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Drs. Donya Frank-Gilchrist and Legna Torres-Garcia of the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center participated in the Caribbean Conservation Community of Practice meeting organized by the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy and the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.

Map displaying the Caribbean region with overlay of a colorized satellite image of Hurricane Maria approaching Puerto Rico.
Colorized satellite imagery from 2017-09-19 15:00 UTC of Hurricane Maria impacting the Eastern Caribbean. Data provided by NOAA. Base image is intellectual property of NOAA and is used herein under license. Copyright Esri and its creator. 

The meeting, held in St. Croix, USVI, February 9-10, brought together experts and stakeholders from a range of sectors to provide guidance on the expansion of the Southeast Conservation Blueprint to the US Caribbean and to shape development of the Southeast CASC science strategy.

The Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) is a regional conservation initiative that spans the Southeastern United States and the US Caribbean. SECAS brings together stakeholders from a range of sectors, including state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, businesses, tribes, and universities to work together to design a conservation blueprint. The Southeast Conservation Blueprint is a spatial plan being developed to help inform conservation decisions and strategies for stakeholders based on all the available resources and local knowledge of the community.

Drs. Donya Frank-Gilchrist and Legna Torres-Garcia of the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) participated in the meeting held in St. Croix to help guide the expansion of the conservation blueprint to the US Caribbean. They informed the Caribbean Conservation Community of Practice about USGS natural hazards and resources data and products that were available for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. In attendance at the meeting were other USGS scientists including Mark Wiltermuth from the Core Science Systems mission area, the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit  and the meeting was co-organized by the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (SE CASC) including Katherine Smith, Mitch Eaton, and Adam Terrando. SE CASC held breakout group discussions on local climate adaptation needs to help inform the development of their five-year science strategy and scope discussions on a OCONUS data inequities paper.   

While attending the meeting, the team also met with professors at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and the US Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources to learn more about their coastal hazards needs, capabilities and resources, as well as to share relevant USGS resources for the Caribbean, and explore the potential for future collaborations. The team also visited several sites in St. Thomas and St. Croix that were identified as hotspots for coastal erosion and flooding. SE CASC also coordinated visits with UVI staff to increase awareness of the SE CASC consortium recompete.  

This meeting helped to expand their network of natural hazards researchers and resilience practitioners across the southeast and Caribbean regions. These interactions helped to achieve the goals of the project, Stakeholder Engagement for Natural Hazards Investigations in the Caribbean (SENHIC), and showcase the data, tools, and resources USGS has available to help communities bolster resilience to natural hazards.  It also helped SE CASC connect with MSIs and better serve US Caribbean science needs and focus future work on actionable science priorities for an underserved region. Meeting participants appreciated the opportunity to build a Caribbean community of practice and identified water resources as a potential theme for the next meeting. 

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