University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


Providing the best tools for coastal management, protection, and resiliency

Erosion of dunes following Tropical Storm Eta. (Credit: Justin Birchler, USGS. Public domain.)

Erosion of dunes following Tropical Storm Eta. (Credit: Justin Birchler, USGS. Public domain.)

Written by Kristen Kusek, Communications Director for USF CMS

The Ocean Visions network, whose mission is to transform science and engineering into scalable, equitable, and sustainable ocean solutions, held its third virtual “Coastal Solutions” workshop April 27-28, 2021. It focused on resiliency challenges and opportunities facing Gulf of Mexico. The first one held in July 2020 focused on facing the east coast of the US; the second one in March 2021 focused on the west coast.

The workshop goals were to:

  • Compile and characterize a set of ongoing coastal solutions projects that actively engage stakeholders at the city, county, and/or state level to co-design and deploy observing and modeling frameworks for coastal inundation and change along U.S. Coasts.
  • Identify the highest priority (cross-cutting) short-term and long-term research tasks that support the creation of core services that meet stakeholder needs.
  • Draft the terms of reference for a national task force for Coastal Solutions for Climate Adaptation & Resilience to provide a platform for ongoing collaboration, coordination, and synthesis activities.

This blog report covers a key theme that was echoed throughout the workshop: the need to find the right tools that will best serve stakeholder groups. 

“We need to do a better job of providing the science in a meaningful way. … We don’t want to add clutter to everyone’s already busy lives,” said Dr. Hilary Stockdon in the kickoff keynote talk. Stockdon is the Science Advisor for Coastal Change Hazards at the USGS. “Understanding the people we serve is critical to the science we do.”

Coastal Solutions Workshop Series

Dr. Gary Mitchum, sea level rise expert and Associate Dean at the USF College of Marine Science (USF CMS), led a session aimed at exploring ways to use regional models and data to inform local decision-making. The two key speakers were Dr. Kara Doran, a scientist at the USGS Coastal and Marine Science Center in St. Petersburg, FL who happens to also be a former student of Mitchum’s, and Dr. Frank Muller-Karger, USF CMS scientist and professor.

  • Doran presented systems the USGS uses to provide coastal hazard information to stakeholders, such as the Coastal Change Hazards Portal. She emphasized the challenge of connecting the wealth of information available in the portal in a meaningful way with practitioners. 

“We seem to have a tool overload, and there is a challenge to pulling together which tools are most useful to which audiences,” she said.

  • Muller-Karger presented a comprehensive tool developed by researchers from USF and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute that allows one to visualize and compare land cover changes over the wetland areas of the Northern Gulf of Mexico and around the coast of Florida.

“We’ve developed these tools but people don’t use necessarily use them because they are too complicated,” said Muller-Karger.

The workshop team outlined the following outputs from the conference:

  • Online publicly accessible video library of all submissions featuring success stories and lessons learned of coastal flooding solutions projects that are co-designing and deploying coastal solutions with stakeholders.
  • Summary/synthesis paper describing the ongoing coastal solutions that actively engage stakeholders entitled Towards Integrated Solutions for Coastal Flooding Monitoring and Prediction in the US Coast for Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
  • “Perspective” piece (or similar) targeted to a high-impact journal, highlighting the purpose and scope of this area of research.
  • A living e-report, Transferring Knowledge into Action with Coastal Stakeholders, to inform local stakeholders and coastal research communities.
  • A white paper, Co-Designing Coastal Observing Networks with Coastal Communities, that can inform decision-makers and coastal programs at NOAA and other agencies.

They also look forward to synthesizing the work and presenting it to Congress, hoping the timing for critical coastal resiliency-focused initiatives may finally be just right – and outlined the following roadmap:

The Ocean Visions Summit

The Ocean Visions Summit, “Towards a Global Ecosystem for Ocean Solutions,” will be held May 18-21, 2021.

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Mission Statement

Our blue planet faces a suite of challenges and opportunities for understanding and innovation. Our mission is to advance understanding of the interconnectivity of ocean systems and human-ocean interactions using a cross-disciplinary approach, to empower the next workforce of the blue economy with a world-class education experience, and to share our passion for a healthy environment and science-informed decision-making with community audiences near and far.