In my time as a graduate student, I have been privileged to have been involved in several research projects over the years. This has given me the opportunity to explore topics ranging from green infrastructure to historical landscapes to trails and to explore my own topic of managed retreat through the lens of ecology and community engagement. Through this process, I have had the privilege of working with six different established landscape architecture professors at Virginia Tech. Before that, I was guided through my master’s studies by four established professors between the landscape architecture, fish and wildlife, and ornithology departments at Mississippi State. In my time conducting research, I have learned several different methods of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods inquiry, including bird census techniques, content analysis, grounded theory, instrument development, historical analysis, and engaged scholarship in the form of SpeakOuts and adaptive leadership through community engagement. I have come to understand that there are many ways to approach a particular research problem or question, and each of these approaches has both strengths and weaknesses.
With respect to my dissertation, which focuses on the perceptions of individuals and families within a community facing managed retreat, it is my intention to answer for the local non-profit Wetlands Watch and policymakers for Chesapeake City, Virginia what is is that the community thinks about managed retreat, their experience of tidal flooding, and how they see themselves as stakeholders in the design process. Answering this practical problem will help solve the immediate and local need for community engagement and understanding what the community wants to do with parcels in their neighborhood after properties have been acquired for managed retreat. The larger research problem, understanding the perceptions of community members facing managed retreat, will be generalizable and useful for steering other coastal municipalities as they prepare to engage with their own at-risk citizens. For this research, I have settled on a two-phase mixed methods approach that includes a quantitative phase one survey instrument followed by a qualitative phase two comprising in-depth interviews based on criteria met in the survey instrument. In this way, I will be able to provide a series of metrics about the day to day impact of tidal flooding and focused dialogue about the phenomena in ways that will be useful in broader terms. As sea levels continue to rise and more communities start to feel the pressure from wave action, land subsidence, and loss of wetland ecosystems, there is opportunity for me to continue exploring other facets of managed retreat, both in the Hampton Roads Planning District and in other coastal communities.
Part of my assistantship as a graduate student over the past two years, I have had the privilege of working on research that has guided the investigation into and selection of exemplary African American recreation sites that are worthy of National Landmark distinction. I have been able to dive deep into African American historical newspapers, have read books, journal articles, and newspaper articles about the African American experience, and have collaborated with other scholars on their research through digital mapping, webinars, and virtual speaking events given by scholars in this area of expertise. Through this process, I have come to learn a great deal about how these landscapes were developed and the kinds of landscape features and community-driven elements that helped them rise in status and influence, but there is still so much more to learn. Through the study of African American outdoor recreation and leisure, I see opportunities for mentoring rising masters’ and PhD students to develop research projects related to this topic. With time and space to see it through, I would like to focus part of my time in the academy on developing a research lab centering on the study of African American recreation; with hope that I might attract, recruit, and retain new graduate and undergraduate students interested in exploring this research area.
RESEARCH IN PROGRESS
Fall 2019-Spring 2021 Nominating Exemplary African American Recreation Sites for National Landmark Status. National Park Service and Organization of American Historians. Sites being put forth for nomination: Idlewild, Michigan and American Beach, Florida. Collaborative and interdisciplinary research team from Virginia Tech Landscape Architecture Program (Brian Katen, C.L. Bohannon, and Terry Clements) and University of Virginia Department Department of History (Andrew Kharl).
Fall 2016-Present Dissertation Research. Working Title: Facing Managed Retreat: Community Perceptions on Stakeholder Roles and Restoring Ecological Function in the Face of Sea Level Rise, Tidal Flooding, and Subsidence. Co-Advisers: Mintai Kim, Ph.D. and C.L. Bohannon, Ph.D.; Committee member: Terry Clements, Landscape Architecture Program; Committee member: Ralph Hall, Ph.D., Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Tech. Goal to finish dissertation by end of 2021.
PAST RESEARCH PROJECTS
Fall 2017-Summer 2018 Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area Water Trail Conceptual Plan Project. National Park Service. Research team from Virginia Tech Landscape Architecture Program (Dean Bork, Mintai Kim, and C.L. Bohannon). Working on stakeholder engagement, branding, and identity issues for an urban National Park of the 21st century: developing river camping opportunities and sustainable riparian facilities. [Visit our website: WaterTrail.lar.vt.edu; Final Documentation: https://tinyurl.com/CRNRAwatertrail]
2011-2015 Master’s Thesis: Examining the relationship between avifauna and green roofs in Mississippi’s humid-subtropical climate. On a series of 1m x 1m test green roofs, there is no statistical difference between the mean number of birds who visit either native prairie plantings and sedum-planted roofs. Nevertheless, green roofs do provide habitat opportunities for avifauna, even at this small scale. Adviser: Tim Schauwecker, Ph.D., Department of Landscape Architecture Mississippi State University
Flood Resilience/Ecological Design/Watershed Sensitive Design
Low Impact Development/Blue-Green Infrastructure
Quantifying Ecosystem Services
African American Recreation Landscapes
Teaching & Learning