About the Listening Project

The Coweeta Listening Project (CLP) was established in 2010 to make ecological science more useful and meaningful to the communities of southwestern North Carolina, and to integrate local knowledge with scientific research. The CLP is a branch of the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program, which has conducted groundbreaking research on climate change, land use change, and the forests and watersheds of southern Appalachia since 1980. Given this long presence in the region, the Coweeta LTER could inform local decisions about how to manage natural resources in a dynamic future... but achieving this depends on establishing stronger connections with local landowners, communities, organizations, and decision-makers.

The CLP builds on a long tradition of popular education and participatory research in Appalachia, grounding our work in a deep respect for local knowledge, the importance of dialogue, and the integration of research and action. We also believe that the co-production of ecological knowledge—which involves integrating scientific and non-scientific ways of knowing and bridging science and values—will enhance scientific research and make it more useful for addressing environmental concerns. In short, we hope to democratize science so that it is more effective and useful.

 

Working with environmental leaders from Macon County, NC, we established five key objectives for the CLP:

  • Facilitate communication between Coweeta LTER researchers and the community so that we can learn from the concerns, interests, experiences, and knowledge of local residents and they can learn from Coweeta LTER scientists.

  • Communicate Coweeta LTER research so that a clear link is made between science, policy and the community.

  • Serve as a non-partisan information clearinghouse for the community, posting information related to a spectrum of ecological issues.

  • Provide information about how the community can use research results, archived sources, and collaborative tools in order to participate more effectively and knowledgeably in personal and community-based decision making regarding land use and environmental change.

  • Respond to community feedback and grow to better serve the community and LTER scientists.

 

To achieve these goals, we focus on three main activities:

  1. Newspaper columns published every two weeks in The Franklin Press under the title "Science, Community, Public Policy." Collectively written and edited by LTER scientists and invited community contributors, each column responds to a question or topic suggested by residents of SW NC. Admittedly, these columns are not methods for co-producing environmental knowledge—scientists retain the privileged role here as producers of knowledge—but we think they facilitate co-production by raising community awareness of the Coweeta LTER and by providing a permanent mechanism for Coweeta LTER researchers to engage with local communities.

  2. Collaboration workshops between local decision-makers (e.g., city/county councils, resource managers, developers, and environmental NGOs) and Coweeta LTER scientists. By identifying the right partners and teaching them "best practices" learned from collaborative experiences across the country, we aim to support partnerships that advance both scientific research and local environmental decision-making.

  3. Translational dialogues, facilitated conversations among scientists and non-scientists who possess local experiential knowledge about ecological change. Unlike traditional science education and lectures, these dialogues are meant to promote the two-way exchange of information. We expect local knowledge to highlight processes of ecological change that traditional scientific methods may not consider.

 

If you'd like more information about these activities or would like to collaborate with us on any of them, please get in touch.