The Coastal Society’s
Coastal Connections Web Conferencing Series was initiated in 2020 with two
concepts: Trending Topic sessions and Professional Spotlight
sessions. Here we focus on the first two Professional Spotlight
sessions, which are members-only events featuring seasoned TCS professionals who
share their career paths and provide career tips to student and young
professional members. It is also a chance for the guest speaker to reconnect
with other long-time TCS members.
The first Professional
Spotlight session, which was the second
session in the overall Coastal Connections series, was held on Thursday,
October 1, 2020 at 5 pm (Eastern) using Google Meet. TCS member Rick DeVoe
was the guest speaker. Rick, the recently retired Executive Director of the
South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, provided an overview of his professional
career path, including his educational background, his experiences with the
S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, and his involvement as one of the earliest members
of The Coastal Society.
Rick shared several
professional tips, including the importance of communication skills, building a
network, and finding a great mentor. He advised us to “be prepared
for the worst, and the best will result”. Rick noted that Margaret A. Davidson – the honorary
namesake for our TCS career development program – was an influential mentor for
Rick’s presentation covered advice for identifying a professional mentor, the
role of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in coastal management, and coastal
resiliency planning. For example, Rick noted the importance of restoring
habitat in a way that accounts for predicted environmental conditions such as
higher sea levels. We wish Rick all
the best as he embarks on his retirement adventures!
The second Professional Spotlight
session (and fourth
session in the overall series) was held on Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 4 pm
(Eastern) through Zoom. The session featured TCS member Lisa Phipps, the
North Coast Regional Representative for the Oregon Department of Land
Conservation and Development. Lisa discussed a career path that began with
fisheries research for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. She then shifted
to work in multiple levels of government in Oregon, including positions as a
mayor and a judge, after she obtained a Master’s in Environmental Policy with a
focus on coastal zone management from Vermont Law School. In her current role,
Lisa works with coastal communities to supports the implementation of statewide
Lisa shared lessons that she has learned, encouraging
us to be adaptable and willing to try a new career/life path when faced with
roadblocks. She noted that “sometimes what you
thought was the destination is simply a stopover”. She summarized with a Winnie
the Pooh quotation: “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be
Discussion following Lisa’s presentation touched on the value of seeking a job based on a desired type of work and/or geographic location to help ensure a rewarding experience. Lisa emphasized the importance of listening to and truly considering multiple stakeholder perspectives when working towards a conclusion. Lisa noted that some of her most satisfying experiences involved directly helping to improve the life of one person at a time. To receive invitations for future Professional Spotlight sessions, please be sure your TCS membership is current. Join or renew at the TCS website: Membership – The Coastal Society.
4, 2020, marked our second joint coastal career workshop with the Coastal and
Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). This year we partnered with the Atlantic
Estuarine Research Society and Southeast Estuarine Research Society, the CERF
regional affiliates for the Atlantic and Southeast states and territories.
common interests made for lively keynote talks (one by TCS President Steve
MacLeod on being a private consultant and a society officer) and six breakouts
on personal and professional skills (one lead by TCS Board member, and former
CERF Board member, Geno Olmi on federal service). Together, the program offered
career insights and optimism to students and recent graduates. There are jobs out
there for stellar applicants with polished personal skills! See more detail at TCS MAD Program.
workshop was smaller than most but that did not dampen enthusiasm. Ben Fertig, AERS President and a speaker,
wrote “Great workshop, nice job!!” and
offered to be a mentor to interested registrants. Mike DeLuca, a Senior
Associate Director in the Rutgers University Office of Research and a speaker,
said “I truly enjoyed chatting with the students . . . at the MAD event. Thanks
for including me.” Sage Riddick, a Duke graduate student, got the student registration
fee by joining TCS. Nicole Marks, a recent graduate of the University
of Delaware, said “I really appreciated the honesty of the presenters. I’ve heard
about the perks of working in the different sectors before but a lot of people
have a tendency to leave out the not as exciting details.”
As the workshop closed, Ben Fertig mentioned that AERS would
welcome a workshop at its 2021 joint meeting with the New England Estuarine
Research Society. I think we have an annual tradition!
Finally, HUGE thanks to East Carolina University’s Office of
Continuing Education (Jolie Ann Busby and Ashley Cox) for their help on the
Pathable platform, TCS Board members Tricia Hooper and Kim Grubert for their assistance,
our CERF, AERS, and SEERS sponsors for accommodating TCS in their conference
schedule, and East Carolina University professors Joe Luczkovich (past AERS
President) and Enrique Reyes (current SEERS President) for their insights
throughout the entire process.
MAD Coastal Career Development Program Virtual Workshop
Date/Time: Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 8:00am -12:15pm EDT
Interested in kick-starting your coastal or ocean career? TCS’s virtual workshop will offer you key tips and advice straight from the professionals.
Venue: This workshop will be a virtual Zoom event, in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Registration: Opening October 26 at the EventBrite link below.
Overview: As part of the Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Development Program, The Coastal Society (TCS) will host this half-day virtual workshop designed to provide valuable skills and information to the next generation of coastal and ocean practitioners, particularly college students, recent graduates, and early-career professionals. This will be the 11th event in the MAD Program series, launched in 2018. Information on past events is available on the MAD Program web page.
Final Program: This event will feature personal insights from seasoned professionals on pathways to coastal-related career options in the governmental, private, and non-profit sectors. We’ll also focus on honing skills and sharing tools to boost your career – job searches, resume preparation, virtual interviews, networking, and more. View the final program here.
Registration begins October 26, 2020 at the Eventbrite link below.
We have lost a true coastal hero. Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, a pioneer in international marine policy and an advocate and mentor for many young women ocean conservationists over the last 50 years, passed away on September 1, 2020.
Biliana was a contemporary of other visionaries in the early decades of coastal management, including TCS members Bob Knecht—an honoree for TCS’s “Robert W. Knecht Award for Professional Promise,” an award given to a rising professional in the field of ocean and coastal management who best emulates his vigor, dedication, vision, and generosity—Bob was also Biliana’s husband; Marc Hershman—professor and director at the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs and long-time editor of the Society’s official journal, Coastal Management; Mike Orbach—past TCS President and former long-term director of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment; and Margaret A. Davidson—past TCS President and honoree for our “Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Development Program”. She was among the few who developed early courses for coastal management studies in the 1970s. Biliana specialized in international coastal issues, often hosting graduate students from around the world in her roles as director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy and professor of Marine Policy at the University of Delaware. She was also editor-in-chief of the international journal Ocean & Coastal Management.
We in the coastal community owe much to Biliana. In her role at the University of Delaware she taught and mentored many who have now risen to be current leaders in our field. She will be missed by all, but remembered with a huge smile and an even bigger heart.
To read more about Biliana’s distinguished career, click here.
The Coastal Society held its first meeting
in the Coastal Connections Web Series on Friday, August 7, 2020. The Coastal Connections
series includes two session types: Trending Topics and Professional
Spotlight. The inaugural meeting on August 7 was a Trending Topics
session about Improving Diversity and Equal Representation in Coastal
Planning and Education Activities. The topic was selected to advance recent
TCS Board of Directors initiatives to combat racism and increase diversity,
equity, and inclusion in TCS activities and the coastal sector at large.
TCS volunteer Trystan Sill, Resiliency Education Coordinator with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was the moderator for the web meeting. Trystan introduced the guest presenters: (1) Dr. Brandon Jones, National Science Foundation, (2) Dr. Corey Garza, California State University – Monterey Bay, and (3) Dr. Noelle Chao, Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy.
Dr. Brandon Jones delivered the first presentation, providing an overview of systemic racism impacts on the STEM field and how sociological problems affect participation by minority groups in the STEM field. Dr. Jones recommended critical self-reflection and encouraged the development of cross-racial relationships. Dr. Jones highlighted the importance of mentoring, support, assistance, and allyship, and providing opportunities for people of color to tell their own stories and have their own spaces.
Dr. Corey Garza gave the second presentation, focusing on examples of different programs supporting diversity in the geosciences and lessons learned. Dr. Garza is on the Board of Directors for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. He provided an overview of SACNAS student support through the Geo-Futures program. Dr. Garza also highlighted the Monterey Bay Regional Ocean Science Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity, and shared an inspiring story about a former student, Paris Smalls, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in oceanography through the MIT/WHOI Joint Ph.D. program. Dr. Garza also directs the NOAA Cooperative Science Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, that is designed to train a diverse future workforce for NOAA.
Dr. Noelle Chao delivered the third presentation, describing her efforts related to congregational engagement in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Dr. Chao provided an overview of the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy’s RiverWise Congregations Program, which focuses of mobilizing faith communities to embrace an ethic of Creation Care through installing stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) on congregational properties. The RiverWise Congregations Program engages underrepresented communities in actions for clean water, and Dr. Chao highlighted that 30 congregants have been trained as Master Watershed Stewards and 21 Congregations have installed BMPs. Dr. Chao recommended that when engaging with communities, it is important to listen with an open heart and mind, be patient and keep your word to build trust, and let the community guide the action.
Following the guest speakers’
presentations, Ms. Sill facilitated discussion with support from Ashley Gordon
of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. Meeting participants posed
questions related to the following topics:
The development of
mentorship programs to reach college students and K-12 students to help them
learn about and consider career paths in STEM and instill confidence. The idea
of forming a committee of retired individuals to serve as mentors was
The importance of creating a
network to support the advancement of equal opportunities for people of color
in the coastal sciences and academia.
Approaches for encouraging
minority owned businesses or individuals from minority groups to apply for
Planning for the
next Coastal Connections meeting is underway. If you are interested in learning
more or volunteering to help develop the series, please email us at TCSCoastalConnection@gmail.com.
By: Tom Bigford. Edited by, Cassie Wilson, Kim Grubert, Tricia Hooper
virus was going to de-rail TCS’s young tradition of hosting a Margaret A.
Davidson Coastal Career Workshop during Capitol Hill Ocean Week. This year we
switched from a full day in person to four hours on a virtual platform. The
response from students and early professionals was outstanding. Our cap of 36
registrants was reached 10 days before the event, and another 27 people are on
a waiting list for a future event. Clearly, TCS is filling a need by the next
generation of coastal professionals for informative and inspirational advice on
career planning and mentoring.
speakers representing many sectors and perspectives shared their personal
stories and tips for how to be successful in a coastal career. Despite some
technical glitches, nearly all registrants felt the workshop was “definitely a
good use of their time” (96%) and thought the nominal registration fee was
appropriate (89%). As one speaker wrote on the evaluation form, “Great job organizing the workshop! Overall this is such a
great network and I always enjoy supporting this group!” Registration
included a 30-minute mentoring session with a speaker, workshop organizer, or
member of the TCS board. Those mentoring sessions are being conducted now and
were an exciting new addition to these career workshops. Early responses to
this new virtual mentoring benefit are very positive.
December 2018 TCS has hosted ten Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshops.
TCS is currently planning the rest of its 2020 calendar and anticipates hosting
another workshop in early September and
several more this autumn. Learn more about this
Like many of you, I am
disturbed and saddened by the senseless death of George Floyd. While this event
was terrible by itself, the recent nationwide protests have shined a spotlight on
other past injustices against black citizens like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna
Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and countless more. These point to a
systematic and sometimes deadly bias towards black people and other minorities
that persists despite the advances we have made since the height of the civil rights
movement over 50 years ago.
from the Coastal Society’s (TCS) Board of Directors, I will take this moment to
affirm that TCS values the inclusion and equal treatment of all our members
regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, age, or sexual orientation.
There is no place in TCS for discrimination or expressions of hatred or bigotry
against an individual based on their outward appearance or their private
beliefs. I encourage any member who has observed such unfair behavior during any
TCS event or member interactions to immediately inform me, our Executive
Director, or any member of the Board of Directors with whom you feel most
comfortable. Additionally, any member that feels that they have been subject to
discrimination of any kind should know that we take these matters seriously.
The TCS board is committed to creating a safe space for members who identify as
part of a minority group to report any sort of discriminatory situations
confidentially, without fear of criticism, harassment, or any further harm.
In addition, we
know we must do more to lift up the voices of marginalized communities. The
improvement of our coasts requires all stakeholders to have a seat at the table
during planning conversations, including minority communities that have
historically been under-served and under-represented. To support this ideal in
the coming weeks and months, the TCS Board of Directors will pursue an actively
anti-racist agenda by examining and enacting ways in which TCS can increase
ethnic diversity in our organization and our activities. This will likely start
with developing an anti-discrimination policy along with a diversity and
inclusion strategy. For example, we will consider ways to expand events such as
our MAD Coastal Career Development Workshops to better include
under-represented groups. I invite all members to step forward and assist us in
this effort by contacting me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or board member
Tricia Hooper (email@example.com);
join the conversation about how TCS can do its part to reverse institutional
racism and help make our coastal communities stronger and more inclusive.
Most sincerely, Steven MacLeod TCS President June 8, 2020
By: Tom Bigford, Tricia Hooper, Kim Grubert, Steve MacLeod
Connecting the Next Generation of Coastal Professionals
Entering or advancing in the field of coastal science and management can be overwhelming. To go to grad school, or not? Should you pursue a research-based or policy-oriented career path? Where are the best places to network? How do you know your resumé is really putting your best foot forward? With all of these questions, The Coastal Society (TCS) recognized a need to provide a forum for up-and-coming students and early-career professionals to get the answers. Enter: the Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Coastal Career Development Program.
The foundation of the MAD Program is a series of regional workshops designed to help participants build the specialized tools and skills for securing and excelling in a coastal career.
While all MAD workshops are built off the same foundational goal of sharing information, tools, and resources to assist the next generation of coastal professionals in growing their careers, each workshop is slightly different and tailored to the needs of the participants.
Since late 2018, TCS and partners have hosted five workshops across the country, and several more are in the planning process. Since we have received very positive feedback from attendees, we wanted to share some insights into what makes these workshops so great and what participants can expect from attending future events.
December 2018: Long Beach, CA
We were naturally anxious about this first event but all agreed it was a nice debut! We hosted the workshop in coordination with the Restore America’s Estuaries/Coastal States Organization conference. After a week of technical sessions, participants were primed for a career development workshop aimed at helping them to apply new-found connections and information into their own career plans.
The workshop began with a morning of talks about employment trends, regional opportunities, and success stories followed by an afternoon with smaller group discussions focusing on job skills such as interview strategies, communication skills, networking, and publishing your work. Our audience of 19 students and early professionals and 21 speakers and mentors was just right for the setting. It was very refreshing to see the side conversations extending into breaks and through lunch.
Feedback from students and early professionals confirmed that our blend of experts from across the coastal professions provided much-needed guidance and optimism. Some attendees benefited most from insights on coastal jobs. Others preferred small group conversations about career skills. And everyone appreciated the handouts.
For The Coastal Society, the Long Beach workshop provided proof of our concept. We were on our way to identifying topics and skills of most interest to potential attendees. We confirmed that these workshops need to be regional, near prospective registrants. We learned the value of solid sponsors to offset the costs of a full-day event. And, perhaps most importantly, we were reminded of how valuable it is to have a solid planning team to handle the details. Long Beach was a very nice first step.
January 2019: Washington, D.C.
We built off the momentum of a successful first event and kicked off January 2019 with the next MAD workshop in Washington DC. Held in conjunction with the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), we had over 40 participants in attendance. We were pleasantly surprised to have a wide range of participants in the room, including many from organizations not typically associated with the coastal field, such as the local Washington DC government. Despite the unforeseen difficulty of a federal government shutdown, the entire team stepped up to the challenge and we had a fantastic, robust agenda of speakers from the Coastal States Organization, Alice Ferguson Foundation, National Aquarium, American Geophysical Union, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Rare, US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Ocean Conservancy, Chesapeake Conservancy, and Restore America’s Estuaries.
After listening to feedback from the December event, we honed the agenda to provide even more opportunities for early career professionals and students to make critical connections and expand the tools in their career toolbox. Afternoon skill building sessions focused on a range of topics, includingresume writing, practicing interview skills, crafting your elevator speech, establishing a mentor relationship, and making the most of professional networks in DC.
A continued theme across the MAD professional development program is the importance of partnerships in convening successful workshops. This event would not have been possible without the outstanding in-kind support from the Women’s Aquatic Network, and generous financial support from Ocean Conservancy.
April 2019: Woodbridge, VA
The Coastal Society traveled to George Mason University’s Potomac Science Center in Woodbridge, Virginia, for its third MAD Coastal Career Program workshop on April 4, 2019. This event mirrored earlier workshops with a morning of career talks from sector leaders, an afternoon focused on the personal skills needed to launch a successful coastal career, and stories of personal success throughout. TCS partnered with the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s Atlantic Estuarine Research Society to design a program relevant to the natural sciences, resource management, and other interdisciplinary fields. The blend worked well, with spirited conversation across an audience of about 45. TCS will be looking for opportunities to partner with CERF regional affiliates on future workshops, and to reach out to other organizations and societies.
Based on feedback from our survey, attendees most appreciated the personal stories about different pathways to a coastal career. Those talks and informal conversations were inspirational and optimistic, two reactions TCS had hoped to generate. Perspectives from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Dewberry Consultants, Inc., and several government agencies revealed the diversity of career directions in public and private sectors, and made for one of the “best career events” several registrants had ever attended. Attendees also rated a talk on navigating USAJobs for federal positions as a highlight. TCS definitely learned from those comments and other feedback as it plans for 2020 and beyond.
June 2019: Washington, D.C.
With so many TCS members in the Washington DC area, we capitalized on the opportunity to host a second MAD workshop in our nation’s capital, this time in association with Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW). We partnered with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to advertise the workshop as part of the CHOW programming. We also partnered with the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, who allowed us to host the workshop at the Duke In DC office building just across the street from the CHOW facility. The Ocean Conservancy and the Ocean Foundation sponsored the workshop, enabling us to offer a reduced registration rate for students and young professionals.
Thanks to our partners and sponsors, we were able to bring in a record-breaking 57 people in the room throughout the day, including 36 students and young professionals, 15 speakers, 2 sponsors, and 4 members of the planning team. It was a tremendously successful event!
In order to improve and make these workshops as meaningful to participants as possible, we administer surveys at the end so that participants can provide anonymous feedback on their experience. We received and overwhelming expression of gratitude for the event, as well as a few thoughtful recommendations for how to improve, which we will incorporate into future workshops.
June 2019: Brockport, NY
Recognizing that the Great Lakes are nationally recognized freshwater coastal systems with challenges and opportunities for those pursuing a coastal career path, we coordinated with International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference to host a workshop at SUNY Brockport, just south of Lake Ontario, New York. The format was again a full-day event with morning presentations from representatives in the government, academic, consultant, and NGO sectors, followed by afternoon break-out sessions to focus on career skills.
We had approximately 25 participants and support from multiple sponsors, including the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Research Commission, New York Sea Grant, Ecology & Environment, and the Ocean Conservancy. Several attendees reported being encouraged to attend by professors who recognized early-on the value of the event; the attendees were glad to have followed that advice.
Similar to previous workshops, participants said it was most helpful to hear professionals discuss their journeys to their current position; to have one-on-one conversations with professionals in the different sectors about mentoring; and to learn job search strategies and demystify the job hiring process. 100% of the participants who responded rated the workshop as either “excellent” or “good;” it was clear that participants found value in all aspects of the workshop.
Suggestions to improve the workshop included more discussion on day-to-day job activities and moving some of the break-out skill sessions to the morning to help maintain participant energy. We will consider these suggestions to fine-tune future workshops so they continue to provide the ideal platform for diving into a new coastal career!
Looking to the Future
Overall, feedback for the workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. One recent graduate even told the event planners that attending the workshop was “life-changing” for her! We also received the following praise from post-workshop surveys:
“Thank you so much for hosting this event, this has been really helpful for me especially in gaining some more confidence in my career search.‘
“I wanted to thank you for helping make the Coastal Careers Workshop happen, and for your inspiring words on Margaret A. Davidson. I felt the event was both helpful and energizing and, after talking with the other participants, I gathered that they felt similarly.‘
“I wanted to reach out to you to let you know how much I loved this workshop. It was so helpful in terms of all of the information provided, but also in the invaluable connections and relationships made.‘
“Overall, well done- I have recommended to friends and colleagues in the areas you are visiting next and value my experience!‘
TCS is currently planning 2020 workshops in Wilmington, NC, and Charleston, SC. We are actively seeking sponsors, partners, and volunteers to help us continue these enriching professional development opportunities. These workshops are entirely volunteer-run, and continued engagement from the TCS community is critical for their continued success. Please contact Tom Bigford if you are interested in getting involved.
By Kim Hernandez, Coastal Planner with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Member of the TCS Board of Directors.
Imagine a coral reef without corals, estuaries without oysters or crabs, a seafood feast without scallops. It may seem dramatic, but as the carbonate chemistry in the oceans, coastal bays, and estuaries changes due to a warming climate, this could be a future reality. Fortunately, a network of scientists, tribal, federal, and state agency representatives, resource managers, and industry partners are working together in the Mid-Atlantic to prevent the region from having to imagine that type of future. Meet the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network, or MACAN.
MACAN works to develop a better understanding of the processes associated with estuarine, coastal, and ocean acidification and to predict the consequences of those processes for marine resources. They also work to devise local strategies that enable communities and industries to better prepare.
As a network of people, MACAN is poised to communicate and collaborate across agencies and industries to address the challenge of acidification. MACAN is coordinated by Kaity Goldsmith  and Grace Saba . According to Kaity, “this cooperative regional approach fosters collaboration, encourages sharing of information and best practices, and helps advance mutually agreed upon goals.” The network enables the effective use of limited resources by focusing those resources on the highest regional priorities and reducing duplication of effort.
I sat down with Kaity and Grace to better understand the issues MACAN is addressing, and to learn how TCS Members can benefit from this work.
As a network of people, what types of professionals are engaged in your network? Can anyone be involved?
MACAN includes scientists (academics and government), resource managers (all levels and types of government), affected industry, and interested partners. If someone is interested in learning more and engaging in the conversation around estuarine, coastal, and ocean acidification in the Mid-Atlantic region (south of Long Island, New York down through Virginia) they are more than welcome to be involved.
Do you often collaborate with other ocean acidification networks?
There are many other Coastal Acidification Networks (CANs) around the country – the California Current Acidification Network, or C-CAN, on the west coast, NECAN in the northeast Atlantic, SOCAN in the southeast Atlantic, GCAN in the Gulf of Mexico, and AOAN in Alaska. We interface with them all regularly via one-on-one phone calls and group discussions. There’s a lot we learn from each other since we are all at varying stages of projects about the topic of acidification. The group of CAN coordinators are very helpful to one another and create a great resource. We are currently working closely with NECAN on a project coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) North Atlantic Regional Team to develop communications products that we hope will create additional understanding around coastal and ocean acidification to Network members in the two regions. We will also be co-hosting a webinar through EBM Tools  on October 2nd from 1-2PM EST with NECAN.
MACAN has held previous webinars on various stakeholder perspectives (such as perspectives from natural resource managers and perspectives from commercial shellfish industry). Is there a key take-a-way that you’d like to share from these webinars?
MACAN has hosted 2 webinar series (8 total webinars) thus far and we hope to continue to host these webinars into the future. This is a young topic particularly in this region and these webinars provide an important opportunity for the MACAN members to learn about research efforts and member perspectives. As MACAN coordinators, these webinars provide us additional opportunities to learn about what research questions are being asked in the community and how we can promote monitoring and research that helps to answer those questions. I think a key take-away from the two webinars you mention is that there are still very basic questions we need to answer in this region to help resource managers and industry to prepare for the potential impacts of acidification, such as when and to what degree acidification will be an issue.
Is MACAN taking steps to answer those questions?
As we continue to pursue the goals of MACAN, we hope to continue to provide opportunities for our members to become involved. For the past 9 months we have been working to develop two white papers that delineate research priorities and a monitoring guide for the region that complement each other and hopefully become a basis for continued efforts around research and monitoring for the Mid-Atlantic. Network members have been crucial in the development of both white papers. We hope to finalize these in the fall of 2018 and begin to promote filling in gaps identified in both white papers in the future. We are also working on continued efforts to identify how to best address the needs of our network members and industry partners through an upcoming outreach strategy that should kickoff in the upcoming months. We also plan to continue to update the MACAN website so that it remains an information hub for the region.
Thank you to MACAN – and all the CANs – for doing this critically important work. Is there anything else you’d like TCS members to know?
I think for MACAN, being that we are a young Network, the thing we want TCS members to know is that there is a wealth of knowledge and expertise around ocean and coastal acidification in this region and we are working to coordinate this knowledge in a way that efficiently targets the region’s most pressing questions. If TCS Members are interested in learning more, our website, MidACAN.org, provides a great hub of information that we welcome everyone to look through. If anyone is interested in joining the Network or learning more, they can email us at info@MidACAN.org.
 Kaity Goldsmith is a Program Manager with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO), and is a Co-Coordinator of MACAN.
 Grace Saba is an Assistant Professor with the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, Ocean Acidification Lead at MARACOOS, and is a Co-Coordinator of MACAN.
The 2017 hurricane season was the most expensive in US history, with an estimated $265 billion in damages from 17 named storms, easily surpassing the previous record (2005) of $159 billion, which saw 28 named storms including Hurricane Katrina. Adding the West’s wildfires brings the 2017 damages total from large-scale hazard events to over $300 billion .
While recovery efforts from last year’s extreme events are still underway, we also need to think ahead toward preparing for the 2018 hurricane season while we have the chance. Between climate change and ever-growing coastal populations, we can’t afford not to learn from these recent extreme events. This past hurricane season offers lessons in the importance of using social media, integrating social science, and addressing equity issues in our preparedness work.
How is climate change affecting extreme weather?
While there are many factors that contribute to extreme weather, the following points are clear:
Warmer oceans provide more energy for storms, so we expect more intense storm events.
There is more uncertainty about the effect of climate change on hurricane frequency. The overall number of hurricanes may drop, but the proportion of stronger hurricanes may increase.
Regardless of changes in hurricane strength and frequency, storm surges will be higher due to higher sea levels.
Warmer air holds more moisture, leading to more intense rainfall. “Hurricane rainfall is projected to rise 7% for each degree Celsius rise in tropical sea surface temperatures” .
Higher ocean temperatures may also contribute to larger and longer lasting storms.
The range of hurricanes may expand as ocean temperatures rise, leading to storms in places that haven’t experienced them before (e.g., Ophelia, which hit Ireland and the U.K. this past fall).
Time series data from the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information clearly suggest that the number of billion-dollar disaster events is growing over time. Extreme weather is becoming our ‘new normal’, and we will need to embrace ‘expecting the unexpected’ as our modus operandi.
What can we learn from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season?
The importance of social media. This is evidenced by headlines like, “‘Please Send Help.’ Hurricane Harvey Victims Turn to Twitter and Facebook” (Time Magazine), “Hurricane Harvey: 5 Ways Social Media Saved Lives in Texas” (San Diego Union-Tribune), “Social Media Plays Growing Role in Guard’s Hurricane Response” (Military.com), and others (see graphic).
The 2017 storms showed the power of social media in providing real-time information, requesting help, documenting impacts, and checking on friends and family members.
George Washington University media professor Nikki Usher reflected in an opinion piece for the San Diego Union-Tribune, “We’ve seen disasters through Facebook where you can mark yourself safe and there have been movements toward giving people a chance to check in—but this is one of the first real disasters where you see rescuing via social media, you see images that the media couldn’t possibly get” .
While there were many positive stories about social media posts leading to rescues and other benefits, there are caveats – some reported hoaxes like insurance scams or the risk of identity theft due to sharing personal information. In addition, calling 911 remains the standard rescue request approach, so those who tweeted help requests instead may not have received assistance.
The main social media lesson here is that all of us operating in the coastal management/emergency response sphere need to engage in using social media during storm response, but we need to also identify best practices as we enter this relatively new territory.
The importance of social science.“Why don’t people evacuate?” was a question that came up over and over again on media coverage of the storms.
I think one role coastal managers can play is to help raise awareness about common reasons people choose not to evacuate and help communities address those barriers in the future. For example, some may be physically unable to leave their homes due to a disability, others don’t want to leave their pets behind, and some are afraid that their homes might be looted if they leave. Others may recall experiences from a previous storm event and are confident that they can ride out the next one.
Generally, those with limited financial resources can’t leave as easily, and some describe feeling a responsibility to stay and look out for their neighbors. In addition, many people’s evacuation decisions are influenced by whether evacuation orders made by local or state governments are voluntary or mandatory. These are legitimate factors in people’s decision-making, and we need to make sure our emergency preparedness and response communications help address these barriers (and work to improve the dialogue around this in the media where we have opportunities to do so) .
An example of audience segmentation related to hurricane response comes from coastal Connecticut (see graphic below). A 2014 survey of Connecticut residents in Coastal Evacuation Zones A and B found there to be five hurricane audience segments: “First Out” residents (21%) are anxious and eager to leave if a hurricane is in the forecast. “Constrained” residents (14%) are aware of risks and willing to evacuate but face barriers to doing so. “Optimists” (16%) doubt a hurricane will occur, but these coastal residents are willing to evacuate if one does occur. Twenty-seven percent are “Reluctant” to evacuate but will leave if ordered to. Lastly, the “Diehards” (22%) are confident they can safely ride out hurricanes at home . Effective communication about preparedness will likely look different for each of these audiences.
There is a growing body of social science research and risk communication best practices available that many of us our familiar with, but we could work more with media outlets to incorporate these principles before, during, and after storm events.
Bringing equity issues to the forefront. There are a lot of layers here, and no easy answers.
While extreme weather events don’t discriminate in whom they impact, low-income individuals, disabled individuals, and communities of color tend to be disproportionately affected . For example, those who are already economically vulnerable have fewer resources to invest in flood insurance and are less able to sustain loss of income from disrupted employment during storms.
As described above, physical and economic vulnerabilities play a big role in preparedness and decisions to evacuate. University of North Carolina at Greensboro Professor of Sociology Steve Kroll-Smith provides some insight: “A disaster creates a clean slate for communities – a moment when things could be otherwise. However, what ends up happening is that we rebuild the inequality that existed prior to the recovery… In a society like ours, disaster relief processes are inevitably administered via market principles, including the potent notion of whether or not an applicant for relief is determined to be ‘market worthy.’ A market society is, by its very nature, going to recreate the inequalities that existed prior to the disaster” .
In 2017, there was a noticeable disparity in media coverage of the storm impacts on different places, and a lot of dialogue about the disparity in federal response to different places. While there are challenges in directly comparing the storms’ impacts and responses, it was hard not to notice some differences.
FiveThirtyEight analyzed media coverage for Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico and compared coverage for Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, finding that Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico got comparatively little online and cable TV coverage .
The United States Virgin Islands and other islands in the Caribbean were devastated by hurricanes as well, but they received even less media coverage and federal response than Puerto Rico. .
All of the storms seem to have faded into history, but people are still recovering and still need support. As of December 29th (about three months after hurricane Maria), half of Puerto Ricans were still without power . It also became apparent that “nearly half of Americans don’t know Puerto Ricans are fellow citizens” which speaks to some even larger awareness and understanding issues . There is certainly a lot of room for improvement in how we keep the dialogue going and keep the support coming long after the immediate aftermath and to all affected places and communities.
Seizing the educational opportunity. The 2017 hurricane season sparked a fair amount of dialogue about the “500-year-storm” and “100-year-floodplain” terminology. Here are just a few examples:
“Houston is experiencing its third ‘500-year’ flood in 3 years. How is that possible?” (Washington Post)
“’500-year’ rain events are happening more often than you think” (CBS News)
“A ‘500-Year Flood’ Could Happen Again Sooner Than You Think. Here’s Why.” (New York Times)
“Hurricane season ends and FEMA 100-year floodplain to be expanded” (KHOU)
“Builders Said Their Homes Were Out of a Flood Zone. Then Harvey Hit.” (New York Times)
“It’s Time to Ditch the Concept of ‘100-Year Floods’” (FiveThirtyEight)
“Hurricane Harvey shows how floods don’t pay attention to flood zone maps – or politicians” (Washington Post)
While the top priorities after storm events are of course safety and recovery, there are significant educational opportunities related to climate change during these times. Some argue it is insensitive to discuss climate change soon after hurricane events, but I think it would be irresponsible not to have climate change be a central part of recovery and rebuilding efforts. We need to ensure that decisions made now incorporate science, take into account likely future conditions, and work to tackle equity-related issues.
With about six months left until the next hurricane season begins, we certainly have a lot of lessons to digest from the 2017 season and a lot of preparedness work to do. What other lessons did you take from the 2017 storms? How are you preparing for 2018? Please write your thoughts in the comments box below.