Humboldt State University will join a coastal resiliency research hub led by Oregon State University and the University of Washington focused on the impact of earthquakes, coastal erosion, and climate change on coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest.
With a total of $18.9 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, or Cascadia CoPes Hub, will coordinate research in Pacific Northwest coastal communities between numerous academic and government organizations to inform and enable integrated hazard assessment, mitigation, and adaptation. Jennifer Marlow and Laurie Richmond, faculty from the department of Environmental Science and Management, will be leading HSU’s connection toCascadia CoPes Hub.
Nearly 40% of the U.S population lives within a coastal county. The Pacific Northwest coastline is at significant risk of earthquakes from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which stretches nearly 700 miles along the coast from Cape Mendocino in California to Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver Island, Canada.
In addition to this acute threat, the region also faces chronic risks such as coastal erosion, regional flooding, and sea level rise due to climate change, said Peter Ruggiero, the project’s principal investigator and a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.
According to Ruggiero, the potential for collaboration among Pacific Northwest universities and coastal communities is one pathway to coastal resilience. “There are many dimensions to resilience, including quality of life, economics, health, engineering, and more,” he said. “This research hub is a way to bring together many groups with interest in coastal resilience who have not had the resources to work together on these issues before.”
Locally, Humboldt Bay is experiencing the fastest rate of relative sea-level rise on the West Coast, with sea level projected to rise as much as three feet by 2060. “These changes could lead to severe social, cultural, economic, and environmental consequences if we don’t make plans to adapt, but these changes also bring opportunities for transformative change,” says Richmond.
HSU will receive $450,000 from the NSF to support student and faculty research into coastal resilience and hazards in California’s North Coast region. Participation will also allow the HSU team to collaborate with other hub researchers on topics focused on the integration of local and traditional ecological knowledge into hazard response planning, and equitable adaptation governance and policy. The grant includes support for local community partners including the Wiyot Tribe and Humboldt County.
“This NSF grant sees past the traditional boundaries of universities and disciplines, and aligns itself with a more equitable 21st century vision that sees innovation, creativity, and collaboration with communities and tribes as central to scientific advancement,” says Marlow. “The project also embodies HSU’s future as a polytech by tackling the most urgent issues facing our community in ways critically informed by local culture and diverse values.”
Richmond and Marlow are excited that the grant will provide the opportunity to develop and extend the work of the HSU Sea Level Rise Initiative (SLRI). The effort brings together HSU, local tribes, government agencies, and community groups to develop sea-level rise research and planning that informs equitable, sustainable, and community-centered local climate action. Through the research hub, HSU students and faculty connected to the SLRI will have the opportunity to work with scholars and community experts in the Cascadia region to learn from one another about coastal hazards and coastal resilience.
“This issue requires a regional approach,” said Ann Bostrom, a co-principal investigator and UW professor of Public Policy and Governance. “This new research hub has the potential to achieve significant advances across the hazard sciences — from the understanding of governance systems, to having a four-dimensional understanding of Cascadia faults and how they work, to new ways of engaging with communities. There are a lot of aspects built into this project that have us all excited.”
Additional partners on the project include the University of Oregon, OSU-based Oregon Sea Grant, Washington Sea Grant, the William D. Ruckleshaus Center at Washington State University, the United States Geological Survey, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Georgia Tech, and Arizona State University.
“Understanding not only who is vulnerable to coastal hazards, but how future adaptation and mitigation measures can impact different segments of the population, particularly underrepresented populations, is key to developing measures that are equitable and just,” said Jenna Tilt, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences who is part of the research hub leadership team. “This research hub provides the resources to do just that.”
Ruggiero says that the project emphasizes incorporating traditional ecological knowledge from the region’s Native American tribes as well as local ecological knowledge from fishermen, farmers, and others who have personal experience with the coast, providing unique perspectives on what coastal resiliency means to their communities.
Note: This story was originally published on Sept. 10, 2021.