The challenges communities face along the Gulf of Mexico coast are daunting. From coastal storms, to land loss and erosion, to impacted marine resources, we are continually reminded that we are in a precarious region. We also recognize that there is limited capacity to advance resilience given the magnitude of the issues at hand.
Especially locally, securing capacity to build resilience is challenging. But resilience is an inherently local process, rather than an outcome, that requires developing adaptive community capacity. Resilience requires decision-makers, stakeholders and community members understand risks, have trusted sources of information, and have flexibility in their decision-making skills. These needs cannot be met in a vacuum, nor can they be met effectively without a supporting framework of technical expertise and focused facilitation. Where such frameworks have been absent, resilience falters.
Universities and nonprofits have a responsibility to assist. The RESTORE Centers of Excellence, among other organizations, provide a model for this work. This includes Texas OneGulf, led by the Harte Research Institute, as well as the Louisiana Center of Excellence, led by the Water Institute of the Gulf. Our institutes have worked closely together for over four years on multiple scientific collaborations. We affirm that the Water Institute and its Center lead exemplary engagement processes that rely on data and trust to transform the quality of dialogue and action along the Gulf coast.
We are impressed by the innovative and forward-thinking culture Justin Ehrenwerth and his team have built at the Water Institute. While not a scientist by training, he has surrounded himself with a highly technical and capable team and has given it the freedom and responsibility to build on its talents. We Texans don’t like to admit something outside our state can be bigger and better, but the Water Institute may be an exception.
Across the Gulf, many organizations share common goals and freely exchange knowledge to achieve them. Interdisciplinary partnerships, in particular, have the advantage of not only seeing basic data, but also having the unique ability to step back and see the bigger picture — how it all links together. Yet building and maintaining the capacity to do so is itself complicated, reaching beyond the natural sciences. Socioeconomics, policy and law, and human health and well-being all play a role.
The Water Institute provides strong interdisciplinary capacity to Louisiana and the Gulf. The team excels in identifying and understanding interdependencies among complex, priority coastal issues and engaging diverse partners to build resilient solutions. We look forward to our long future of collaboration, working together to provide guidance communities trust — and use — on behalf of our beloved Gulf coast.
Corpus Christi, Texas