Sea level rise and climate change present major threats to salt marshes nationwide. In an effort to better track and understand their impacts on marsh vegetation and sediment accretion, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System has established Sentinel Sites at reserves around the country. However, most reserves have not yet analyzed their Sentinel Site data, and there has been no attempt to conduct regional syntheses, despite the fact that regional-scale processes can strongly influence marsh vulnerability to sea level rise.
This project synthesizes Sentinel Site data for four New England reserves (Great Bay, Narragansett, Waquoit Bay, and Wells), which have individually been monitoring salt marsh vegetation and elevation changes since at least 2011. Using Sentinel Site data sets, the team will develop statistics-ready data packages linking vegetation change with surface elevation and other data, including output from an inundation tool. The New England reserves and coastal managers will be equipped with new information that can inform and improve the management, protection, and restoration of salt marshes. The project will also improve Sentinel Site protocols and establish a methodology for analysis of marsh condition that can be utilized by other reserves and coastal managers nationwide.
Although drastic global declines in oyster reefs over the past few centuries have resulted in significant native oyster restoration efforts on the United States’ East Coast, the West Coast’s Olympia oyster has received comparatively little attention. The public remains largely unaware of the decline of Olympia oysters and the benefits of restoration, and Olympia oysters have been the subject of relatively few scientific studies and restoration efforts. Although interest in the Olympia oyster has increased over the past decade, and projects are currently underway at a dozen locations along the West Coast, these efforts are disjointed and there is a critical need for greater communication, coordination, and information sharing among scientists and restoration practitioners.
This project is working to enhance the restoration success of Olympia oysters by creating a coastwide network linking Olympia oyster restoration work from British Columbia, Canada to Baja California, Mexico. By synthesizing past restoration projects, developing an experimental design to optimize native oyster dominance, and creating educational and outreach materials to convey the importance of native oyster restoration work on the Pacific Coast, the project team is enhancing future Olympia oyster restoration outcomes and engaging communities in supporting restoration efforts.
Since Hurricane Sandy battered the New Jersey coastline in 2012, coastal decision makers have been inundated with data, tools, assessment techniques, and planning guidance to help them prepare communities face future extreme storm events. Concurrently, the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance, a network of policymakers, practitioners, academics, non-governmental organizations, and business leaders, designed to build climate change preparedness in New Jersey, requested that Rutgers University convene a panel to identify planning options that coastal managers can use as part of resilience efforts. The panel suggested a framework for communities to apply a “total water level approach,” reflecting user-defined combinations of sea level rise and flood conditions and providing communities with additional flexibility to evaluate a range of flood conditions and time horizons for planning.
Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve and Rutgers University, who have collaborated for more than a decade to develop coastal resilience tools, are working together to both streamline the resilience data, tools, and techniques used by coastal decision makers and operationalize the total water level approach. By streamlining and enhancing existing mapping and decision-support tools, this project will increase the capacity of New Jersey’s coastal decision makers to assess and plan for potential risks to people and property from future storms and related flooding.
In recent years, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and its partners have become increasingly interested in applying an ecosystem services approach to coastal management. This approach, which considers the benefits that flow from nature to people, has been incorporated into the reserve system’s 2017 to 2022 Strategic Plan, and the federal government is considering ways to incorporate ecosystem services into its decision making. However, there is currently no standardized way to integrate ecosystem services into coastal management and decision-making processes.
Researchers at Duke University have been working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the reserve system to find streamlined ways to incorporate ecosystem services into coastal decision making, management, and research. Their first year of work resulted in the creation of a generalized Ecosystem Services Conceptual Model (ESCM) for salt marsh ecosystems, which displays how salt marsh restoration interventions result in ecosystem services and other human welfare impacts. These models represent a promising entry point for incorporating ecosystem service considerations into a program or a project.
This project is expanding on that modeling approach by improving the existing salt marsh model and developing new models for other estuarine habitats. The project team is developing site-specific ecosystem conceptual models at a salt marsh and oyster reef site at the North Carolina Reserve, and at a mangrove site at the Rookery Bay Reserve. These site-specific models will be used to improve and/or develop generalized ecosystem services models for each habitat type. This project is linked to a related project, Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Service Logic Models and Socio-Economic Indicators (GEMS), which is using a similar approach by creating Ecosystem Services Conceptual Models to develop socio-economic indicators for restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico. Feedback and integration between these two projects can enhance the outputs and findings of both. These efforts can ultimately assist in the development of a standardized approach for consideration of ecosystem services within NOAA and the research reserve system.
Dow Distinguished Award for Interdisciplinary Sustainability
Open to any U-M Ann Arbor undergraduate or graduate student interested in pursuing innovative solutions to affordable housing, access to healthy food, renewable energy, and more.
Supports graduate scholars pursuing a Master's or Professional degree who are committed to finding sustainable solutions and prepares them to be global sustainability leaders.
Supports doctoral scholars developing and implementing innovative sustainability ideas and becoming leaders in academia, business, government and non-governmental organizations.
In the Sixth Annual Report, Collaborative Leadership for Sustainability, made possible by The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program at the University of Michigan (U-M) engaged 17 of U-M's 19 schools and colleges this past year.
Getting around without a car isn’t easy in many U.S. cities. People who rely on public transit often contend with many challenges, including decaying infrastructure, not having easy access to a transit stop, lack of system reliability, restrictions to how late or early a system operates, and often a lack of support to fund transit improvements. These difficulties can impact people in many ways, including their ability to access essential healthcare, jobs, and grocery stores. Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft can pick up the slack from inadequate public transit, but they also present challenges, like being inaccessible to people with disabilities; lacking the incentive to work along unpopular routes; creating more emissions per mile traveled; and siphoning riders (and money) from public transit. One solution to these challenges is for transit agencies to enter into public-private partnerships with ride-hailing companies to expand public transit coverage.
The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) partnered with a University of Michigan Dow Sustainability Fellows team to explore the potential for a public-private partnership that could supplement and enhance the current public transit system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The team researched the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of different ride-hailing public-private partnership models to determine which model could best be used to cover under-used bus routes and connect riders to transit stops.
Licensing public buildings and water towers for cell sites is common across the United States. However, the City of Madison (WI) and Madison Water Utility provide an instructive example of how a community can effectively negotiate and renegotiate its license agreements to realize the full value they provide telecommunications companies. This case is also an example of a community generating short-term revenue from private sources to support strategic municipal projects.