B. Applied Research to Advance Coastal Climate Resilience  

Morning Session – 8:30AM-10:30AM
Kennebec/Penobscot Room (1st floor)

Session Co-Chairs

  • Gayle Bowness, Municipal Climate Action Program Manager, Gulf of Maine Research Institute
  • Dr. Katherine Maltby, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Gulf of Maine Research Institute
  • Nathan Robbins, Climate Change Specialist, Department of Environmental Protection
  • Parker Gassett, Climate Resilience Coordinator, Maine Climate Science Information Exchange, Maine Sea Grant

Applied research brings together on-the-ground decision-making with rigorous scientific investigation. The research questions studied are informed by the real-world issues and challenges facing municipal officials, business leaders, and engaged community stakeholders. This two-way relationship results in co-developed knowledge, enabling data-driven decision-making, and creating an information exchange process that allows for multiple—and sometimes competing—perspectives to be considered. Lasting climate solutions necessitate an iterative, inclusive, transparent process of community-engaged stakeholders. This session invites short stories from science and community partners to share their outcomes, best practices, and lessons learned in advancing coastal climate resilience through an applied research framework. To follow, using a world café format we’ll facilitate session participants in a collaborative conversation with session presenters to share current projects, research ideas, and community needs.

Session Overview

Session Abstracts

Presenters are indicated in bold font

Introduction to Applied Research Frameworks

Towards Community-Centered Ocean Modeling for Portland Harbor

This presentation is available as a pdf. Please contact Curtis Bohlen with any questions.

Curtis C. Bohlen1, Tom Shyka2, Pips (Alice) Veasey3, Peter Stein4
1. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Cutler Institute, University of Southern Maine
2. Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS)
3. Portland Gateway, University of Maine
4. Scientific Solutions, Inc.

Casco Bay Estuary Partnership is working with NERACOOS to develop a high-resolution model of Casco Bay. The model will provide three-day forecasts of ocean conditions, including currents, waves, water level, salinity and temperature. Other recent models can show areas at risk of inundation, and a model being developed by Woods Hole Group for Maine DOT will provide probabilistic assessment of future flood risks.

We hosted three workshops and conducted interviews asking members of the Portland Harbor community how they might use information from ocean models. We analyzed transcripts by identifying groups of similar uses, clarifying what information different users need to address their concerns, and how they prefer to receive complicated information. Information from ocean models can address many community needs, from community planning and coastal design, to protecting water quality and conducting search and rescue. Users do not all want the same information from ocean models, nor do they want to access it the same way. Bottom temperatures matter to the fishing community. Water quality advocates want to understand transport of pollutants. Town Planners want to understand flood and erosion risks. Some users want short-term forecasts. Others want to evaluate long term risk. A few expressed interest in understanding past events.

The models are only the beginning. Community-centered ocean modeling for Portland Harbor will require engagement with the community to co-develop a collection of models, data infrastructure, visualizations and phone apps capable of delivering information to community members and address many different community needs.

CoastWise: Achieving Ecological Resilience and Climate-Ready Road Crossings in Tidal Environments

This presentation is available as a pdf. Please contact Jacob Aman with any questions.

Jacob Aman1, Ellen Bartow-Gillies2, Jeremy Bell3, William Bennet4, Robert Blunt5, Michael Burke6, Jamie Carter7, Matthew Craig8, Claire Enterline2, Jeremy Gabrielson9, Robert Hamilton10, Slade Moore11, Matthew Schultz10, Peter Taylor12, Sarah Widing6
1. Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, 2. Maine Coastal Program, 3. The Nature Conservancy, 4. USFWS Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, 5. VHB, 6. Inter-Fluve Inc., 7. NOAA Office for Coastal Management, 8. Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, 9. Maine Coast Heritage Trust, 10. Woods Hole Group, 11. Bioconserve, 12. Waterview Consulting

Safe, dependable roads are critical to the safety, functioning, and character of coastal Maine communities. Where roads cross diverse tidal environments like salt marshes and stream channels the challenges of road management are multiplied. Recent assessments demonstrate that about ninety percent of Maine’s tidal road crossings restrict tidal flow. Tidal restrictions can result in higher road maintenance costs, shortened service life, and unplanned road closures that put public well-being at risk. Rising sea level and more frequent intense storms threaten to worsen these conditions over the coming decades.

The movement of water and sediment through tidal crossings is also critical to the future of adjacent tidal wetlands like marshes and mudflats. which provide benefits to local communities, support fish and wildlife species, and provide ecosystem services such as wave attenuation and carbon capture and storage. Yet where tidal restrictions occur, the natural processes that create and sustain tidal wetlands are often impaired. Without prompt intervention, tidal wetlands compromised in this way face being overtaken by rising seas.

CoastWise was developed in response to these challenges and provides a structured but adaptive framework for addressing the diverse and often complicated conditions at tidal crossings in Maine. CoastWise is meant to encourage the development of safe, climate-resilient, cost-effective, and ecologically-supportive tidal crossings that advance resilient infrastructure and habitats. This session will provide an overview of the issues facing tidal road crossings, associated habitat implications, and the suite of practices outlined in the CoastWise guidelines.

Social Indicators of Climate Resilience: Engaging Care on the Coast

This presentation is available as a pdf. Please contact Jessica Reilly-Moman with any questions.

Jessica Reilly-Moman1,2, Heather Leslie2
1. Klima International
2. University of Maine Darling Marine Center

As climate change increasingly affects coastal communities, adaptation strategies often focus on technocratic solutions to biophysical impacts, while social and environmental justice issues become further entrenched. Using concepts and practices of care–which is simultaneously affective, ethical, and practical–we identify themes of coastal climate resilience in Mexico and Central America based on interviews and ethnographic interactions in 73 communities. We provide four metrics to measure community resilience, centering and operationalizing care as relational, place-based, networked, and inclusive. Using qualitative social data allowed us to recognize and include historical and systemic contexts when considering how to identify and monitor community needs for potential climate-related projects. With attention to care, we aim to elevate the voices and lived experiences of coastal climate adaptation and take a pragmatic feminist approach to measuring social resilience.

Challenges for stakeholder engagement: Charting a path from Vulnerability Assessment to a Regional Resilience Plan in Southern Maine

This presentation is available as a pdf. Please contact Abbie Sherwin with any questions.

Christine B. Feurt1,2, Abbie Sherwin3, Jacob Aman1, Jessica Brunacini1, Annie Cox1, Dani Boudreau4

1. Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
2. University of New England, School of Marine and Environmental Programs
3. Southern Maine Planning & Development Commission
4. NOAA Office for Coastal Management

Coastal communities in southern Maine collaborated on the Climate Ready Coast project to develop a regional coastal resilience plan for a ten-municipality region. The project engaged municipalities, local land trusts, regional conservation organizations, and state and federal natural resource agencies. Working with consultants, the group developed specific adaptation strategies, including nature-based solutions, for making the region more resilient to coastal hazards. The robust stakeholder engagement process included a project team, advisory group and working group with differing levels of project responsibility. Work was initially guided by a stakeholder survey. A robust geospatial vulnerability assessment of the region was vetted through regular meetings to evaluate products created to address stakeholder values and community needs. The greatest challenge was collaboratively prioritizing from over 50 vulnerability “hot spots” the locations of a suite of 15 resilience-building projects that represented the diversity of geographic, socioeconomic, ecological and organizational categories of vulnerable places. The Regional Resilience Plan will Include the development of site specific, “shovel ready” resilience strategies using nature based solutions, habitat restoration, infrastructure adaptation and protection of vulnerable communities. Climate Ready Coast is an example of on-the-ground implementation of “Maine Won’t Wait”, Maine’s climate action plan. The most challenging aspects of the stakeholder engagement portion of this project, included technical challenges associated with using geospatial data, and moving through the “black box” of knowing where hazards are located to deciding which locations to prioritize in a fair participatory process. The importance of providing targeted technical services to municipalities in ways that balance competing needs of local governments to build regional resilience was a key best practice developed for the project.

Q&A and Examples from Participants

World Café activity

Small group discussions about applied research for coastal resilience with question prompts.