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Coastal Management Fellowship

2015-2017 Fellowship Project Summaries

Rachel Bouchillon, from the University of Florida and nominated by Florida Sea Grant, worked with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ Division of Coastal Resources Management to help achieve resilient and sustainable growth by centralizing data and creating decision-support tools. Rachel developed a map-based decision-support tool for the agency’s coastal permitting division. Her web application enables staff members to get reports on environmental, social, and climate-related conditions by entering a land parcel number in a query feature. Her application will centralize permit-related data and streamline the application review process.

Abbie Sherwin, from the University of New Hampshire and nominated by New Hampshire Sea Grant, worked with the Maine Coastal Program to bolster the resilience of Maine’s coastal communities to flood hazards through a two-part project. First, Abbie developed the Maine Flood Resilience Checklist. This simple and practical self-assessment tool helps communities understand their vulnerability to current and future flood hazards, evaluate preparedness for flood events, and gauge the resilience of their social, natural, and physical systems. It includes a facilitated discussion process and guides communities in using results to identify specific flood resilience actions. Second, she worked to boost community participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System (CRS). This system is a voluntary incentive program that provides discounted flood insurance in exchange for floodplain management activities that go beyond minimum national requirements. Abbie conducted education and outreach efforts to increase awareness of CRS and developed guidance materials to streamline the application process.

Ashley Green, from Duke University and nominated by North Carolina Sea Grant, worked with the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management to provide the state’s coastal communities with stormwater management tools that can strengthen climate change resilience and improve water quality. Many of the tools address runoff associated with higher precipitation and extreme rain events. Ashley’s outreach to municipal planners and planning board members is particularly important because in Massachusetts, these officials’ decisions on zoning, subdivision control, and site, master, and open space planning can greatly affect how stormwater is managed. To reach these audiences and others, Ashley developed a guidebook addressing new stormwater permit requirements; best management practices and ways to coordinate local planning efforts; funding sources and strategies; planning and zoning tools for stormwater management at municipal, neighborhood, and site scales; and ways to determine each community’s needs, strengths, structure, and resources.

The fellow from Stanford University and nominated by California Sea Grant, worked with the New Hampshire Coastal Program and the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership to systematically integrate social science into ecosystem management for New Hampshire’s estuaries. Simone studied how other coastal management agencies have captured the way humans engage with, and benefit from, local coastal and watershed resources, and applied what she found to the social ecological system in the Piscataqua region watershed. Simone also interviewed stakeholders who study and manage the watershed—and those who live and do business in it—to discover ecosystem aspects they value. She captured those values and benefits through the collection of regional social ecological data, and her work will be published in the 2018 State of Our Estuaries report, a regional publication. After her fellowship ends, the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership will build on the social research agenda Simone established during her time as a fellow and will continue to monitor these social indicators as vital components of a healthy watershed.

Julie Sepanik, from George Mason University and nominated by Virginia Sea Grant, worked with the Oregon Coastal Management Program to plan for sea level rise by building an inventory of vulnerable estuary shoreland resources. She produced six future flooding scenarios and inventoried assets—such as infrastructure and socioeconomic and natural resources—at risk within each scenario. Julie’s final reports and a map viewer identify sea level rise exposure for each estuary in the project area and shed light on associated flooding statewide. With these aids, the state can pinpoint vulnerable communities most in need of adaptation funds. On the local level, communities can use these products for sea level rise vulnerability assessments and to begin adaptation planning.

The fellow from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and nominated by California Sea Grant, worked with the Puerto Rico Coastal Zone Management Program to coordinate the Puerto Rico Climate Change Council, co-lead the development of Puerto Rico’s State of the Climate report for 2014 to 2017, and begin creating a Climate Resilience Toolkit for Puerto Rico. The climate report features the most up-to-date information for the island. Amanda coordinated the efforts of more than 100 experts to write various sections. She also planned the working group meetings and annual climate change summits, and she chairs the group charged with communicating climate change science effectively to the public. The Climate Resilience Toolkit will include numerous resources, but Amanda’s main focus is the Vulnerability Self-Assessment Tool for Coastal Communities. With this tool, communities and officials can assess hazard risks and determine adaptation actions that can protect their localities.