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The Coasts Under Stress project: a Canadian case study of interdisciplinary methodology



Interdisciplinary research requires scholars to learn by doing, and thus interdisciplinary work will be constantly undergoing development. This paper reviews how a large truly integrated interdisciplinary research team capable of handling complex interdependent social and environmental issues was created, developed and managed. The Canadian Coasts Under Stress bicoastal research project (CUS) constitutes a case study, aimed at providing a detailed analysis of a successful relatively ‘mature’ template for interdisciplinary team research that can be transferred to other teams and other research problems. CUS was created to address coastal social-ecological stress, and it uncovered linkages (‘pathways’) between the main drivers of social-ecological health in both human and environmental communities. In so doing, the team produced a comprehensive new way to understand restructuring and its impact on social-ecological health. In organizational terms, the team was divided into two coastal sub-teams (east and west) and five main research components that were reflected in the team logo as the arms of a seastar. To achieve integration of all components and subcomponents, a methodology for research construction and integration was employed that operated in tandem with the methodologies employed in the various subcomponents. Team members shared their vision of what they wished to achieve and meetings were facilitated in a variety of ways such that cross-fertilization and discussion were ongoing, and team members always knew exactly where their work fitted into the greater whole. In the process, significant student training occurred, and the challenge of equitable publication processes were met such that the output of the team achieved both disciplinary rigour and interdisciplinary understanding.


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*Correspondence: Dr Rosemary E. Ommer 1203 Beddis Road, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada V8K 2C8 e-mail:


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The Coasts Under Stress project: a Canadian case study of interdisciplinary methodology



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