Follow us: Save on Registration and   Join CERF

Sea Level Rise – New, Certain & Everywhere

Convened by: Megan Bailiff

Given the increasing importance of Sea Level Rise worldwide there is a need for new and innovative approaches to communication. This uniquely structured symposium being held on Tuesday, November 5, 2013 is the result of a collaboration between CERF and The Coastal Society.  Both societies have worked in parallel for many years with mutual interests and intersecting memberships and hope this partnership will generate many more productive cooperative efforts over time.

Sea Level Rise in Three Stories:

Sea Level Rise is NEW. For about 8,000 years human societies were built on the assumption that sea level is unchanging. But about 150 years ago that phase ended as sea level began to rise at an increasing rate.

Sea Level Rise is CERTAIN. Some people have gotten the impression that by reducing carbon emissions "we can beat this thing," but current projections no longer support that perspective, at least not in this century.

Eventually Sea Level Rise will be virtually EVERYWHERE -- not just far-flung places like Micronesia. We will see it inland with rising water tables. And it will be made worse by extreme events like the "Super Charged Storm Surge" seen during Tropical Storm Sandy.

And yet, there are solutions to these challenges, such as simply moving and adapting.;

This Session’s Novel Approach:

Designed by communications expert Randy Olson, this session has been constructed so that not only will he and two science and policy experts present their arguments -- YOU THE AUDIENCE will be the fourth and equally important voice in the session through your CROWDSOURCED contributions of imagery and ABT (And, But, Therefore) Statements.  Your contributions will be woven in throughout the plenary discussion itself.

This is a session that will help you grasp the increasing urgency of Sea- Level Rise through four sources: Science, Policy, Communications and you.

We Need Your Input!

Join the Sea Level Rise Symposia
Crowdsourcing Activitiy
Crowdsourcing Event

Science (Coastal Geologist):

Gary Griggs, Distinguished Professor of Earth & Planetary Sciences, and Director, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz

Dr. Griggs received his B.A. in Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from Oregon State University. He has been a Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1968 and has been the Director of the Institute of Marine Sciences since 1991. In 2008 he was appointed to the first Science Advisory Team of the California Ocean Protection Council, and chaired the Team from 2010 to 2011. From 2010 to 2012 he served on the NAS-NRC Committee on Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. His research and teaching have been focused on the coast of California and include coastal processes, hazards, engineering and sea-level rise. Dr. Griggs has received numerous awards and written over 170 articles for professional journals as well as authored or co-authored seven books.

Policy (Coastal Policy Analyst):

Mike Orbach,  Professor of Marine Affairs & Policy and Director of the Coastal Environmental Management Program, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University 

Dr. Orbach has worked as Social Anthropologist and Social Science Advisor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Associate Director of the Center for Coastal Marine Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz; and Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Carolina University.  He joined the Duke Marine Laboratory in 1993, and was Director of the Marine Laboratory from 1998 to 2006.  Mike has performed research and has been involved in coastal and marine policy on all coasts of the U.S. and in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Europe, Alaska and the Pacific, and has published widely on social science and policy in coastal and marine environments.  He was a formal advisor to both the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Ocean Commission, has served on the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council, and has held numerous other appointments to Boards and Commissions, both public and private.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Ocean Conservancy and the National Advisory Board for the Sea Grant College Program.  His recent research and policy work has involved developing marine managed areas in Belize, Brazil, Fiji and Panama, coastal adaptation to climate change in the U.S. and Europe, marine spatial planning in Portugal, and conservation and urban design Southeast Asia.

Communications (scientist-turned-filmmaker):

Randy Olson, Writer, Director & Producer, Prairie Starfish Productions

Randy Olson is the writer and director of the feature films, "Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus," (Tribeca '06, Showtime '07), "Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy" (Outfest '08) and author of, "Don't Be Such a Scientist:  Talking Substance in an Age of Style" (Island Press '09). His work focuses on the challenges involved in communicating science to the general public, and the current attacks on mainstream science in fields such as evolution and climate science. He is a former marine biologist (Ph.D. Harvard University) who achieved tenure at the University of New Hampshire before changing careers to filmmaking by obtaining an M.F.A. in Cinema from the University of Southern California. His production company, Prairie Starfish Productions, is based at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles.  His new book for fall, 2013 is, “Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking,” with Dorie Barton and Brian Palermo.

Special Sessions

SCI-008 Past and Probable Future Impacts of a Rising Sea on Different Geomorphic Environments
Convened by: Aaron McGregor ( and David Revell

This session will examine how different coastal environments (cliffs, bluffs, dunes, beaches, wetlands, marshes, etc.) have responded to the 125m (400 ft) of post-glacial sea-level rise and how these environments are likely to respond to future climate scenarios. Some questions that will be addressed include: What methods or models exist for predicting or projecting how these geomorphic environments are likely to respond to future sea-level rise and storm conditions? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these methods or models and how have they been used to hindcast observed changes? Are these methods or models being applied to policy and planning processes, and at what temporal and spatial scales? How are uncertainties being presented to decision-makers and integrated into the decision-making process? 

SCI-009 Adapting to Sea Level Rise – Local Communities and Their Critical Infrastructure
Convened by: Becky Smyth (

Unique challenges are faced by communities with high-investment coastal infrastructure and high-value real estate along shorelines, often within a few feet of sea level.  Communities around the nation are working to address these challenges through adaptation planning that incorporates gray and green infrastructure.  The session will present coastal communities that have are currently working on or have developed adaptation plans and discuss the steps involved in developing these plans, including understanding risk and vulnerability to both critical natural and built environment, and engaging the community partners, stakeholders and public throughout the process. What are the challenges in developing the plans and how are these challenges being addressed?  What would constitute a ‘successful’ adaptation plan that ensures that these critical infrastructure are ‘safe’ from future impacts? 

SCI-010 Cities on the Coast – Present and Future Challenges, with Lessons Learned from Superstorm Sandy
Convened by: John Largier (

Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 made painfully evident the risks of large cities built very close to sea level. Past sea level rise has contributed to this risk, and risks will only increase with the projected rise of sea level in the decades ahead. As federal funding for reconstruction and recovery are being debated in Congress, and the wisdom of rebuilding in heavily damaged areas is being questioned by coastal geologists, massive engineering proposals are being put forward to protect portions of Manhattan from similar events in the future. Manhattan is not alone, however – portions of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Charleston, Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston lie within a few feet of sea level. How do we begin to deal with future sea-level rise problems in large urban areas on these scales? What knowledge is needed to do this?

SCI-011 Storm Effects on Estuaries: Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy
Convened by: Peter Tango (

Annual climate variability influences the delivery of flow and loads driving short and long term estuarine chemical, physical and biological responses. Years punctuated by large tropical weather systems provide natural experiments emphasizing rare extremes in the statistical distribution of wind intensities, durations and rainfall. The proposed session will examine abiotic and biotic responses of eastern U.S. estuaries to recent storms, highlighting management relevant lessons learned from monitoring and analysis.   

SCI-012 Sentinel Sites: A National Network to Monitor Sea-Level Impacts
Convened by: Philippe Hensel ( and William Reay

This session will focus on regional sentinel site programs (or similar programs) supporting sustainable coastal communities resilient to sea-level change impacts. A number of agencies have recently incorporated “sentinel” concepts in their coastal monitoring programs, including an initiative to develop regional sentinel site cooperatives, leveraging existing capabilities across all potential partners within a defined region to ensure that the whole continuum (from science to stewardship and service) is being addressed efficiently. This symposium is open to anyone who would like to share their lessons learned in developing similar sentinel site programs, from consistent data standards and protocols to decision support and outreach.

SCI-013 Marshes, Storms, and Sea Level Rise: Synthesis of Ecologic, Geomorphic, and Geospatial Analyses
Convened by: Tom Allen (, Enrique Reyes and Tim Webster

Marshes are critical habitats to ecologically healthy coasts. This session synthesizes ecological and geomorphic responses of marshes to sea level rise, including insights from geospatial analyses and investigations of responses to episodic storms and chronic sea level rise.