Community-led Climate Justice Action
In the U.S., BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and low-income communities as well as children and the elderly are facing disproportionate burdens as climate change exacerbates existing social, economic, and health inequities and exploits physiological vulnerabilities (Trott et al., 2022). My research in this area explores how to cultivate empowering spaces for minoritized and historically-excluded groups, especially young people, to learn about and take action on these issues according to their own interests and visions for a more just and sustainable future (Trott, 2019; 2021; Trott & Weinberg, 2020). In doing so, I use participatory action research (PAR) methods and engage with youth and community groups as co-researchers and critical actors for societal transformation (Lam & Trott, 2022; Trott, 2019).
Four recent research projects in this area include: (1) a multi-site collaborative study in partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs exploring the psychosocial and community impacts of youth-led, community-based climate action projects (e.g., tree-planting; city council presentation; community gardening; Trott, 2020, 2021; 2022); (2) a multi-cycle integrated art-science program in collaboration with a community arts center in Jacmel, Haiti to position youth as agents of change for environmental justice through water quality testing, community asset mapping, and arts-powered advocacy (Trott et al., 2020; 2020); (3) an in-depth interview study with youth climate justice activists from across the U.S. exploring their motivations, challenges, and visions for the future; and (4) two 18-month systematic review projects (Trott et al., under review) focused on summarizing and synthesizing the published, peer-reviewed literature on education and action for climate justice.
University-Community-Policy Partnerships for Sustainable Futures
A second major focus of my research has been the role of higher education in building cross-sector partnerships for sustainable futures, for example through interdisciplinary, publicly-engaged, and policy-oriented partnerships involving multiple stakeholder groups. I have conducted four main research projects in this area: (1) an interdisciplinary multi-university collaboration examining the student, societal, and sustainability-related benefits of PAR-based UREs, which are undergraduate research experiences (UREs)—built into university-community partnerships—that apply PAR principles towards addressing community-defined challenges (Trott et al., 2018; Trott et al., 2020; Weinberg et al., 2018); (2) a large-scale qualitative study examining the transformative potential of sustainability science education for future elementary school teachers, emphasizing the need for structural-level change in support of teacher preparation to address topics of social inequity and environmental sustainability across the curriculum (Wakefield et al., 2022; Weinberg et al., 2020); (3) a mixed-methods research project in collaboration with a local environmental justice organization to examine the impact of the Climate Safe Neighborhoods partnership, which engages community residents living in predominantly BIPOC and low-income Cincinnati neighborhoods in climate resiliency planning (Trott et al., 2022); and (4) a University-Community-Policy Partnership—involving my lab, three community partner organizations, city officials, and community residents—that culminated in the City of Cincinnati’s first-ever Climate Equity Indicators Report (Even et al., 2021), a 320-page document providing maps and up-to-date statistics on a variety of social, economic, health, and environmental indicators at the neighborhood-level scale. Since its publication, this report has been a guiding document in the city’s equity-driven climate action planning efforts. Looking ahead, to continue my research in this area, I am Co-PI on a recently-funded NSF grant ($500K) to explore the impacts of a three-tier graduate-level training program aimed at: (1) enabling graduate students to engage with public audiences and community partners; (2) equipping graduate students to collaborate across disciplines; and (3) promoting diversity and inclusion in graduate-level STEM education.
Psychologies for Climate Justice
My final research area deals with theoretical and methodological bridge-building between the focus of my research (i.e., climate change and sustainability transformations) and the commitments of my discipline (i.e., social and community psychology). To these ends, I have collaborated with scholars from across disciplines to publish research related to the process of community transformation and activism in post-hurricane Puerto Rico (Unanue et al., 2020), the importance of community-engaged research by climate change-focused psychologists (Chapman et al., 2018), and the importance of climate justice research in community psychology (Trott et al., 2022).
To date, my research has been published in the journals Sustainability Science, Action Research, Community Psychology in Global Perspective, Environmental Education Research, Studies in Higher Education, Sustainability, Journal of Social and Political Psychology, and others. In addition, my research has been funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, UC’s Urban Futures Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the National Science Foundation. In and through my research lab, the Collaborative Sustainability Lab, my research is dedicated to the mission, co-generated with graduate and undergraduate students, of: “Working in solidarity with marginalized communities through collaborative research and action for social and climate justice.”