Torry Bend and Kiera O’Donnell talk through the Stories of Change project, from where it started to how it has evolved to be larger than the original pitch. The original pitch had an underlying goal of engaging with coastal stakeholders in a meaningful way. The team wanted to create a space where people could be open and honest about climate change while still being informed about potential risks and solutions of SWISLR. They found that stories were a potential way forward with this project. Stories can be a place to hold grief, they can be a safe way to share information, and they can be used to create idealized futures and situations. To start the webinar, everyone was asked “If you were to present the version of the future in the most idealistic terms, what does that look like?”
Kiera and her team of Duke students have worked through SWISLR-related papers that were associated with a social science discipline. They are working to uncover who is studying SWISLR within the social science sphere, where are SWISLR interviews and surveys taking place, how is SWISLR impacting coastal communities, and what are the means of response to SWISLR impacts. The past semester was all about extracting information from SWISLR social science research, and now the team at Duke is working on analyzing the data and synthesizing the information they worked to pull out of the literature. They specifically will be looking at what questions are being asked in these papers and surveying the surveyors to ask them what questions should be asked. To find out more about this project you can see their first semester findings described in this blog post: https://apnep.nc.gov/blog/2024/01/22/saltwater-intrusion-sea-level-rise.
Through engaging with community members, Torry has been able to create and collaborate on 4 different projects and has taken the original goal of co-creating stories of change to the next level. Torry found the original questions and goals laid out during the all-hands meeting were becoming stretched and changed based on who she was talking to and the timing of when people were able to talk. The first project is working with K-12 students to write and create resiliency fables to give the students power in their future and an outlet for their grief and worry surrounding climate change. The second project is creating a collective of people working in puppetry and climate change so as opportunities come up there is a network of people working in this sphere that can be connected to the project in question. The third project is making a documentary on farming in Princeville, a coastal North Carolina town. The farmer Torry is working with talked about their connection to the land, the changes they have made throughout their life, and the changes they will have to make in future SWISLR-induced farm fields. The last project is a short live puppet show on moving away from the coast with the intent to connect an art form to information. Although migration is a tough topic to talk about, the connection to art and puppetry is a creative way of softening some of the anxiety surrounding it. All these projects came out of the idea that stories can be a powerful tool to talk about anxieties surrounding climate change.
We finished the webinar with a discussion on public spaces and factors that have facilitated safe spaces to share ideas and thoughts about climate change. You can watch the presentations and the discussion here. https://youtu.be/E924S_bvdBA
For the December webinar we were joined by Henry Yeung and Dr. Justin Wright to talk about the many aspects of ghost forests. Henry Yeung is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia, studying plants and climate change using remote sensing. Dr. Justin Wright is a plat ecologist interested in uncovering the causes of ecosystem patterns. Both are interested in ghost forests.
Henry has been able to create a fairly accurate model to predict where dead trees are located based on spectral imagery from the sky. He has also been able to identify the areas that are more difficult for the model to identify. With this accuracy, he has been able to apply the model across the entire eastern coast (Virginia to New Hampshire). Using the large area of tree mortality, Henry could start identifying trends in the data. Henry has been able to identify that mortality varies strongly with elevation but differs across regions. Most mortality happens below 10 meters of sea level and the Mid-Atlantic wetlands are experiencing substantial forest mortality. Specifically, the states of Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia are experiencing the most freshwater forest mortality. Using this model we have increased our understanding of U.S. east coast ghost forests, providing a method for other areas to do the same.
Looking at ghost forests at these large scales provides us with generalizable information, however, it is potentially missing the landscape-specific changes that can cause increased or decreased forest mortality. Dr. Justin Wright has decided to create a team focused on understanding the history of places where we see these large swaths of ghost forests. In general, he has found that when researchers are trying to understand why land has been heavily impacted, our immediate thought is to the present - what are the species located there, what is the hydrology of the area, etc. But what we are seeing is the history of the landscape that is influencing trends present to this day. Therefore, a newly funded project to work with the Forest History Society will be compiling the history of coastal North Carolina which will highlight the history of the ghost forests that Henry is seeing from remote sensing. The big question now, is how do we scale up the history of landscapes impacted by SWISLR?
Both projects are focused on ghost forests, and although they cover very different aspects of tree mortality, they are both focused on understanding the patterns of mortality and how we can potentially protect, or at least predict, the loss of our forested wetlands.