Joanna Wozniak-Brown, Ph.D., is a 2017 graduate of the Ph.D. Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • James Jordan, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • James Gruber, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Keith Halfacree, Ph.D., Committee Member


climate change, place attachment, environmental studies, land use planning, local planning, regional, rural, rural character, mixed-methods, case-study, community character, socio-ecological systems, Connecticut, United States, adaptation guidance

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Around the world, municipalities are facing new challenges, not the least of which is climate change. This is especially true for rural communities that, for a variety of reasons, will be disproportionately affected by the climatic changes and accompanying policies or programs.

This dissertation, written in manuscript-style, integrates climate change and social-ecological scholarship to address the unique character of rural communities, to communicate the complexity of rural identity through the term "rural character"; and to empower rural communities to incorporate adaptation strategies into their daily municipal operations and planning.

Specifically, this dissertation seeks to answer the following questions: What is community character and what does it offer for climate change planning? What is the relationship between rural character and climate change? How can rural communities adapt to create a resilient rural character?

Through this research, I argue that there is a common dialogue across multiple disciplines that shows opportunities for interdisciplinary adaptation scholarship that could inform local planning efforts. I identify a common framework of people-place-process across multiple disciplines and identify opportunities for cross-disciplinary communication. To understand the complexity of the rural identity, my single mixed-methods case-study in Northwest Connecticut develops a place-based definition as well as a transferable model of rural character that can be used to understand other rural locales. The model of elements, dimensions, and tensions presents the quantitative and qualitative nature of rurality that, in its composition, represents the components of meaning to local residents. The study also indicates the importance of a regional rural identity.

Bringing the scholarship to bear in the last manuscript, I use the theoretical underpinning of socio-ecological systems and place-based definition of rural character to create a guidebook that lists the particular steps a community might take to adapt to climate change.

Emphasizing continual improvement and place-based strategies, the guidebook offers both procedural guidance and specific adaptation strategies, a combination not yet utilized in other adaptation guidance. Throughout the dissertation, I emphasize the utility of this scholarship for rural planners.

As a body of work, this dissertation emphasizes the complexity of rural communities, the need for reflective planning, and responsive place-based climate change adaptation that protects and enhances rural character.


Joanna Wozniak-Brown

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0002-0828-5966