Monroe, Martha

Associate Director and Professor, Environmental Education
Florida Sea Grant Affiliate Faculty

Martha Monroe is responsible for extension activities, research, and teaching courses related to environmental education, conservation behavior, and human dimensions of environmental issues. Her work includes the development and evaluation of curriculum resources for educators that help students develop understanding, systems thinking skills, and efficacy for solving environmental problems. She works to understand how people perceive issues such as climate change, wildfire, or woody biomass in the South, and designs program to build capacity to discuss issues, acknowledging varying perspectives.

Her extension programs include youth (4-H) and teacher programs (PLT) as well as the deliberative dialogue program, CIVIC. These programs help Extension agents deliver resources to enhance youth development (Nature Poetry Contest and Community Action Projects for the Environment) and to build community capacity for addressing challenging issues.

Prior to joining the School in 1997, she directed the Resource Center for GreenCOM, an international environmental education and communications project, coordinated the development of the EE Toolbox for the National Consortium for Environmental Education and Training, taught in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and developed award-winning youth programs at the Dahlem Environmental Education Center in Michigan. She was the President of the North American Association for Environmental Education (2006-2007) and continues to work with colleagues around the world to promote high quality environmental education programs, evaluation, and research.

Martha is dedicated to using education to help move individuals and communities toward pro-environmental and sustainable decisions.

COURSES TAUGHT

FOR 3202 Society and Natural Resources
FNR 4070C / FNR 5072C Environmental Education Program Development
FOR 6005 Conservation Behavior

Environmental education is the process of designing programs that build knowledge and skills and that empower learners to contribute to resolving environmental issues. Martha's research focuses on helping learners understand complex issues, targeting older youth and adults. She also explores teaching strategies and platforms that enable people to practice skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and systems thinking.

Over the decades of work with a variety of students, Martha has incorporated their interests and passions into program opportunities to ask and answer important research questions, using her Extension appointment to develop and evaluate well-designed programs. Working with controversial issues necessitates that researchers understand what audiences know and care about.

For example:

  • After learning about the issue in a community forum, citizens are most concerned that woody biomass comes from sustainable forest operations.
  • Extension agents across the Southeast hold the same opinions of climate change as the general public across the U.S., despite their role as conveyors of science. Agents working in agriculture are less concerned about climate change than those working in natural resources.
  • While there are many things that environmentalists and agricultural producers agree upon regarding water quality and quantity, they approach the issues quite differently, which can result in contentious disagreements regarding the causes of water problems. Environmentalists perceive the issue in the context of the ecosystem; producers tend to focus on their personal farm property.

Program evaluation has created opportunities to develop new tools for assessing program effectiveness. For example, teaching high school students about climate change does not empower them to take action if educators do not simultaneously build hopefulness; one PhD student developed a scale for measuring hope in the context of climate change (Li and Monroe, 2017).

Recognizing a nascent movement in creating programs to connect people to nature, Martha worked with another student to develop one of the first scales for assessing connection-to-nature among children (Cheng and Monroe, 2012). This scale has been used by agencies in New Zealand and Great Britain to develop baseline assessments and by researchers around the world.

A portion of Martha's research effort has also been dedicated to synthesizing and consolidating efforts to make information more available to other researchers, Extension agents, and environmental educators.

  • A systematic review of the climate change education literature revealed six themes that are successfully used around the world. Using good science education as a starting point, successful education strategies use community action projects, address common misconceptions, and engage learners in deliberative discussions to strengthen their own ideas about the evidence and understand alternative explanations (Monroe et al. 2017).
  • Working with environmental education practitioners and environmental psychologists, Martha led a participatory process to identify, improve, and make available assessment tools that measure Connection to Nature. The resulting guide (Salazar, Kunkle and Monroe, 2020) was downloaded over 11,000 times in the first two months.
  • The Reasonable Person Model (RPM) helps explain frustration and success with collaborative adaptive management processes in springs management (Monroe, Plate, Oxarart 2013) and successful youth partnership programs to reduce wildfire risk (Monroe, Ballard et al. 2016). RPM is also the basis for the CIVIC Extension program.
  • The Monroe Lab summarized their program development process for the award-winning Southeastern Forests and Climate Change instructional module in BioScience to help researchers address broader impacts with research activities (Monroe and Oxarart, 2018). This blend of research and practice has been seamless; it keeps her research applicable and relevant while building novel and theory-based programs for practitioners.

Impacts and Outcomes: Martha's research publications have helped establish the direction of evaluation and program development in environmental education around resolving controversial issues. Her publications are widely read and cited, contributing to her placement in the top ten among world scholars in environmental education according to Google Scholar. As of March 2021, her papers have been cited over 5,500 times; her h-index is 34, and her i10-index is 87.

Extension programs are an important aspect of the University of Florida’s commitment to the citizens of Florida. As an environmental educator with an extension appointment, Martha uses several strategies to educate educators and residents about environmental issues, enabling them to make wise decisions and take appropriate actions that lead to improvements in the quality of their lives and their environment.

Because there are many agencies and organizations involved with education (both youth and adult), Martha also works with education and resource management professionals to improve and enhance their programs through professional development. In this way, Extension’s message is carried by teachers; curriculum specialists; county, state, and federal agency educators; nature center educators; and others in the environmental education arena.

Her primary, current Extension activity is leading CIVIC, Community Voices, Informed Choices, a state-wide program with UF and FAMU that builds community capacity to address local contentious issues. The team has developed a deliberative discussion guide to explore the health of the Indian River Lagoon and are currently working on developing a toolbox for agents to help communities explore land use values. In each of their projects they work purposefully to raise the voices of those who are not typically part of community problem solving discussions.

Prior to 2017 Martha worked on large, grant-funded projects addressing important issues: wildland fire, wildland-urban interface, biomass energy, and climate change. In some cases, she provided program materials directly to agents and in others she worked with state forest agencies or educators to deliver instructional materials. Three of these projects were regional, and all integrated research with extension.

As part of her position in FFGS she supports youth education through 4-H such as the Forest Ecology Contest and the Nature Poetry Contest. She is currently working on the development of Community Action Projects for the Environment. She also integrates her work in program evaluation with extension in national professional development activities.

FOREST RESOURCES & CONSERVATION
347 Newins-Ziegler Hall, PO Box 110410
Gainesville, FL 32611-0410

mcmonroe@ufl.edu
(352) 846.0878

AFFILIATED INSTITUTIONS

  • PhD, University of Michigan, 1991
  • MS, University of Michigan, 1986
  • BS, University of Michigan, 1979
  • Books:
    • Salazar, G., Kunkle, K., and Monroe, M. C. 2020. Practitioner Guide to Assessing Connection to Nature. Washington DC: NAAEE. 62 pages
    • Monroe, M. C. and M. E. Krasny (Editors). 2016. Across the Spectrum: Resources for Environmental Educators, Third Edition. Washington DC: North American Association for Environmental Education. 297 pages. Available at https://naaee.org/eepro/resources/across-spectrum-resources-environmental-educators
    • Jacobson, S. K., M. D. McDuff and M. C. Monroe. 2015, Second Edition. Conservation Education and Outreach Techniques. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press. 428 pages.
    • Ernst, J. A., M. C. Monroe, and B. Simmons. 2009. Evaluating Your Environmental Education Programs: A Workbook for Practitioners. Washington DC: North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). 172 pages
    Journal Articles:
    • Monroe, M.C., C. Crandall, L. Maynard. 2021. Conservation behavior can defy traditional predictors. Journal of Environmental Education.
    • Salazar, G., I. Ramakrishna, N. Satheesh, M. Mills, M. C. Monroe, K. K. Karanth. 2021. The challenge of measuring children’s attitudes toward wildlife in rural India, International Journal of Geography and Environmental Education.
    • Hundemer, S. and Monroe, M. C. 2020. A co-orientation analysis of producers’ and environmentalists’ mental models of water issues: opportunities for improved communication and collaboration. Environmental Communication. tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17524032.2020.1828128. DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2020.1828128
    • Plate, R. R., Monroe, M. C., Friedrichsen, C., Bowers, A. W., Chaves, W. A. 2020. Recommendations for early phases of engaging communities in climate change adaptation. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 8(2): 136-164. Accessible at: https://www.jhseonline.com/article/view/1057/833
    • Moreno, B., Crandall, C., Monroe, M. 2020. Factors influencing minority and urban students’ interest in natural resources. Journal of Forestry, 118(4): 373-384. https://doi.org/10.1093/jofore/fvaa008.
    • Crandall, C., Monroe, M. Dutka-Gianelli, J., Lorenzen, K., 2019. Meaningful action gives satisfaction: Stakeholder perspectives on participation in the management of marine recreational fisheries. Ocean and Coastal Management, 179, September 2019, 1-10, 104872. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2019.104872
    • Monroe, M. C., A. E. Adams, A. Greenaway. 2019. Considering research paradigms in environmental education. Environmental Education Research. 25(3): 309-313. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2019.1610863. Includes Student Reading Supplement.
    • Monroe, M. C. and A. Oxarart. 2019. Integrating Research and Education: Developing Instructional Materials to Convey Research Concepts. BioScience, 69(4): 282-291. This is a synthesis of our 6-year project.
    • Kunkle, K. A. and Monroe, M. C. 2018. Cultural cognition and climate change education in the U.S.: why consensus in not enough. Environmental Education Research, 25(5): 633-655.
    • Li, C. and M. C. Monroe. 2017. Development and validation of the climate change hope scale for high school students. Environment and Behavior, 50(4): 454-479.
    • Monroe, M. C., Plate, R. R. Oxarart, A. Bowers, A., & Chaves, W. A. (2017). Identifying effective climate change education strategies: a systematic review of the research. Environmental Education Research. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2017.1360842.
    • Monroe, M. C., H. Ballard, A. Oxarart, V. E. Sturtevant, P. J. Jakes, and E. R. Evans. 2016. Agencies, educators, communities and wildfire: partnerships to enhance environmental education for youth. Environmental Education Research, 22(8): 1098-1114
    • Monroe, M. C., R. R. Plate, and L. Colley. 2015. Assessing an introduction to systems thinking. Natural Sciences Education, 44(1): 11-17.
    • Monroe, M.C., Plate, R. R., Adams, D. C. and Wojcik, D.J. 2015. Harnessing homophily to improve climate change education. Environmental Education Research, 21(2): 221-238. Available in a free virtual issue of EER on climate change and education at https://tinyurl.com/ceer-vsi. This paper was chosen as a UF/IFAS High Impact Research Publication in 2016 and recognized for particularly significant impacts.
    • Monroe, M. C., A. Oxarart, R. Plate. 2013. A role for environmental education in climate change for secondary science educators. Applied Environmental Education and Communication, 12(1): 4-18.
    • Monroe, M. C., R. Plate, and A. Oxarart. 2013. Intermediate Collaborative Adaptive Management Strategies Build Stakeholder Capacity. Ecology and Society, 18 (2): 24. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol18/iss2/art24/.
    • Monroe, M. C., S. Agrawal, P. J. Jakes, L. E. Kruger, K C. Nelson, V. Sturtevant. 2013. Identifying indicators of behavior change: Insights from wildfire education programs. Journal of Environmental Education. 44(3): 180-194.
    • Biedenweg, K., M. C. Monroe and A. Oxarart. 2013. The Importance of Teaching Ethics for Sustainability. International Journal for Sustainability in Higher Education. 14(1): 6-14.
    • Monroe, M.C. 2012. The co-evolution of ESD and EE. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. 6(1): 43-47.
    • Cheng, J. C-H. and M. C. Monroe. 2012. Connection to nature: Children’s affective attitude toward nature. Environment and Behavior. 44(1): 31-49. First published Nov 7, 2010 DOI: 10.1177/0013916510385082.
    • Monroe, M. C., L. McDonell, A. Oxarart, R. Plate. 2009. Using community forums to enhance public engagement in environmental issues. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development. 3(2): 171-182.
    • Monroe, M.C., E. Andrews, and K. Biedenweg. 2007. A framework for environmental education strategies, Applied Environmental Education and Communication 6(3-4): 205-216.
    • Monroe, M. C. 2003. Two avenues for encouraging conservation behaviors, Human Ecology Review 10(2): 113-125. Abstracted and included in the online research database for NAAEE, 2011.