Using Coproduction to Facilitate Climate Change Adaptation on Hawaiʻi Island

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To help further the understanding of the coproduction process, PI CASC-supported scientists recently published an article in Environmental Management on their experience with knowledge coproduction.

Cliffs falling into the ocean with pebbles and driftwood on the beach.

Waipiro Valley, Big Island, HI. Credit: Alan Cressler.

On the remote island of Hawaiʻi, humans are intimately connected with a unique and dynamic natural environment. However, changing climate conditions threaten both the natural environment and human communities of Hawai’i Island and the entire Hawaiian archipelago. Communities and infrastructure are threatened by decreasing and more variable annual rainfall, coastal erosion, sea-level rise, increased storm intensity, and flooding. Impacts to plants and animals include the spread of invasive species, increased reef acidification, larger and more frequent wildfires, and changes in forest and forest bird communities.

As these changes progress, there has been a growing call for science that can be used to address the impacts of climate and land use change on the ground. The Pacific Island Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI CASC), one of eight such regional centers, partners with natural and cultural resource managers to develop actionable science products focused on informing social and ecological adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Actionable science is science that can be used directly by decision makers, resource managers, or other users.

One process that can help ensure that actionable science is actually used is “knowledge coproduction”. In the coproduction process, scientists and managers collaborate on all aspects of a given project. Previously, it has been demonstrated that providing opportunities for researchers and managers to collaborate increases the likelihood that actionable science is developed and implemented.

To help further the understanding of the coproduction process, PI CASC-supported scientists recently published an article in Environmental Management on their experience with knowledge coproduction. In the paper, the researchers report on their progress toward developing a new knowledge coproduction program, called the Manager Climate Corps (MCC), which involves managers and University of Hawai’i Hilo faculty, staff, and graduate students. This program builds upon existing local relationships between researchers and managers to develop actionable science that addresses climate change and local ecosystem management needs. As part of the program, researchers interviewed local managers to assess their needs, with the goal of incorporating their perspectives into a collaborative climate change research agenda. In this new paper, researchers report on the results of these interviews and on the MCC’s progress in using the interviews to strengthen the ability of local communities to adapt to changing conditions by developing collaborative, manager-driven research projects.

The results of the MCC’s interviews revealed that managers often use professional colleagues as their main source of information and that they expressed a strong need for increased collaboration opportunities among professionals across a variety of disciplines to help build capacity. Universities have the ability to facilitate these types of collaborations, which increase managers’ ability to achieve their goals.

View the article to learn more

Other MCC activities: The first two graduate students from the current MCC cohort successfully defended their research projects and completed their degrees in June 2018. Rose Hart led the first project, which utilized remote sensing and historic photos to estimate coastal erosion and inundation rates driven by sea-level rise to inform county setbacks on Hawaiʻi Island. Louise Economy led the second project, which investigated climate driven shifts in Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA in Hilo Bay for water resource and land management solutions.

Read more about the MCC’s mission and goals, and learn about ongoing projects on sustainable agriculture and fishponds.