Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

Charles Chancellor

Committee Member

Lori Dickes

Committee Member

Jeffery Allen

Committee Member

Elizabeth Baldwin


Adaptive natural resource governance strives to connect individuals and groups at multiple governance levels to organize as social networks that can draw on diverse experiences and knowledge to address complex natural resource and environmental challenges. To facilitate these networks, adaptive governance approaches emphasize collaborative stakeholder processes and social-ecological perspectives. However, the diverse opinions, backgrounds, and values in stakeholder process create their own challenges for effective and efficient solutions. Social capital and sense of place have emerged as prominent theoretical constructs to help explain cognitive process and behaviors in social-ecological networks. This dissertation explores the intersection of these two theoretical paradigms, proposing that they work together to form their own form of capital. This union is dubbed “Cosmic Capital,” defined as the human affiliation with natural areas expressed through dimensions of place and community bonds, and the capacity for this affiliation to activate environmental stewardship. It proposes cosmic capital as an extant force or capability existing within social networks oriented around place. The challenge for natural resource policy makers is to harness or employ this force for environmental stewardship through effective adaptive governance policy.

This issue is explored in a series of three case studies organized around three social networks. One is organized around the South Carolina Conservation Bank, a statewide land conservation program that has emerged as an effective tool of adaptive water governance. The others offer a comparative exploration of conservation efforts in the high amenity community of Lake Lure, North Carolina, and the mixed amenity community of Glendale, South Carolina. Results suggest that cosmic capital can be successfully based on shared, place-based identities centered around environmental narratives, highlighting the positive influence of bonding social capital. However, bridging social capital--in the form of shadow networks, bridging organizations, and transformational leadership--appears to be a necessary ingredient for successful efforts. When bridging capital resources are absent, as in the case of Glendale, communities struggle to activate cosmic capital into successful environmental stewardship.

Author ORCID Identifier


Available for download on Sunday, December 31, 2023