A virtual workshop to develop a research roadmap and new cross-disciplinary collaborations in coastal sustainability!


Human communities and economies are concentrated along the world’s coastlines. Yet ongoing climate change continues to drive complex interactions between geological, physical, social, and ecological systems that increase the environmental threats facing coastal communities and their economies. Our goal for the Coastal Sustainability workshop is to use nature-based solutions as a framework to develop convergent interdisciplinary research that is stakeholder-driven, inclusive, and focused on identifying and implementing sustainability solutions that promote clean, safe, smart, and equitable coastal communities.

More details on the four virtual Workshop Sessions can be found below (see The Workshop Sessions). In advance of each session, the Organizing Committee will provide prompts and background reading to prime the conversation.

The Challenge

Sustaining human coastal communities is an urgent societal priority. While this urgency is driven by complex challenges, it also opens new doors of opportunity to (1) move away from entrenched and outdated perspectives on the relationship between people and nature and (2) co-develop solutions that are environmentally sound and socially equitable. Workshop participants will embrace convergent research that integrates the expertise of geophysical, biological, cognitive and social scientists, and engineers, and fully co-develops strategies with diverse stakeholders and decision makers.

Nature-based solutions represent a potentially powerful path for mitigation of and adaptation to coastal threats and better methods of acknowledging the integration of people and nature. Yet many barriers have hindered the acceleration of their implementation. Such barriers include diverse human attitudes and perceptions; deeply seated cognitive assumptions and biases; outdated and bureaucratic policies; historical legacies of relying on built infrastructure to address coastal threats; limited appreciation of the co-benefits of nature-based solutions; inadequate engagement with stakeholders, especially those from systematically marginalized groups; and a failure to leverage convergent research for rapid solution development.

This convergence accelerator workshop will connect fundamental and translational scientists and engineers with stakeholders to co-develop knowledge, solutions and tools to enhance coastal sustainability. Our chief goal is to develop a transdisciplinary framework that identifies the interactions and “friction points” that have impeded implementation of nature-based solutions and forges new pathways that overcome these barriers. The ultimate goal of this Workshop Report is to provide a blueprint that outlines specific inflection points and priorities for new investment that accelerates the impact of convergent, coastal sustainability research on short (2-3 years) time scales. More information on the NSF Convergence Accelerator can be found here: NSF Convergence Accelerator.

The Workshop Sessions

  • Session I: Stakeholder Listening Session (April 27, 2 to 5 PM ET - Open to all!)
  • Session II: Identifying and Refining Science Opportunities (May 10, 2 to 5 PM ET)
  • Session III: Refine and Align with NSF’s Convergence Accelerator (May 14, 1 to 4 PM ET)
  • Session IV: Writing Session: Preparing NSF Report

A primary driver of the workshop’s approach is engaging with stakeholders and obtaining and synthesizing their input. Workshop participants will explicitly identify barriers and solutions from each of their perspectives. For example, issues of degree of acceptable uncertainty in predictions, and the spatial and temporal scales over which scientific data are made available, are expected to differ among stakeholder groups. While we want the conversations to be organic and not limited by the perspectives of the organizers, we offer three themes to get the conversation going:

  • Living Shorelines
  • Watershed Planning
  • Marine Food Production and Sustainability

A key aspect of promoting sustainable solutions is the communications strategy used to impart information and engage participation. Our workshop will be facilitated by the Knowinnovation (KI) group, who have extensive experience developing and running workshops, including several for NSF’s Convergence Accelerator program.

What will workshop sessions be like?

  • Participants will interactively, co-develop ideas through facilitated interactions with diverse individuals across disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives.
  • Workshops will focus on producing specific outputs.
  • Sessions will be participant-driven. KI will work with the Organizing Committee and NSF to generate stimulating questions and mechanisms to capture output.
  • Promotion of diversity and inclusion across academic, industry, and stakeholder partners will be a priority.
  • A significant goal of this interactive format is to build future collaborations, explore real ideas that people can move forward, promote community-building both during the event and after.

Commitment to Honoring All Voices

Both the Coastal Sustainability Institute and KI are dedicated to ensuring that broad constituencies have a voice at our workshop, with particular emphasis on stakeholders from systematically marginalized groups. Historically, efforts to promote coastal sustainability through nature-based solutions have primarily included individuals with privileged opportunity and educational background, with significant capital investment in businesses or property vulnerable to climate change, and/or with occupational incentives for dedicating their time. We will actively recruit individuals who work closely with stakeholders from systematically marginalized communities, including municipal individuals responsible for housing, water, waste management, and economic development. We will also work closely with community and social justice advocacy groups, and we will provide participant support costs to facilitate their participation.

Who Should Register for Session 1?

Our initial Workshop is open to anyone, but capacity is limited so please apply. We particularly encourage anyone working or interested in nature-based solutions to the many challenges facing coastal communities. The following is a list of some, but not all, of the potentially relevant fields:

  • Extension Services / Sea Grant
  • Coastal Research Management / Park Service
  • Emerging Markets / Working Waterfronts / Blue Economy
  • Urban / Municipal / Community Planning
  • Coastal / Environmental Education
  • Vacation / Leisure / Tourism
  • Real Estate / Property
  • Coastal Engineering
  • Local Environmental Organization
  • Regional / National Environmental Organization
  • Social Justice Organization
  • Insurance Industry
  • Indigenous Communities / Tribal Nations
  • Environmental Activist
  • Social / Behavioral / Cognitive Sciences
  • Ecological / Environmental Sciences
  • Social / Public Policy
  • Business / Finance
  • Science Communication / Media

We encourage participants from all levels of experience from students/trainees through early and mid-career folks to senior and retired participants. Irrespective of expertise, we are most interested in new, innovative ideas and original thinking that arise from new collaborations between people of diverse backgrounds and varying experience.

We have room for up to 500 people in Session 1. If more folks than that express interest, we will need to select participants. When doing so, consideration will be given to balance across a range of diverse disciplinary experience and expertise. All participants should be willing to engage in frank discussion and assessment of ideas in a collegial and professional fashion (please see our Code of Conduct).

Meeting Outcomes

This convergence accelerator workshop will focus on fundamental and translational science and engineering that collaborates with stakeholders to co-develop knowledge, solutions and tools. Recognizing that both scientific and societal barriers prevent their full realization, the workshop will leverage nature-based solutions as an overarching framework that seeks to promote convergent coastal sustainability research and identify opportunities amidst uncertainty in management approaches, the science driving them, and the stakeholder communities that will ultimately be impacted by potential sustainability solutions. We will do a deep dive with workshop participants on nature-based solutions while focusing on barriers to their full realization by integrating the cognitive and social sciences to determine how human attitudes, beliefs, and preferences dictate the viability of sustainability solutions. A key point of emphasis will be promotion of equitable outcomes while optimizing the various trade-offs that exist between economic, social-ecological, geophysical drivers and their interaction with human attitudes, beliefs and preferences.

Workshop outputs will culminate in an integrated synthesis Report for NSF’s Convergence Accelerator Program. The ultimate goal of this Workshop Report is to provide a blueprint that outlines specific inflection points and priorities for new investment that accelerates the impact of convergent, coastal sustainability research on short (2-3 years) time scales.

If you have questions or need additional information, please email our organizing team at Effie Kistner