Date of Award

Spring 2015

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Robert Eckert

Second Advisor

Richard England

Third Advisor

Becky Sideman


This dissertation presents a new participatory approach to agricultural research and development. It surveys the biological, sociological, economic, and technical landscape and proposes a framework for adaptive management based on the 18th century Physiocratic school of land-based economics. Industrial specialization and heavy emphasis on deductive approaches to science have contributed to the disconnection of large portions of the population from natural systems. Conventional agriculture and agricultural research methods following this pattern have created expensive social, environmental, and economic external costs, while adaptive management and resilient agricultural systems have been hindered by the cost and complexity of quantifying environmental services. However, the convergence of low cost computing, sensors, memory, and resulting data analytic methods, combined with new collaborative tools and social media, have created an exciting open source environment with the potential to engage more people in analyzing and managing our natural environment.