguson DB, Guido Z, Horangic A, Owen G, Wall T (2015) Moving toward the deliberate coproduction of climate science knowledge. Weather, Climate, and Society 7:179-191

  • O'Brien K, Selboe E (2015) The adaptive challenge of climate change. Cambridge University Press, New York

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Partner Agencies

Pacific Islands Climate Science CenterUH ManoaUniversity of GuamDepartment of the Interior


Contact MCC Staff

  • Sharon Ziegler-Chong: Project Coordinator
  • Phone: (808) 933-0759
  • Email: ziegler@hawaii.edu

  • Scott Laursen: Technical Projects Specialist
  • Phone: (307) 699-0123
  • Email: slaursen@hawaii.edu

The MCC partners with the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Graduate Program at UH Hilo and is a part of the larger tri-university consortium of the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center (PI-CSC).