Sea Level Rise in the Gulf of Mexico: Awareness and Action Tools for the Climate Outreach Community of Practice

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 12/19/2010 - Updated on: 12/03/2021

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

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: (Last updated October 2021)

Affiliated Organizations

The Gulf of Mexico Regional Collaboration Team will continue to expand collaboration with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. The collaboration will integrate relevant components of NOAA's mission with the 2010–2014 Alliance Work Plan and associated supporting actions of the Alliance's six priority issues. As a major partner in the Federal response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NOAA will continue to provide the necessary coastal and marine expertise required for sound, timely decision-making and help protect the affected Gulf Coast communities and coastal marine environment.

Florida Sea Grant uses academic research, education and extension to create a sustainable coastal economy and environment. We are a partnership between the Florida Board of Education, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and Florida's citizens, industries, and governments.

The National Sea Grant College Program, administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is a federal/state partnership that matches NOAA Sea Grant expertise and resources with state academic institutions. The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC), created in 1972, is one of 32 Sea Grant programs.

Texas Sea Grant has served the people of Texas and the nation for more than 35 years. It was one of the first four state programs established in 1971 under the National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966, which was modeled after the successful Land Grant College concept.

Since its establishment in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program has worked to promote stewardship of the state’s coastal resources through a combination of research, education and outreach programs critical to the cultural, economic and environmental health of Louisiana’s coastal zone. Louisiana Sea Grant, based at Louisiana State University, is part of the National Sea Grant Program, a network made up of 32 programs located in each of the coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico.

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