Resilience of Coastal Communities in Response to External Stressors (2016)

Client Organization: 
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW)
Project Location : 
Oregon Coast
Summary of Project Idea: 

It is well recognized that small coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to environmental change because of their exposure and sensitivity to external stressors. Less is known, however, about the adaptive capacity of coastal communities and specifically, the role that local governance plays in adaptive responses. Better understanding is needed of factors in community vulnerability and adaptation to external stressors to inform policies that aim to improve socio-economic and environmental resilience in coastal areas.

In the examination of six coastal Oregon communities, the goal of this project is to understand the external stressors facing coastal communities, how they have responded and what has facilitated that response.

Our methods of research involve a literature review, semi-structured interviews, community case studies, and a cross-case analysis with a synthesis of findings. A systematic review of the literature on coastal community resilience familiarizes the team with concepts and theories that address primary research questions. Interviews are used to draw out the impacts of local stressors and the indicators of adaptive responses that may not appear in the previous research. Community case studies create a narrative of each community and highlight the important factors that contributed to, or prevented, a community’s ability to adapt to stressors over time. The cross-case analysis allows us to compare the similarities and differences in adaptive capacities between communities and the supporting factors for each.

Our findings are used to generate insight into what enables communities to respond to external stressors as well as create policy and programmatic recommendations for how organizations and agencies can foster resilience in coastal communities.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Justice
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Paige Fischer, Julia Wondolleck
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Richard Ackerman, MS Environmental Policy and Planning 
  • Michael Burbidge, MS Environmental Justice 
  • Stanley (Xi) Chen, MS Conservation Ecology
  • Theo Eggermont, MS/MBA Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Joanna Lehrman, MLA Landscape Architecture
  • Rachel Neuenfeldt, MS/MPH Environmental Policy and Planning 
  • Nathan Wells, MS Environmental Policy and Planning 
Project Status: 
Past Project