Swift, Judith [faculty advisor, Department of Communication Studies]
climate change, behavior, communications
For my Senior Honors Project I participated in the Climate Change Collaborative, which is a new interdisciplinary research project studying the ways in which coastal communities in Rhode Island can better adapt to the environmental, cultural and economic consequences of climate change. As a member of this collaborative, I worked in a vertically integrated team of faculty (psychology researchers, climate scientists and communications science practitioners and researchers) as well as undergraduate and graduate students, to begin an endeavor through which behavior change will be assessed in regards to climate change. For the purposes of this study, we specifically focus on the effects of sea level rise and increased storminess. I participated in brainstorming and planning meetings of the entire research team. As part of the student team, I also focused on the refinement of surveys to allow identification of participants’ stages of change as defined in the trans-theoretical model (TTM) being employed. Finally, I participated as part of a communications subgroup whose focus is to discover effective ways of communicating to people in different stages of TTM. As a member of this subgroup, I conducted a literature review and created an annotated bibliography of literature involving behavior and climate change. I also brainstormed potential messages for engaging the public, and conducted preliminary research to inform the behavior change model. This is an ongoing project, and I intend to remain a member of the team as we move toward conducting focus groups and gain more concrete data with which to effect change in climate adaptation behavior.