TCS Coastal Connections Discusses Coastal Storms and Community Resilience

By Ellis Kalaidjian and Ashley Gordon

Coastal communities are experiencing more intense storms under a changing climate—this past Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active in recorded history, hosting one of the five costliest hurricanes to impact the US. Future storm impacts are predicted to be exacerbated by continued sea-level rise and population growth along coastlines, combined with climatic changes breeding favorable environmental conditions for the development of more frequent intense storms. Building coastal community resilience is thus continually placed on local, state, and federal agendas, and it served as the subject of the Coastal Society’s (TCS) Coastal Connections session, held on October, 21, 2021. A recording of the session is available here.

TCS President, Steve MacLeod, initiated the session by familiarizing attendants with TCS and the Coastal Connections web series and then inviting attending Board Members to introduce themselves. The session was moderated by Kim Grubert, Project Consultant on the Sustainability, Energy, and Climate Change team at WSP USA, Inc. and TCS Chapters Committee Co-Chair. Presentations were then given by the following panelists: Erik Heden, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Newport/Morehead City, NC, and Jill Gambill, Coastal Resilience Specialist at University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Erik Heden provided an overview of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) extensive community outreach initiatives. NWS organizes hurricane outlook talks with core partners that provide information on potential hurricane impacts. During Hurricane Preparedness Week in May, NWS conducts outreach that includes messaging related to developing an evacuation plan, assembling a disaster supply kit, and getting flood insurance (more information is available at https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness). NWS also organizes outreach talks for schools and community groups that offer safety information related to rip currents, floods, lightning, and hurricanes. Mr. Heden also touched on the efforts of the NWS Newport/Morehead City office, which coordinates with NC Sea Grant to provide information related to sea-level rise and potential impacts. Specific outreach requests include providing talks for military professionals related to hurricane preparedness and outreach booths at community events. New outreach efforts include NWS hurricane community forums (in-person and virtual) that focus on sharing key preparedness messages and the Weather Ready Nation Ambassador program to support community engagement. NWS Tropical SKYWARN and Integrated Warning Team training are also available. For more information on flood risk and outreach efforts, visit weather.gov.

Jill Gambill discussed NOAA Georgia Sea Grant’s efforts related to coastal resilience planning for coastal storms and sea level rise. In coastal Georgia, more than 10 inches of sea-level rise has been measured at the NOAA Fort Pulaski tide gauge since 1935. Tide gauge data supports that the frequency and magnitude of flooding in coastal Georgia are increasing, and the regional rate of sea level rise is accelerating. Sea Grant is working to increase community capacity and mitigate risk to natural hazards. Current Georgia Sea Grant efforts include diversifying their workforce, progressing equitable access to resources and decision-making processes, and seeking community input on communicating flood risk. Georgia Sea Grant, with funding from NOAA’s Weather Program Office and in collaboration with the NWS, is developing virtual reality simulations of structural flooding from storm surge. The platform also provides methods to explore the benefits of different mitigation measures, such as elevating a home or purchasing flood insurance. Ms. Gambill also highlighted the importance of considering environmental, economic, and social benefits of community projects and provided an example of urban tree restoration efforts in Savannah that have multiple benefits of flood reduction, heat reduction, workforce development, and youth engagement.

To continue the TCS discussion of climate change challenges for coastal communities, our next Coastal Connections session will be focused on sea level rise. The Coastal Connections discussion will be held on Wednesday. March 30th from 3-4pm Eastern. Join us to learn about trends in sea level rise, considering recent data in comparison to the geological record, and participate in a discussion about sea level rise impacts on coastal resources and general mitigation approaches. Featured speakers include:

  • John Englander, Oceanographer/Author
  • Molly Mitchell, PhD, Research Assistant Professor at Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Following presentations, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their own expertise in a moderated discussion. To participate in this free event, please register on Eventbrite at the following link: https://tcs-coastal-connections-web-meeting11.eventbrite.com

Benefits and Challenges of U.S. Offshore Wind Development for our Coastal Communities: A Coastal Connections Discussion

By Ashley Gordon, Melanie Perello, and Steven MacLeod

While only two small-scale offshore wind projects are currently operational along the East Coast, the U.S. offshore wind market is quickly expanding. In the coming decades, as much as 26 GW of wind power could be generated within existing offshore leases between Rhode Island and Virginia. To consider how this may affect coastal communities, The Coastal Society’s Coastal Connections session, held on February 26, 2021, focused on the benefits and challenges of offshore wind development. Moderated by Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island and Director of Extension with Rhode Island Sea Grant, a panel of experts highlighted the planning, economic, and environmental considerations associated with offshore wind project development for coastal communities, focusing on recent development along the East Coast.

Our panel of experts held a lively discussion, addressing questions about renewable energy and carbon emission life cycles, capacity building for supply chain and job creation, impacts to fisheries, benefits of regional partnership and marine spatial planning, and challenges for offshore wind development in other regions of the U.S.

You can watch a recording of the panel here, and highlights from each of the panelists’ presentations are provided below.

Mike Snyder, Ocean and Great Lakes Program Manager for the NY Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure

Mike Snyder provided an overview of the various types and scales of communities involved in offshore wind development. He recognized multiple challenges and opportunities that are nested across different scales related to fisheries, marine navigation, carbon emissions reductions, rate impacts to local taxpayers, recreation/public access, equity issues, and aesthetic impacts. In the state of New York, technical working groups have been created to address environmental, commercial, and recreational fishing, maritime, and jobs and supply chain considerations. Mike also emphasized the importance of an evolutionary approach to offshore wind development. (Presentation available here)

Matt Smith, Director of Offshore Wind for the Hampton Roads Alliance

Matt Smith discussed economic development opportunities associated with offshore wind. While the majority of the current supply chain capacity for offshore wind is in Europe, the Hampton Roads Alliance is focused on building a supply chain in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Matt reviewed the multi-year process for U.S. offshore wind projects, which includes siting and development, design and manufacture, construction and installation, and operations and maintenance. Two offshore wind projects, Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia project and Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk project, will be serviced by the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. These two projects combined are anticipated to provide power to 1.4 million homes, avoid about 10 million tons of CO2 emissions, and provide a $1.43 billion direct economic impact from construction alone on the regional economy. (Presentation is available here)

Laurie Kutina, Environmental Scientist at WSP

Laurie Kutina reviewed the environmental considerations associated with offshore wind development and the U.S. agencies and regulations involved, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She provided examples from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, which charted a course to the procurement of an initial 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity for the state. Anticipated environmental benefits to New York include 5 million tons of greenhouse gas reduction and air quality improvements, particularly in New York City and Long Island. Laurie also discussed wind turbine visibility considerations. In New York, the turbines of the closest planned wind farms would be located roughly 14 miles offshore and would be barely visible. Laurie highlighted opportunities that exist to engage in the offshore wind development process, including the NYSERDA offshore wind outreach webpage. (Presentation is available here)

For more information on previous and future sessions, visit the TCS Coastal Connections webpage. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the Coastal Connections series, please contact us at TCSConnections@thecoastalsociety.org.

Marine Plastic Pollution from the Micro to Global Scale – A TCS Coastal Connections Discussion

By: Ashley Gordon and Steven MacLeod

As of 2015, it was estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean annually, which is about one garbage truckload of plastic per minute (Jambeck et al., 2015). This shocking statistic was shared to kick-off presentations at The Coastal Society’s November 12, 2020 Coastal Connections meeting, Plastic Pollution: Coastal and Marine Trends. Presentations from three panelists highlighted science, policy, and stakeholder engagement efforts related to coastal and marine plastic pollution. The session was moderated by Catherine Tobin, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts Boston, whose research focuses on the effects of microfibers on oysters.

Nicholas Mallos provided an overview of the magnitude of the global plastic pollution issue. Mr. Mallos oversees the Ocean Conservancy’s global portfolio of work on marine debris as Senior Director of the Trash Free Seas Program. Even with current plastic reduction commitments from governments and industries, it is estimated about a cargo ship’s worth of plastics (by weight) will enter lakes, rivers, and our ocean daily by 2030, which equals about 53 million metric tons annually (Borrelle et al., 2020). Reducing plastic waste, increasing waste management efficiency, and expanding cleanup efforts are key actions recommended to reduce plastic pollution. This Ocean Conservancy video provides more information on recent plastic research, and Mr. Mallos’ presentation is available here.  

Fred Dobbs focused his presentation on microplastic pollution. Dr. Dobbs is a marine microbial ecologist and Chair of the Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at Old Dominion University. Microplastics (particles less than 5mm) can be manufactured, or result from the breakdown of larger plastics, and are ingested by marine organisms, including even deep-sea amphipods. Dr. Dobbs highlighted emerging research related to microplastics, including potential human health risks from eating raw oysters containing plastics harboring a pathogenic biofilm. Recent research has indicated marine plastics may disseminate antibiotic-resistance genes through biofilms, which serve as a habitat for bacteria and human pathogens. Dr. Dobbs presentation is available here.

Katherine Youngblood provided an overview of the Marine Debris Tracker app, a citizen-science, open-data initiative for collecting geospatial litter data. Ms. Youngblood is a Research Engineer at the University of Georgia New Materials Institute in the Jambeck Research Group and the Citizen Science Director of Marine Debris Tracker. This video provides more information on the Debris Tracker app, which has been used to collect data in multiple countries, including those along the Ganges River as part of the National Geographic Sea to Source expedition. A new Plastic Pollution Action Journal provides guidance for logging individual plastic-use and recommending actions to reduce plastic-use. Ms. Youngblood’s presentation is available here.

Following the guest speakers’ presentations, meeting participants posed questions related to the following topics:

  • Communicating the upstream impacts of plastic pollution.
  • Policies for addressing plastic pollution.
  • Recent trends in plastic pollution as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased personal protective equipment (PPE) waste.
  • Actions for citizen engagement, including reducing single-use plastics, researching local recycling programs, and talking to local officials.

For more information on other Coastal Connections sessions, including our recent February session focused on coastal communities and offshore wind development, check out the TCS Coastal Connections webpage. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the Coastal Connections series, please email us at TCSconnections@thecoastalsociety.org.  

References:

S.B. Borrelle, J. Ringma, K. L. Law, C. C. Monnahan, L. Lebreton, A. McGivern, E. Murphy, J. Jambeck, G.H. Leonard, M. A. Hilleary, M. Eriksen, H. P. Possingham, H. De Frond, L. R. Gerber, B. Polidoro, A. Tahir, M. Bernard, N. Mallos, M. Barnes, C. M. Rochman, Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution. Science. 369, 1515-1518 (2020).

J.R. Jambeck, R. Geyer, C. Wilcox, T. R. Sigler, M. Perryman, A. Andrady, R. Narayan, K. L. Law, Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347, 768-771 (2015).

Photo courtesy of Melanie Perello

The Coastal Connections – Professional Spotlight Sessions showcase TCS leaders

By: Steven MacLeod and Ashley Gordon

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 him.

Discussion following 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 planning goals.

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 solved.”

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.