Social Science Course Illuminates “People Part” of Managing the Coast

The Takeaway: In Florida, past course participants are enhancing partnerships to safeguard mangroves and the community benefits that spring from these ecosystems.

To make project results really shine, coastal resource partners need to understand the vital role that people play—or could play—in the effort. Since 2019, the Social Science Basics course from Digital Coast Academy has trained more than 250 participants in these essentials, from how to conduct effective meetings and focus groups to which social science tools can turn research and data into positive project action. As a case in point, a collaborative team—with staff members from Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Florida International University—is using what it’s learned to enrich mangrove restoration partnerships and communication.

The Rookery Bay Research Reserve is a partner in the Mangrove Coast Collaborative, which is quantifying how hurricanes and other conditions affect both the benefits that mangroves offer and the process of natural recovery. The collaborative will be using that information in strategic ways to conserve and restore mangroves. Past participants in the Social Science Basics course are aiding the effort.

With the course’s Stakeholder Analysis Tool, collaborative members were able to sort out and invite different categories of stakeholders to a project advisory committee. As a result, the committee’s makeup ensures a variety of perspectives and avoids duplication of effort. These stakeholder categories are also used to hold meetings where small subgroups can discuss issues based on their similar project interests.

The Stakeholder Four Square Template, another course tool, enabled collaborative members to identify the needs and motivations of potential project partners. Those insights led them to select specific people for the active-partner roles while slating the rest to receive information through a newsletter at project’s end. Scientists in the advisory group also are using the findings to better understand the role they should play in the overall effort.

The Mangrove Coast Collaborative, now in process at the Rookery Bay Research Reserve and at the Jobos Bay Research Reserve in Puerto Rico, received a research grant through the NOAA Science Collaborative program, which is managed in partnership with the University of Michigan. Visit the project page to learn more. (2021)

Partners: Digital Coast, Jobos Bay and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves, National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative