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Gulf Islands National Seashore regional sediment budget research and data needs—Workshop series summary

May 3, 2023

Executive Summary

The National Park Service (NPS), in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), recognizes the need to quantify the sediment budget of the barrier islands within the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS) to understand the coastal processes affecting island resiliency. To achieve this goal, identifying and quantifying the physical parameters that drive long-term change is necessary to model the processes that are both generative and terminal in island evolution and capture island response to long-term human alteration and climatic patterns. For example, measuring change across periods of storminess is more effective at assessing island resiliency than measuring change resulting from a single storm impact. Understanding changes to the physical environment over time is key to successfully predicting island responses to future storm impacts, human alteration, and sea-level rise and is necessary for effective decision making and management response. Yet, the diversity of factors affecting natural and cultural resources necessitates a strategic approach to data collection priorities that can inform sediment budget quantification and integrated resource management.

This study sought to advance sediment budget modeling efforts by conducting a “Needs Assessment Workshop” at the GINS. The purpose of the workshop was to identify and prioritize the specific research and data needs regarding the sediment budget at the GINS that can enhance the NPS efforts to conserve the islands’ natural resources, cultural resources, and the facilities and infrastructure that support both conservation and visitor use of those resources. This effort explored two research questions: (1) “what research and data needs exist for the sediment budget at Gulf Islands National Seashore” (research question 1) and (2) “how can research to address these needs capitalize on regional partnerships to advance natural and cultural resource conservation at Gulf Islands National Seashore” (research question 2)? The workshop was conducted virtually in a two-part, two-day series.

The workshop series was organized by researchers from North Carolina State University in collaboration with NPS and USGS staff and was facilitated by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration staff. The workshop series (two paired, sequential, partial-day workshops) addressed two target audiences: (1) NPS and USGS staff (April workshop) and (2) regional Federal, State, county, and nongovernmental organization staff, including NPS and USGS staff (May workshop). A total of four workshop sessions were held, comprising two sessions with each target audience.

The workshop series intended to identify sediment management research and data needs that could enhance natural and cultural resource stewardship at the GINS. One objective was to share information about regional sediment transport and management, available sediment management plans, and predictive modeling capabilities, including geomorphologic and hydrodynamic predictive models. This information was shared through a series of presentations by park managers and NPS and USGS researchers that identified park issues and available capabilities and data. The second objective was to elicit research and data needs, with a primary goal of assessing the importance and urgency of the identified needs. This assessment was partly determined by requesting that the workshop participants identify and prioritize research themes through polls, comments, and discussion.

The polls explicitly asked participants to qualitatively evaluate the importance (not at all, slightly, somewhat, very, or extremely) and urgency (not at all, slightly, somewhat, very, or extremely) of the thematically grouped research and data needs. These evaluations were plotted and shared during the workshop to visualize how the relative importance (x-axis) and relative urgency (y-axis) of each “need,” relative to other needs, to identify the most necessary (importance) and time-sensitive (urgent) items, thereby allowing an enhanced, holistic understanding of the sediment budget at GINS. Results of the poll are published as a USGS data release.

The assessment results revealed that the most important and urgent research and data needs included mapping (for example, elevation, habitat, and cultural resources), a regional sediment budget and management plan, and the dynamic modeling of sediment processes. During the workshop, these issues were visualized using scatter plots to demonstrate the relative importance and urgency of each theme, provide descriptive statistics, and elicit discussion. This format of iterative presentation, discussion, and prioritization allowed the project team to effectively accomplish their objective of identifying important and urgent research needs for natural and cultural resource stewardship at the GINS. Through the workshop, it was determined that expanded communication with the broader research community was needed to coordinate research activities and streamline potential funding opportunities and that research and policy should be integrated through a structured decision-making process.

At the conclusion of the workshop, an administered poll showed that the presentations effectively identified data and research needs and that the goals of the workshop were achieved. The results suggest that this type of needs-assessment workshop can effectively identify existing research capabilities and data, determine and prioritize research and data needs, and address how these efforts can use regional partnerships to aid natural and cultural resource conservation and management at National Parks.

Publication Year 2023
Title Gulf Islands National Seashore regional sediment budget research and data needs—Workshop series summary
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221087
Authors Erin Seekamp, James Flocks, Courtney Hotchkiss, Linda York, Kelly Irick
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1087
Index ID ofr20221087
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center