Michael Meitner

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
An exploration of urban green equity in North America (2018)

Urban vegetation provides a suite of ecosystem services to urban residents, from regulating microclimate to supporting good physical health. As more and more people make cities their home, urban vegetation is becoming a key part of urban residents’ well-being. Urban green equity is a central aspect of the distribution of and governance over urban vegetation and its associated ecosystem services. While issues of equity in urban forestry are of clear importance in a just society, it is unclear how the concept should be defined and analyzed. To begin to address this gap, this dissertation 1) examines the theoretical dimensions of urban green equity from multiple perspectives, 2) explores how urban forestry practitioners understand and use the concept of urban green equity in three case-study cities in the United States (US), and 3) conducts a spatial analysis of distributional green equity across 10 urbanized areas in the US. The research found 1) that there are multiple, related dimensions of urban green equity centred around two principle dimensions: distribution of urban vegetation and recognition of stakeholders in urban vegetation decision making, 2) that urban forestry practitioners collectively have a nuanced and complex understanding of urban green equity and tend to focus on distributional equity in their definitions and use of the concept, and 3) that distributional green inequity exists across multiple urbanized areas in the US, education and income are the factors most strongly predictive of the spatial distribution of urban vegetation, and public parks tend to be more equitably distributed than mixed and woody vegetation in cities. It is my hope that these results, and the methodological and conceptual approaches and frameworks provided by this research will be used to advance the rigorous study of urban green equity and improve urban green equity in practice in cities around the world.

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When ‘I’ belong I don’t care about ‘you’ : the role of self-construal and social inclusion in pro-social behaviour directed at animal out-group recipients (2018)

This dissertation is aimed at improving understanding of the mechanisms at play in prosocial behaviour, as a function of recipient group identity (i.e. in-group vs. out-group member), self-construal, and social inclusion. While some research has examined the impacts of self-construal on prosocial behaviour, as well as the downstream reactions to threats of exclusion, little research has looked at the impact that perceptions of inclusion may have on prosocial behaviour. Moreover even less research has looked at how promises, or reminders, of social inclusion may be specifically experienced by individuals with high independent self-construal, and how this may impact their subsequent prosocial behaviour towards out-group (vs. in-group) targets of concern. The goal of this dissertation is to explore the interaction between inclusion and independent self-construal, with a focus on the downstream consequences for prosocial behaviour directed at out-groups. Across five experimental studies I demonstrate that individuals with high independent self-construal may behave more prosocially towards out-group targets (more inclusively in two grouping tasks, and more prosocially in two donation tasks) under normal conditions, in comparison with individuals high in interdependent self-construal. I also offer evidence that following an affirmation of social inclusion status the pattern reverses and individuals with high independent self-construal behave less prosocially towards out-group targets. Furthermore, I provide some tentative evidence to support the argument that individuals with high independent self-construal may be motivated to behave prosocially towards out-group targets in order to maximise social connection potential, and that feelings of similarity may increase this. Finally, I demonstrate that feelings of connection to cause may mediate these mechanisms in the case of donation intentions. Taken together this dissertation builds on previous research, and then extends it to demonstrate that while individuals with high independent self-construal may behave more prosocially to out-groups under normal circumstances, promises or reminders of inclusion may reverse this pattern, decreasing prosocial behaviour. I provide some preliminary evidence that the increase (decrease) in prosocial behaviour is as a result of increased (decreased) motivation for social interaction.

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Transformative education for sustainability leadership : identifying and addressing the challenges of mobilizing change (2015)

Using a transdisciplinary approach the dissertation explores how change occurs in human systems, and what is needed from us to mobilize such change. Part 1 explores the topic of change in human systems. It includes a literature review regarding the difficulties and realities of mobilizing change on all levels of human systems: individual, organizational, and societal. To complement current change theories and increase their effectiveness in explaining the process of change, two psychological concepts are introduced: individual cycles of emotional experience in the face of loss and crisis, and individual developmental meaning-making structures. From a perspective of practice and mobilizing change the challenges created by different sustainability worldviews are discussed. A simple framework and ten recommendations are presented to aid in the process of diagnosing and mobilizing change. Part 1 concludes with a case study in Costa Rica, diagnosing soil erosion challenges. The study explored motivations of local farmers regarding soil conservation practices, and analyzed their responses to a hypothetical payment for ecosystem services (PES) bidding scheme. It concludes that a PES scheme, in this context, does not address the reasons why farmers are not engaging in soil conservation practices; and is possibly counterproductive to the goal of behavioural change and soil conservation. Part 2 explores how we can better support university students to develop the skills needed to mobilize change and argues that the challenges of sustainability require individuals that have more practical know-how skills and more developed know-who awareness. It concludes that in the context of sustainability, higher education institutions can do more to contribute to the development of these ways of knowing. The cornerstone of part 2 is a case study of a sustainability leadership course taught at UBC. The course aimed to increase individuals’ adaptive leadership skills, and to support transformative learning. The course was successful at both increasing leadership skills and supporting transformative learning, however shortcomings of the course are also presented. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of what has been learned about the limitations of a course based approach to addressing the shortcomings of practical sustainability skills development in a university setting.

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Toward human-centered approaches in landscape planning : exploring geospatial and visualization techniques for the management of forest aesthetics (2011)

As sustainable forest management continues to influence forest planning and the balance of social, economic and ecological goals is evaluated, managers must find ways to ensure that forests provide for a variety of products and services for people and the environment. This dissertation focuses on finding new ways to more effectively manage forest aesthetics, including the development of methods that are human-centered; methods that are based on human perception and empirical research. The research explores a variety of geospatial and visualization technologies designed to aid managers in the process of planning for the conservation of visual resources.The first development is based on findings from empirical research that present a quantifiable expression of how the shape of harvest blocks can influence preferences. A study was conducted which required individuals to rate 52 near photo-realistic images which simulated different possible harvests in a forested landscape. Three difference shape characteristics were controlled for: geometric primitive (atomic shape), complexity (irregularity), and aspect ratio (elongation). The results indicate that geometric primitive has the largest effect on preferences followed closely by complexity. The research shows that complex, rounded-edged circular shapes are most preferable, and regardless of shape, moderate levels of complexity dramatically increase preferences.The second development is the Human-Centered Viewshed (HCV). Viewsheds are used in landscape management, but may lack important landform detail. The HCV combines an efficient algorithm, XDraw, with three characteristics of landform to provide a measure space an object occupies within an individual’s field of view. The three characteristics involve the effect of slope, aspect and distance from an observer to a target location. The output is a simple, discrete 2D image that supplies a degree of visibility for each location in space which can be used to determine how an individual may experience the landform as they move through the landscape.Applications of these discoveries on the management of forest aesthetics are presented, followed by a discussion of management trade-offs with ecology. The research in this dissertation can improve the current visual resource management process by providing planners with new information to help them more effectively manage forest aesthetics.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Online participatory systems : a case study of a web platform for public consultation (2016)

The aim of the study was to address the issues discussed by scholars that refer to the potential and the challenges of the use of online participatory methods, and contextualize them in a case study of a web platform for public consultation. To accomplish this, first a framework was set up by conducting a literature review. This study contrasts some of the theories described in the academic literature with the empirical results of this study. Using a mixed methods approach, an online survey (N=118) and phone interviews (N=23) were conducted. The survey and interview addressed issues of satisfaction with the current experience of participating online, trade-off between transparency and privacy, governance involvement and familiarity with technology in the context of online public consultation, in the hope to learn more regarding the concerns that users have about potentially replacing more traditional methods of consultation with online methods. Based on the experience of the participants of this study, we were able to identify some of the elements that increase and decrease satisfaction when participating in public consultation online, which seems to be critical in guiding the efforts of increasing online engagement. It was also found that participants prefer features such as summary tables, graphs and pictures when presented data related to the topic consulted, and that they value having options to providing feedback on a participatory web platforms. Finally, we discuss the possibility of further research with the aims of providing participants the opportunities they look for to engage in a more nuanced way. Although this research sheds light on online behavior, it also demonstrates that this is still a field that constantly requires exploration as the interaction of internet users with participatory platforms evolves. We think that understanding how theory and practice coming into play in an empirical scenario of a public consultation web platform could help online platforms and mechanisms to not only improve online participants’ experience, but most importantly, to focus on ways to achieve the larger goals of public consultation via the Internet.

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Shape perception, harvest design, and forest aesthetics (2013)

The aesthetic value of a landscape is a primary aspect of human-landscape interactions, as it provides a critical connection between humans and ecological processes as well as influences public attention and support to its ecological quality. Along with the ecological well-being of the landscapes, the maintenance of aesthetics is also critical in ensuring sustainable management of the forest. This thesis focuses on seeking new ways to effectively manage forest aesthetics, particularity on finding ways to mitigate the conflict between aesthetic quality and the demand of forest resources. The research strives to identify and quantify visual characteristics of harvest blocks in relation to their effects on individual aesthetic evaluations.The first experiment investigated the effects of context and shape complexity. Results indicated shape complexity as the largest predictor of preference, where preference increased as complexity increased. This finding indicates that increased complexity in harvest block design can be seen as a positive aesthetic variable. Context also demonstrated significance in influencing preference ratings, to a small extent. Subjects with environment focuses in their area of study demonstrated a stronger complexity effect than those from non-environment focuses, indicating a potential link between academic discipline and aesthetic preference. The second experiment explored several potential shape characteristics affecting individual aesthetic preference. Five characteristics were investigated: context, angularity, edge number, edge angle, and intrusion. Results indicated angularity had the largest effect on preference ratings. Subjects showed a strong preference towards curved designs, particularly in the context of harvest blocks. Although angularity also interacted with a number of variables, its effect prevailed and appeared to be robust. This finding implicates that perceptual gains can be achieved by curving the edges or the contour of the harvest block. The results of this research may lead to more effective visual resource management in the area of harvest block design. The findings presented can provide helpful information in public perception and preference of the landscape to forest designers and managers. Results suggest that curved designs with medium levels of shape complexity should be the preferred method of harvesting, particularly in visually sensitive areas.

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Factors influencing public support for managing the mountain pine beetle epidemic (2012)

The mountain pine beetle (MPB) epidemic is the largest recorded outbreak in British Columbia’s history currently covering almost 10 percent of British Columbia’s 9.2 million hectares of forest. The problems it poses are not merely ecological but also social and economic. An evaluation of the public’s perceptions of mountain pine beetle management alternatives provides decision-makers with information needed to reduce conflicts, identify communication priorities, and make balanced decisions concerning the use and recovery of affected areas. A survey was administered to 312 respondents, half in Prince George, a more forest-dependent community, and half in Kelowna, a less forest-dependent one. While this research found considerable public support for increased harvesting, it did not vary by location even though the residents of Prince George, the more forest-dependent community, were more concerned about the economic impact of the MPB than the residents of Kelowna. Concern for the economic impact of the MPB was not associated with support for harvesting. In contrast, the residents of Prince George reported greater knowledge, which was associated with support for harvesting. Finally, holding an ecological modernization viewpoint was not associated with location but it was associated with support for harvesting. Although respondents in the two study areas were concerned with the economic impact of the mountain pine beetle, the driver for supporting increased harvesting appeared to be a belief that human intervention can solve environmental problems. This research demonstrates the value of an examination of the social determinants of public support for strategies for managing natural disturbances in the policy making process.

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Recent Tri-Agency Grants

The following is a selection of grants for which the faculty member was principal investigator or co-investigator. Currently, the list only covers Canadian Tri-Agency grants from years 2013/14-2016/17 and excludes grants from any other agencies.

  • Choices and consequences: a multiple method research to supporting better decision making and implementation - Industrial Research and Development Internship (IRDI) Program - Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) - (2015/2016)
  • Alternative techniques for capture, analysis and display of online survey data - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Engage Grants Program (2013/2014)
  • Integrated modelling and assessment of forest harvest patterns - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Discovery Grants Program - Individual (2013/2014)

Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.
 

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