Social Science Research to Help Advance Regional Coordination and Collaboration of Sea Level Rise Adaptation and Planning on Humboldt Bay

Graduate Student: Kristen Orth-Gordinier

Academic Advisor: Dr. Laurie Richmond 

Timeline: 2019-2021

While the environmental dimensions of sea-level rise (SLR) on Humboldt Bay are fairly well understood, research is needed to better understand the social, political, and economic dimensions relevant to SLR planning and adaptation on Humboldt Bay. One important aspect of these dimensions is the regional coordination of plans and adaptation strategies. On Humboldt Bay, regional coordination is so important, and also so challenging, because the shoreline is governed by a patchwork of entities with different missions and jurisdictions. Coordination and collaboration become critical because tidal waters cross political boundaries.

The goal of this project is to conduct social science research that can advance regional coordination and collaboration surrounding SLR adaptation and planning on Humboldt Bay.  Social science research on the human dimensions of SLR can help improve the processes of integrating stakeholder engagement with management needs of scientists and governing agencies, and inform more integrated approaches in other regions seeking climate solutions. 

The project will use a mixed-methods approach including: document review, an online survey, semi-structured interviews, and a workshop presentation. Feedback from state and local sources will be sought on experiences with past and current SLR planning efforts; goals and values related to SLR planning; and potential challenges and opportunities related to regional coordination relevant to SLR in Humboldt Bay.

2020 Progress Update:

  • Interviews: Between May – September 2020, Kristen completed 46 interviews of people with a nexus to SLR planning including local and state government, utility providers and asset managers, environmental regulatory organizations, landowners and consultants.
  • Survey: This survey was designed in coordination with the County of Humboldt’s Regional SLR Coordination & Regulatory Framework Feasibility Study which started in late 2020 in order to directly inform their study. Between May – June 2021 we received 107 survey responses.
  • Workshop: The SLRI teamed up with the Humboldt Bay Symposium to bring attendees one full day dedicated to the latest SLR science and local planning updates on September 30th.

This project is funded by California Sea Grant College Program Project, through NOAA’S National Sea Grant College Program, U.S. Dept. of Commerce.