Final Public Workshop

Final Workshop

September 8th, marked the final public workshop and was held at the Whitney Lab in Marineland. Community leaders, concerned citizens, a student group, and reporters were among the visitors who came to learn about the project’s findings.

Participants, who registered for times available each half hour, began their visit with a short film giving an overview of the project. Afterwards, each group was guided into the atrium where multiple stations had been setup, each presenting major topics of the project. The presenters at each station were members of the project’s Steering Committee, staff of the GTM Research Reserve, and the University of Florida researchers. All the workshop materials (video and posters) are available on the Library page.

A news article resulting from the workshop highlights the leadership of the project and others in Northeast Florida, including the Northeast Florida Regional Council, to begin addressing the issue of sea level rise and yet the tremendous work that remains to be “ready.” Progress is clear-Sea Level Rise_The Florida Times-Union_9-9-14

“The Planning for Sea Level Rise in Matanzas” project is now moving into the final phase of publishing its results by January 2015. The input provided by the public during each workshop has been a valuable source of data that has assisted researchers in gaining a fuller understanding of the efforts needed for sea level rise planning.

Senator Whitehouse Tours the Matanzas Basin Project

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island recently embarked on a tour of the southeastern US to view the current effects of sea level rise and climate change to bring the information back to Congress. The Senator’s four-day trip began in the Carolinas on April 21st and concluded in Miami on April 25th. Among the places he chose to visit was the GTM Research Reserve on the afternoon of April 24th. The Senator and his assistants toured the Reserve’s Environmental Education Center in Ponte Vedra, Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Fort Matanzas at the Matanzas Inlet, and Princess Place Preserve in Flagler County. Dr. Kathryn Frank presented an overview of the Planning for Sea Level Rise in the Matanzas Basin (see the presentation), which contained information about current and future potential impacts of sea level rise in the area, as well as local preferences and options for adaptation strategies. Additional information on Senator Whitehouse’s “Climate Road Trip” can be found on his website.

UPDATE: Senators Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and Nelson (Florida) gave a presentation about the current and potential impacts of climate change and sea level rise on Florida to the U.S. Senate on May 13, 2014:

IMG_6838 - Version 2Senator Whitehouse observes the living shoreline project at Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine.

IMG_6855 - Version 2The senator enjoys the natural beauty of Princess Place Preserve while discussing the new GTM NERR field station for climate change and ecological services research located on site.

IMG_6866 - Version 2At Princess Place.  Left to right: Anna-Marie Laura (Sen. Whitehouse staff), Dr. Gary Raulerson (GTM NERR), George O’Dell (Princess Place Preserve), Dr. Kathryn Frank (UF), Dr. Nikki Dix (GTM NERR), Joseph Burgess (GTM NERR), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Dr. Michael Shirley (GTM NERR).


Large Public Workshop

The Planning for Sea Level Rise in the Matanzas Basin project hosted a large public workshop on February 24th at the Whitney Lab for Marine Biosciences in Marineland. About 70 members of the public as well as professional and stakeholder representatives attended. After a welcome by GTM Research Reserve director Dr. Michael Shirley, project principal investigator Dr. Kathryn Frank and project collaboration lead Dr. Dawn Jourdan presented the results from the first set of Matanzas stakeholder workshops and the latest technical analyses for future scenario planning. The pair explained the high level of acceptance of sea level rise by earlier participants and the residents’ indication that they were already experiencing impacts from sea level rise in the region. The researchers related public preferences to potential sea level rise adaptation strategies such as living shorelines, water storage easements, and incentives for future development to locate inland in carefully selected locations to balance community and environmental values.

Frank and Jourdan shared model-based scenarios of potential future development and conservation priorities in the Matanzas study area created by Drs. Paul Zwick and Tom Hoctor at the University of Florida. The purpose of the scenarios was to inspire dialogue about the relationship between sea level rise, future population growth and development patterns, and environmental conservation. The researchers showed the impacts of these phenomenon on habitats in the region for three species with diverse needs: shorebirds, gopher tortoises, and black bears. The researchers presented future land development scenarios that would allow the region to accommodate changes in the natural and built environment without sacrificing needed natural habitat.

Next, Lia Sampson, Coastal Outreach Coordinator, led workshop participants in a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the proposed conservation strategy.  Last, Belinda Nettles, a doctoral student of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida, and a team of student assistants facilitated a land development game which permitted small groups of residents to envision their ideas about future development on a hypothetical 700 acre tract. Electronic polling of individuals at the beginning and end of the workshop demonstrated a gained interest by participants to have their local governments promote infill development to meet future conservation and development goals.

Presentation slides and game instructions are available on the library page


Drs. Frank and Jourdan along with Lia Sampson take closing questions and comments from Matanzas residents. The workshop SWOT analysis can be seen beneath the presentation screen.


Dr. Jourdan discusses strategy with with Team 1 during the land development game.  Participants on each of the six teams had to determine their group’s goals for meeting rising population demands while balancing conservation needs.

team 5

Team 5 closes in on a development strategy.  Areas providing habitat for focal species can be seen on the right side of the hypothetical site map in green.  Areas already heavily developed with mixed residential and commercial use are located on the left.

team 3 map

Team 3’s final proposal.  Game pieces represented various residential unit densities that could be located as each team saw fit within their overall development goals.  Seventy-five total pieces were necessary to reach the target level of accommodation for incoming residents.


Team response matrix categorizing the design and development priorities of each participating team as well as final impressions and feedback.

State of the Reserve 2014

February 7th marked the fourth annual State of the Reserve held by the GTM NERR in St. Augustine, Florida.  Titled 2014: Changing Tides, the event was hosted at the GTM Research Reserve Environmental Education Center and featured multiple presentations as well as poster displays of current professional and student research within the reserve.  Opening remarks and introductions were made by program facilitator Tina Gordon and environmental administrator Mike Shirley.  The focus of this year’s meeting centered around rising sea level due to climate change, changes in water quality, and shifts in habitat and species’ health.  Presentations included subjects such as current surveys of Carolina diamondback terrapins in the NERR, mangrove expansion into salt marsh habitats, and the efficacy of coastal restoration projects in science and education.  The research center also presented updates on the current state of its programs and facilities as well as future outreach and education goals within the community.  More information about the reserve can be found on their website.