I recently attended the Gulf Coast Prairie LCC Science Forum, held February 21-22 in Ft. Worth Texas. The Science Forum was the first step in the GCPLCC’s process to identify science needs for the Gulf Coast Prairie landscape. There were over 50 participants representing several partners within the GCPLCC. Prior to the workshop, participants were asked to identify science needs within three geographic context areas (coastal, terrestrial, and aquatic) and six themes (effects of climate change, water resource management, influences of energy development, changes in land use and land cover, cultural resources, and focal or vulnerable species or guilds/habitat and living resources). To help me with this homework assignment, I requested input from NOAA’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Team, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the many other conservation partners working in the Gulf of Mexico region. Thanks to their thoughtful responses, I was able to contribute several well-developed science needs that built upon existing needs assessments and priorities for the coastal region of the GCPLCC.
During the first day of the workshop, everyone had the opportunity to brainstorm and post science needs. This resulted in over 200 needs across all three geographic context areas- that’s a lot of post-it notes! Although I did not count them, I think its safe to say that Coastal had the most needs identified. For the second day of the workshop, John Huffman and I facilitated smaller group discussions for the Coastal group. The Coastal group worked very hard to go through the science needs for each theme and consolidate as appropriate so that similar needs could be identified and categorized. After discussing the categories for the science needs, the group prepared for the dreaded ‘dot exercise’. Everyone was given just 12 dots and asked to place them next to their highest priorities. The following science need categories were the top 8 priorities identified:
1. Identify priority species to inform and focus science priorities and other GCPLCC activities
2. Conduct vulnerability assessments for species and habitats
3. Develop habitat-population models for priority species
4. Conduct quantiative assessments of changing conditions for the GCPLCC
5. Understand freshwater inflows
6. Understand the effects of landscape scale changes in landuse/landcover
7. Assess the spatial and temporal distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation and seagrasses
8. Understand the impacts of renewable energy development on focal species
The results of the prioritization exercise and all the science needs identified during the workshop were recorded and will provide a guiding framework for the soon to be formalize GCPLCC Science Team. The Science Team will use the results of the workshop to develop recommendations for science needs that will be prioritized by the Steering Committee during the June meeting.
Thanks to the hard work of the workshop participants and the input I received prior to it, we made great progress in identifying shared science needs and priorities across the partnership to meet the mission of the GCPLCC. I will post the workshop summary as soon as it becomes available.
A special thank you to John Huffman and the Coastal Group!