A workshop convened by the Puget Sound Institute in May brought leading scientists and managers to Seattle to compare and contrast the role of science in large scale coastal ecosystem recovery projects.
At first glance, the projects and systems couldn’t have seemed more different. There was Puget Sound, an urban estuary, represented alongside the swamps of the Everglades and the Louisiana Coast. There was the San Francisco Bay Delta, with a human population and GDP rivaling that of a small country. Other ecosystems included Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Columbia River Estuary— each unique, and yet each facing similar issues related to scale and complexity.
All told, billions of dollars of state and federal money go toward protection of these ecosystems ($50 billion is slated for the Louisiana Coast alone), and the workshop centered around the special challenges facing science-based management within such large, complicated systems.
The May 14th and 15th event was organized by Nick Georgiadis and Joel Baker of the Puget Sound Institute and was held at the University of Washington Tower. It was funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Kongsgaard/Goldman Foundation, the Bullitt Foundation, and The Russell Family Foundation.
A series of panel discussions featured common challenges faced by large-scale ecosystem efforts: setting targets and priorities in a less than certain world, adapting management to shifting needs and findings, identifying the ingredients for a strong ecosystem science infrastructure, and the need for improved social science research. A fifth panel about communicating science to decision makers was added in response to a large number of requests from participants.
Next steps for the workshop include “a multi-authored (all contributors) manuscript to be submitted for publication that captures, compares and synthesizes the experiences, assumptions, practices and successes of these groups, as reported in discussion sessions,” according to workshop organizer Nick Georgiadis. This manuscript will include a summary for managers, policymakers and the public.