CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State University has been awarded special funding to help coastal communities prepare for climate change. The two-year, $290,000 grant is from the Sectoral Applications Research Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Leading the project is Joseph Cone, assistant director of Oregon Sea Grant. The project aims to develop and test a model of public outreach about climate change that may ultimately be used by all the members of the national Sea Grant network. Oregon’s project partner is Maine Sea Grant.

Outreach in the two states will be directed toward and involve public and private decision-makers such as city managers, county planners, private developers, bankers, and realtors. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews will be used to determine information needs and strategies. Advisory committees representative of the intended audiences have been formed.

Oregon and Maine have similarities and differences with respect to anticipated climate change effects and the communities and economic interests that will likely be most affected. As a result, collaboration and complementary outreach efforts between the two states are expected to yield insights about critical information needs and effective outreach strategies that may be applicable to other states.

While climate change is grabbing public attention and will be a focus of the project, shorter-term climate variability, over years and decades, is already having an impact on the physical features and habitats of coastal zones. These impacts are worsened by increased development and use of the coast, particularly in low-lying, hazard-prone areas.

Decision-makers and residents need to better understand the challenges of adapting to climate variability locally in order to lessen its effects and make their communities more resilient, Cone said.

Sea Grant Extension faculty will build upon their historic and close ties with coastal communities to lead the outreach efforts. Oregon Sea Grant Extension faculty members involved in the project include Patrick Corcoran, Michael Harte and Shawn Rowe. Nathan Mantua of the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group is part of the Oregon team.

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