Shorelines program receives grant for workshops

Thanks to a $40,655 grant from the Department of the Interior Office of International Affairs and the National Park Service, Western Carolina University’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines has begun a series of workshops in the Caribbean and Latin America aimed at coastal vulnerability.

Katie McDowell Peek of WCU's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines speaks at the workshop in Jamaica.

Katie McDowell Peek of WCU’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines speaks at the workshop in Jamaica.

Having worked with the NPS for more than 10 years on a variety of projects, it was only natural that the PSDS was selected to conduct the workshops, said Rob Young, program director.

“The Department of Interior and the National Park Service are trying to communicate with some of their international partners, people who manage park lands in Central America, to work with them on some of the similar kinds of topics we’ve been working on with the National Park Service,” Young said. “Things like how will you protect your park’s natural resources and infrastructure from factors such as coastal storms, and hazards and climate change? As a part of their effort, we’ve been asked to participate in, and help organize, several workshops in the Caribbean and Central America.”

Shortly after receiving the grant in April, two members of PSDS, coastal research scientists Katie McDowell Peek and Blair Tormey, who is also a faculty member in the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resources, went to Jamaica April 13 to conduct a five-day workshop. They shared two of the projects they’ve been involved with in the U.S. – a natural resource vulnerability assessment that was done on Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia, and a protocol they are currently working on that deals with climate change vulnerability of infrastructure within national parks.

“They were extremely interested in this protocol we were creating for calculating vulnerability because they have quite a bit of vulnerability to coastal hazards in Jamaica, being an island nation,” Peek said. “They also have a lot of structures close to the ocean. They really thrive on coastal tourism.”

The workshop was held at Discovery Bay Marine Lab, while the team also visited Runaway Bay in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. While there are no immediate plans, Young said the team likely will conduct future workshops at additional locations in Jamaica, as well as other countries such as Panama.

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