Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Restore America’s Estuaries 2022 in New Orleans

A foggy day on Pass Manchac, on Sunday’s field trip. Some buildings have not been rebuilt after Hurricane Ida made a direct hit last year.

Boardwalk was destroyed at Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station during Hurricane Ida last year.

Our pontoon boat tour at Turtle Cove, returning down Pass Manchac toward three big bridges.

Yesterday was the first full day of the Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) conference in New Orleans. This event is a first for me. It is practitioner-dominated, and very US-focused (they sure don’t mean North America by that title), and the focus is very much on the science. But there is an infectious enthusiasm here for all things estuary. I presented about the Nova Scotia coastal focus groups from Making Room for Movement, including a bit of the experimental paper and the new qualitative paper . The highlight of the sessions so far was one on social marketing: with work inside organizations (though small numbers of core comms/ed staff were clearly pulled many ways) and with a diverse and skilled set of contractors (notably, not generally academic partnerships) to achieve online ‘reach’. I have also really enjoyed talks about landscape change that included some social insights: Katherine Canfield on public perceptions of converting cranberry bogs to wetlands in Cape Cod; Melissa Paley on citizen mobilization for dam removal on the Oyster River in New Hampshire; Daniel Brinn on restoring water and habitat quality in Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina (which has a long history of human modification); Susan Adamowicz on the traces of salt marsh farming on coastal wetlands in Maine (and for providing some different vocabulary to that used in NS); and, Theresa Davenport on regulatory challenges to and opportunities for living shorelines in New England. Tomorrow is the last day of sessions and I’ve circled many more to attend. In general, I’d love to see more discussion of social monitoring of the kinds of actions being undertaken by this great group of wetland nerds, as well as ecological.

I’ve also enjoyed the more informal events around the conference. Our field trip to Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station (University of Southeast Louisiana) was fogged in, the result of unseasonably warm weather, but enjoyable. We saw swimming crab, a small alligator and a dangerous cottonmouth snake, and had great jambalaya courtesy of Reno’s. It was interesting but sad to see the impact of last year’s Hurricane Ida on the region and the Centre (see above). The trip to and fro I got to experience again the American penchant for constructing highways THROUGH water rather than going around. There is a 9 km bridge through the WIDEST part of Lake Pontchartrain, to the north of where I am now. Similarly, heading west through wetland toward Baton Rouge, you drive predominantly on raised highways through the marsh. In Canada we’d just be told: you have to go around. That doesn’t even seem to occur to Americans, bless them. At Pass Manchac there were 3 bridges next to one another (see above, in the view behind the pontoon boat), main highway, secondary highway, and rail.

Finally, the really informal stuff. It’s been nice to see the good people from CBWES and Clean Foundation all the way from Halifax (the only Canadians I’ve met so far). It was super to catch up with Brandon Champagne, ResNet MA student from SMU who is back in Louisiana working for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. Because I worked at the UNO back in 2001-2, though, I also have earlier connections. It was great to see Denise Reed at the poster session, who was at the Coastal Research Lab (CRL) during my year there, and share stories of the singular Shea Penland. I have also gotten to tour the post-Katrina city and enjoy some great food with Mark Kulp, another colleague from CRL (now PIES): crab burger, frog legs (yup), shrimp and grits, and grilled oysters. Looking forward tomorrow to catch up with my office mate from CRL, Dinah Maygarden, who still runs wetland education programming for PIES at the new(ish) Coastal Education and Research Facility named for Shea. Still need to get myself some gumbo and a po’boy…

I’ve been enjoying the working Mississippi River view from my hotel room.

Not everybody has the cash or inclination to raise their homes after Katrina.

Coastal focus group paper out in The Canadian Geographer

Figures 1 and 2 of Sutton et al., out today in The Canadian Geographer, showing the participant locations and coasts for our focus groups, and the content from the focus groups covered in the paper.

This morning the second paper from our 2019 coastal resident focus groups for the NRCan-funded Making Room for Movement project is out in The Canadian Geographer, Coastal resident perceptions of nature-based adaptation options in Nova Scotia, led by recent MES graduate Krysta Sutton. This paper helps us to understand how those living on Nova Scotia’s coasts feel about living shorelines (supportive but skeptical), accommodation like raising homes (an expensive ‘band aid’) and retreat (inevitable in the long term, but requiring government support). Managed realignment of dykes was poorly understood overall, suggesting that additional work is needed to broach this subject with locals. Since Fiona in Sept 2022, the conversation in this region around retreat has really changed, however.  We see residents in Port aux Basques who lost their homes, some uninsured, relieved at being bought out by the government and finding new places to settle. PEI residents are looking at their coasts very differently, too (I’m quoted on that one). It would be very interesting to re-run these focus groups now.

Meddylfryd yr anterth

A quick thanks to the PloCC (Places of Climate Change) network at the University of Bangor, Wales, for the invitation to present to their monthly seminar series on Nov 9th. I spoke about climax thinking (the title of this post is its Welsh translation, literally, “the mentality of the peak” according to Google Scholar) using examples from wind energy, coastal adaptation and flood-risk mapping (highlighting work by past and current graduate students Kristina Keilty, Ellen Chappell, Krysta Sutton and Samantha Howard). Thanks to the effort PloCC took to translate my abstract, I’ll share it here for any Welsh speakers who discover this page.

Trosiad yw meddylfryd yr anterth am wrthwynebiad i newid y dirwedd er lles y cyhoedd. Deilliodd o ymchwil seiliedig ar le yn Nghanada Atlantig. Yn yr un modd â damcaniaeth olyniaeth mewn ecoleg, rydym yn aml yn credu bod tirweddau mewn cyflwr delfrydol neu ecwilibriwm (h.y. yr anterth), ac y dylid dychwelyd ato ar ôl pob aflonyddwch megis trychinebau naturiol. Mae angen inni symud at ffordd ddi-ecwilibriwm o feddwl am dirwedd o ystyried yr heriau a wynebwn o ran cynaliadwyedd a’r goblygiadau posibl i’r dirwedd. Dyma gyflwyniad sy’n rhannu gwaith achos ynglŷn â gosod ynni’r gwynt, enciliad yr arfordir a mapio perygl llifogydd i symud o lefel y canlyniad (gwrthiant) i lefel y broses (achosion) y syniad newydd hwn, a’r goblygiadau i ymchwil ac ymarfer.

Topically, a great example of climax thinking came into my morning news media today, in the local rejection of government-funded wind turbines to help Stewart Island, NZ, get off of diesel generators. As the term otherwise hurtles to a close, and I look ahead to the Restoring America’s Estuaries conference in New Orleans the first full week of December, I’m keeping my eye to related media. I look particularly forward to the NYT reporting about this call for experiences of disaster rebuilding. A final note, do yourself a favour and read Rutger Breman’s book Humankind; I listened to the audiobook through the Halifax’s library’s Libby app on a long bus trip and it made me feel much better.

Scenario workshop for ResNet

Event poster and photo from the final workshop activity

The workshop event poster alongside a photo from one of the final segments of the event.

Last week was very exciting, as NSERC ResNet Synthesis team members Elson Galang and Elena Bennett came to Halifax to lead us in a scenario workshop for the L1 landscape case study of the Bay of Fundy dykelands and tidal wetlands. Eighteen interested parties joined us at the SMU CLARi site for a fun two days of reflection and visioning, and we finished up with four fascinating narratives of potential futures for the region. The creativity and expertise of our stakeholders resulted in some futures I’d never considered, but that were remarkably well fleshed out.  I had never been involved in deploying such a method, and after the two days I am a big believer in its transformative potential (at least with Elson at the helm!). Thanks to everyone who contributed beyond those already mentioned, including postdoc Lara, TCA project manager Kristie, and grad students from Dal (Paria, Polly and Keahna) and SMU (Millie, Evan).  I am looking forward to co-developing the workshop report and getting our work out in the world.

Six participants and organizers at the Quinn's Brewery

Workshop organizers (me, Jeremy and Elena) and participants (Karel, John and Tony) debriefing at the Brewery by Quinn during the L1 workshop.

As an aside, I also had a first appearance in the Christian Science Monitor while the workshop was on. Another nice piece by Moira Donovan about the situation on the east coast post-Fiona, particularly in relation to managed retreat. These are interesting times in Port aux Basques, as 100 residents affected by Fiona have received demolition notices for buildings they own: I’m waiting to hear what support they’ll get to safely and meaningfully retreat.

Bye to Qiqi

Selfie with Qiqi, ResNet postdoc Lara and I on Qiqi’s last day.

Every once in a while a student will email you out of the blue and ask if they can come work with you. Sometimes you really strike it lucky, too. I was delighted to host Nanjing University PhD candidate Qiqi Zhao in my lab for the last year, working on landscape culturomics in the Bay of Fundy. She extended work by Yan Chen, Tuihedur Rahman and a former French visiting student Camille Caesemaecker, using the same Instagram dataset to understand dykeland and wetland cultural ecosystem services. Her approach leveraged SolVES modelling, which she was already deploying in her own PhD on forest park CES in China. We coauthored three papers together, drawing in other members of my lab and the wider ResNet team (including some text mining techniques), and have plans for one more (at least!). Thank you for your hard work, Qiqi!

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