Date of Award

Winter 2022

Project Type


Program or Major

Natural Resources and Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Catherine Ashcraft

Second Advisor

Heidi Asbjornsen

Third Advisor

Bridie McGreavy


Conflicts over water resources, like other sustainability-related conflicts, are opportunities for discussion, learning, and resolution. Although miscommunication and competition are often barriers to developing effective solutions for water management, parties can productively negotiate their conflict, strengthen relationships, and challenge the status quo. The two most common strategies negotiators use are commonly referred to as competitive, in which negotiators view their goals in direct conflict and seek to claim as much value as possible, and interest-based, in which negotiators strive to create value and reach an outcome that meets all parties' interests, as well as their own. This research investigated how the ways negotiating groups use scientific data in competitive and interest-based negotiation strategies impacts negotiation outcomes. I analyzed the dialogue from four negotiation groups who participated in a science-based roleplay negotiation simulation focused on decision-making about dams in New England. I found that the time negotiating groups spent discussing scientific information, which for this research focused on use of a system dynamics model, whether groups focused on individual fish species, and the ways negotiating groups used scientific information in the value creation and value claiming stages of the negotiation did not explain differences in their negotiated outcomes. How much each group focused on all system performance variables provided the most compelling explanation for their different observed outcomes. The two groups with preferable outcomes considered fish moderately, in addition to hydropower generation and project cost, while the two groups with outcomes that performed worse considered fish less in their negotiations, relative to the other two issues. The findings from this research support the use of discourse analysis for analyzing how scientific information is used in negotiations and for evaluating outcomes from role-play negotiation simulations.


A recording and the slides from Theresa McCarty's thesis defense presentation are available here: