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NE CASC Launches Tool Talk Series

Monday, August 14, 2023
Salt Marsh

More than 75 members of the climate adaptation science community recently participated in NE CASC’s inaugural Tool Talk, which took place via Zoom on July 19th. Facilitating a dialogue between experienced coastal management tool designers and users, this hour-long event addressed key challenges and successes in the development of effective and relevant coastal management tools. The discussion marked the launch of a new Tool Talk Series NE CASC has established to help identify both the common attributes of successful resource management tools and the practices used to produce them through a community-driven approach to advancing climate adaptation. 

“It was exciting to see such a strong turnout for the first installment in our new Tool Talk Series,” said Will Farmer, NE CASC Acting Federal Director. “NE CASC research is defined by collaborations between scientists and managers who work together in producing actionable science. Our Tool Talk Series expands on this model by incorporating a wide array of perspectives into discussions that will help identify the general practices and principles underlying the best resource management tools across a variety of ecosystems. The series will also deepen connections between researchers and managers while drawing new voices and ideas into our regional climate adaptation community. ” 

The Coastal Management Tool Talk featured both structured and spontaneous exchanges between audience members and a group of four panelists from the NE CASC community: 

  • Mo Correll, Science Coordinator for Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Mitch Hartley, Northeast Coordinator for Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Jeremy Gabrielson, Senior Conservation and Community Planner, Maine Coast Heritage Trust 
  • Brian Yellen, Research Assistant Professor, UMass Amherst & NE CASC Affiliated Investigator 

In addition to panelist input, the conversation was fueled by significant contributions from an audience that included representatives of more than 20 state, federal, or municipal agencies, 15 NGOs, and 15 universities. Together, participants shared their experiences developing and using coastal management tools such as the NOAA  Sea Level Rise Viewer, the USGS EcoSheds Tool, the Maine Stream Habitat Mapper, the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange, and the Massachusetts Ocean Resource Information System (A list of recommended coastal management tools is provided at the end of this article.). 

The conversation resulted in several key conclusions regarding the development of effective coastal management tools. A general consensus formed around the need for tools to be user-centered, community-driven, accessible, consistently promoted, and adaptable, as outlined below:

  • User-Centered: Tools must be created with users in mind. Therefore it is essential to frame the problem a tool addresses in the language and concepts employed by its intended users.
  • Community-Driven: Tools are most effective when they are conceived for a specific community and are developed in partnership with that community. Tool developers should therefore solicit as much input as possible from their user community across every stage of development. Even before tool development begins, developers should consider convening focus groups or conducting surveys to understand needs of the user community. 
  • Accessible: Tools should be easy to access and use. The best tools are web-based and do not require data to be downloaded. 
  • Consistently promoted: Tools must be marketed to be used consistently. To facilitate this process, developers should recruit members of their user community to act as ambassadors who will help promote the tool among colleagues.
  • Adaptable: Tools should be iterative and adaptable so they can respond to evolving needs among a target user group. The less flexible a tool is, the less likely it is to be used. Similarly, tools should clearly identify a contact person who will receive and respond to feedback.