Using Translational Ecology to Communicate Climate Change and Road Ecology: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Kimberly M. Andrews, University of Georgia
Fraser M. Shilling, University of California, Davis
Topic Area
Partnerships and Collaborative Approaches for Improving Transportation Ecology

Climate change is not just a projected scenario, it is already here, and the rates of change appear to be accelerating, in some places even beyond our most aggressive predictions. The occurrence of these issues and the rapid rate of change and sea-level rise is not debated by transportation ecologists working on coastal systems, but we are trying to grasp how to handle current and future impacts alongside local governments and planners on measures for reactive and proactive adaptations. Coastal Georgia is bordered by 13 barriers islands, only four of which have a causeway to the mainland. Further, of those four causeways, several of them are newly-experiencing regular flooding during king and spring tides, and all but one of them were underwater during Hurricane Irma. The issue is confounded by the fact that much of our shoreline infrastructure is adjacent to coastal ecosystems, aging, due for maintenance, or simply is dated given the degree to which our engineering and design techniques have progressed since installation. Not only will coastal states have to elevate all vulnerable shoreline infrastructure in new ways, but novel methods for direct engagement among scientific and management partners will have to be developed. In this presentation, we will describe the public, private, and government partnerships that we are forming to identify priorities and devise plans for resiliency and response. We also will highlight our research on the use of a combination of predictive models and new technologies to measure both gradual shoreline change and sudden change from punctuated tidal and storm events. As part of this research, we generate large quantities of visual imagery from 5-min photograph intervals from time-lapse cameras and bi-annual drone flights. Here, we will present snapshots from our time-lapse photographic monitoring and drone footage to highlight the change that we are observing and measuring using these techniques. We will describe how we are also using our visual data for outreach and communication with public and manager audiences. Visual imagery is readily understood and not nearly as debatable as certain other scientific data by the non-scientific public and local officials. Translational ecology is an emerging discipline that extends beyond increasing awareness; it is a two-way dialogue between stakeholders through which knowledge is transferred in a manner that is accessible and creates a connection with each receiving audience. Further, accessibility involves translating knowledge in ways that can be implemented by and relayed to even more users. We present scientific efforts and translational ecology practices that we are using on the coast to connect end users with the state of our transportation systems, our concerns about climate change, and in appealing to the need for their support in allocating the resources that will be necessary for public maintenance and improvement of our current infrastructure system.

Abstract Keywords
Climate Change