Dissertation Defenses

Doctoral students who have an upcoming dissertation oral defense are posted here. So why not take this opportunity to learn about the research that our graduate students are doing!

Dissertation Defense for Jessica Veysey Powell

Program: Natural Resources Environ. Studies: PHD

Department Contact Email: nress.phd@unh.edu

Defense Title: Conserving Wetlands for Humans and Amphibians: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Understanding the Social and Ecological Effectiveness of New England’s Wetland Policies

Defense Date and Time: 11/20/14 3:00 pm

Defense Location: Dimond Library, Room 352

Defense Advisor: Kimberly Babbitt

Defense Abstract: Freshwater wetlands are an immensely valuable resource, but current policies fail to prevent continuing wetland destruction. Through two complementary, cutting-edge projects, I used ecological and social research to identify the factors fueling wetland loss and wetland-policy effectiveness in New England. First, I employed case-study analysis to assess the geographic and social implications of municipal wetland-policy decisions in an exurban landscape. I found that wetland-ecosystem disturbance varied significantly across the case-towns and was principally a function of social effectiveness and local policy content. Social effectiveness, in turn, was driven by multiple interacting factors, with no single prescription fitting all towns. Second, I used a large-scale ecological experiment to assess optimal wetland policies for two native amphibian species in a forestry-dominated landscape. I found that forest clear-cutting near wetlands can have strong, negative, sublethal effects on wetland-dependent amphibians, but that wider buffers mitigate the severity and duration of impacts. Combing results from both projects, I developed recommendations that towns and management institutions can use to formulate wetland policies that better balance resource development and the biological needs of wetland communities.


Dissertation Defense for Meghan Mills

Program: Sociology: PHD

Department Contact Email: deena.peschke@unh.edu

Defense Title: The Impact of Socioeconomic Status and Goal-Striving Stress on Depression and Delinquency among Rural Youth

Defense Date and Time: 03/18/15 10:00 am

Defense Location: Carsey Institute, Huddleston Hall

Defense Advisor: Dr. Karen Van Gundy

Defense Abstract: According to the stress process framework,both socioeconomic status and goal-striving stress serve as critical chronic stressors; however, little to no research has examined the relationship between socioeconomic status, goal-striving stres, and well-being using this theoretical framework. Using longitudinal data from Waves I (2009) & II (2011) of the Rural Youth Study (RYS), my dissertation examines how goal-striving stress varies by socioeconomic status, and it investigates the impact of goal-striving stress on delinquent behaviors and depressive symptoms among rural youth over time, and net of crucial components of the stress process framework (i.e., stressful life events, family attachment, and personal resources). More specifically, my research examines the unique effects of educational, occupational, and community goal-striving stress as well as the effects of a combined measure of overall goal-striving stress.
Analyses reveal a significant negative relationship between socioeconomic status and depressive symptoms, but this relationship is mediated by family attachment. Controlling for prior depressive symptoms, only a significant positive relationship between community goal-striving stress and depressive symptoms remains. However, with regard to delinquent behaviors, educational, community, and overall goal-striving stress are significantly positively related to delinquent behaviors net of prior delinquency. Such findings remain even with statistical adjustments for socioeconomic status, stressful life events, family attachment, and personal resources.
The findings of my dissertation illustrate the importance of considering various types of goal-striving stress and considering their unique effects on different outcomes. My findings highlight the importance of a "new" type of goal-striving stress among rural youth, community goal-striving stress. Additionally, my findings indicate that goal-striving stress may be especially important for understanding the unequal social distribution of outcomes such as delinquency that are not as clearly or directly associated with socioeconomic status. Such findings highlight the important role of the stress process framework for understanding socioeconomic disparities in outcomes. In sum, goal-striving stress is a critical topic for future research using the stress process framework with important policy implications for improving the well-being of rural youth.


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