Coastal Resources Focus Area

PI: Chrys Chryssostomidis, MIT Sea Grant, Robert Vincent, MIT Sea Grant

Project Number:2014-A/A-5

Start Date:2014-02-01End Date:2018-01-31

Proposal Summary

Objectives: The goal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant College Program (MIT Sea Grant) Coastal Resources effort is to provide scientific information to support sustainable and wise-use of coastal resources and to transfer scientific and technical information to stakeholders in Massachusetts and where applicable to the northeast region and nationally. The objectives are to:
1. Identify critical societal issues in the Gulf of Maine and facilitate the development of research, outreach, and education plans and programs that work towards solutions within an ecosystem-based management framework.
2. Enhance scientific and technical literacy in the Commonwealth in support of a healthy coastal ecosystem and economy, through a variety of outreach and education efforts, including development of open access databases for use by stakeholders and scientists.

Methodology: To implement these goals and objectives, the MIT Sea Grant Coastal Resources Area uses sound science as its underpinning and incorporates several guiding principles such as: seeking and using advice from stakeholders and oversight committees, allowing projects to evolve as new information or new issues arise, focusing on issues that are important locally and regionally as well as of national and international significance, collaborating with other scientists, industry leaders and policy-makers to address issues, and mentoring students. In support of addressing management priorities, the approach relies on scientists to identify research that will provide scientific and technical support that is timely, socially relevant, and will lead to new insights and approaches to address specific issues. Applied research addresses three areas: prevent marine invasions, assess impacts of climate change on ecosystems, and support stewardship of habitats. Outreach activities include preparing materials and convening focused group meetings, training sessions, workshops and conferences, and working with local, state, regional, and national leaders to implement actions that lead to improved ecosystem management. Collaboration and cooperation with local, state, and federal agencies; non-government organizations, and MIT and WH Sea Grant staff is a major component of accomplishing these goals and objectives.

Rationale: Accepting that the oceans are in trouble, several national reports have called for greater emphasis on an ecosystem-based approach to coastal resource management, strongly emphasizing the need to act locally and regionally and to collaborate with others to address critical ocean issues. In Massachusetts and the Northeast, eutrophication, beach closures, loss of species diversity, prevention of invasive species, and loss of habitats are high priority issues. To address these issues, there is a need for research and monitoring for understanding causes and trends, to make data collected by MIT Sea Grant and others accessible to a wide audience, and to develop outreach materials, including translation of scientific information for stakeholders and the public. The use of new technologies to assist with surveys and measurements to gain new insights and develop and test new hypotheses further our understanding. For example, underwater vehicles equipped with sensors, lights, and cameras provide sub-surface and seafloor information more quickly and cover larger areas than divers. Collaboration with the MIT AUV Lab benefits our understanding of coastal and subtidal ecosystems.
Superstorm Sandy raised public awareness that coastal built and natural systems, and human health and safety are at risk. Several issues pertinent to climate change have been identified for the state and region, e.g., maritime security, threats to infrastructure, and vulnerability of urban areas to sea level rise, storms, and flooding. Outreach efforts and education through a variety of approaches can facilitate understanding and support efforts to adapt to a changing environment.

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