Sea Level Rise in the Gulf of Mexico: Awareness and Action Tools for the Climate Outreach Community of Practice
In 2010, the four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team created a Community of Practice of extension, outreach, and education professionals around climate change issues. The project team hosted a workshop in April 2010 to discuss existing attitudes and knowledge on sea level rise, identify needed information and resources to support sea level rise adaptation, and create a regional approach to climate change outreach and education. Since then, the Community of Practice has hosted annual meetings to discuss how coastal communities can best prepare for and respond to sea level rise, precipitation changes, and other climate-related issues, and provides resources to support collaborative adaptation efforts in the region.
Sea level rise in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to amplify other effects, such as coastal erosion, flooding, salinization of water supplies, and loss of habitat for plants and wildlife. In April 2010, the Gulf of Mexico Climate Outreach Workshop on sea level rise was held in St. Petersburg, Florida. This workshop was held in order to create a Community of Practice (CoP) of extension, outreach, and education professionals devoted to increasing knowledge of and community resilience to climate change. The CoP meets annually to discuss opportunities for collaboration, including developing and implementing a common research framework, and developing a consistent, science-based message for the public. These meetings are used by members to coordinate engagement with target audiences (e.g., local government officials, community planners, meteorologists, science educators, and city attorneys) to effectively communicate climate change impacts and adaptation measures.
The first CoP workshop was attended by 75 representatives of extension and outreach agencies, planners, experts, and Sea Grant directors from the Gulf of Mexico. The workshop’s objectives included:
- discussing attitudes, perceptions, and knowledge on climate change and sea level rise;
- learning from existing sea level rise preparation activities in the region;
- sharing existing and identifying needed resources to support sea level rise adaptation; and
- crafting a strategy for a regional, collaborative approach to climate change outreach.
Case studies were presented on existing efforts to address sea level rise in the region. Representatives from the Apalachicola and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves in Florida, St. Tammany Parish (Louisiana), and the cities of Ocean Springs (Mississippi), Orange Beach (Florida), and Punta Gorda (Florida), provided details on their efforts.
Since then, the CoP has held yearly meetings to provide members with updates on the latest climate science, demonstrations of new tools, updates on policies, and best practices. Additionally, the CoP hosts webinars throughout the year, awards small grants to local communities to address climate-related vulnerabilities, and shares resources to help practitioners find the right adaptation or climate tool for their work. For example, the CoP maintained a monthly Tool Bulletin until 2017 that highlighted climate-related tools and identified target groups for each tool. The Tool Bulletin was replaced by Gulf TREE, an interactive online database to connect users to regionally-relevant adaptation and climate tools, such as Surging Seas Risk Finder for Louisiana, the Coastal Wetland Landward Migration Tool from the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sea Level Change Curve Calculator.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The April 2010 workshop was held to facilitate collaboration and the creation of a CoP around climate change in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of this meeting, members of the CoP worked together to draft a climate outreach message on sea level rise and summary fact sheets for local professionals. The CoP shares lessons learned and exchanges climate information through StormSmart Connect and annual face-to-face meetings. The Gulf of Mexico CoP consists of over 300 members across 132 organizations, businesses, and local governments. Its success has led to the development of other climate-related communities of practice in the Southeast and Caribbean as well as the Great Lakes region.
Gregg, R.M. (2021). Sea Level Rise in the Gulf of Mexico: Awareness and Action Tools for the Climate Outreach Community of Practice[Case study on a project of NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: https://www.cakex.org/case-studies/sea-level-rise-gulf-mexico-awareness-and-action-tools-climate-outreach-community-practice (Last updated October 2021)