Maintenance and Expansion of Long-Term Partnerships

An important accomplishment since 2015 is the maintenance and expansion of productive long-term partnerships, which was a strategic goal following the 2015 review and the IAN Strategic Plan. The goal was to pursue more opportunities to develop real partnerships with organizations that were in a position to have positive impacts on a large scale. These partnerships have resulted in important advances in indicator development, ecosystem health assessment, synthesis, and the inclusion of social and cultural information in environmental assessment. Through these partnerships, IAN is actively engaged in improving the use of science and data in environmental decision making world-wide.

WWF. IAN has been working with WWF since 2015 to create a partnership called Healthy Rivers for All. The partnership has worked with teams in the US, Colombia, Mongolia, Zambia, and Angola to engage communities and local stakeholders in understanding and evaluating the condition of their ecosystems and the services they provide. Importantly, IAN is focusing on capacity building so that local partners can effectively engage local stakeholders to create shared ecosystem understanding through the use of ecosystem health report cards. The partnership will expand to additional regions in Asia, North and South America, and Africa.

National Park Service. IAN has worked closely with the National Park Service to advance understanding of park resource condition, and to improve methods for integration and communication of key data in management. IAN is currently working with the NPS National Capitol Region to develop a web-based system to integrate natural resource and cultural resource information to enhance user experience and enable integrated management of park resources. An additional component develops models for impacts to parks and resources from sea-level rise.

The Nature Conservancy/America’s Watershed Initiative. In partnership with AWI, with funding from the Walton Family Foundation, IAN is revising and re-issuing the 2015 Mississippi Watershed Report Card. Through the integration and synthesis processes, the partnership is working to a long-term goal to enable integrated, data-driven decision making in the Mississippi River Watershed for ecosystem health, flood protection, transportation, water supply, economies, recreation, and energy, focusing on interventions that may improve all sectors simultaneously, such as natural infrastructure, wetlands restoration, and reconnected floodplains.

University of South Carolina. Oceans and Human Health Center. IAN receives funding from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Science to co-lead the Center for Oceans and Human Health and Climate Change Interactions at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and the University of Charleston. The Center focuses on several important and emerging contaminants and their implications for human health concerns, especially for vulnerable communities with environmental justice concerns. IAN’s role is to help lead the Community Engagement Core for the Center, including training for graduate students in Science Communication, Synthesis and Community Engagement techniques, focusing on establishing co-design and co-production with diverse stakeholders.

Texas A&M. IAN worked with Texas A&M University Corpus Christi since 2011 to advance data- and science-based management on the Texas Coast. This has resulted in the first ever Texas Coast Ecosystem Health Report Card and a published framework for evaluating ecosystem condition. The partnership is evolving to develop training for post-docs and local organizations to engage stakeholders in the local and regional assessments using the report card process. The partnership will expand to the US, Mexico and Cuba Gulf coast in years ahead. In that regard, the partnership produced a Tri-National Gulf of Mexico Coral Reef Report Card through an IAN-led workshop.

Future Earth Coasts. Future Earth Coasts (formerly LOICZ) is a network of coastal scientists that aims to advance pathways to sustainability in coastal areas. The network has a distributed network of International Program Offices, Regional Engagement Partners, and Fellows. IAN is one of the IPO office locations, along with Virginia Tech in the US, East China Normal University and Yantai University in China, Southern Cross University in Australia, and Institute for Tropical Marine Research in Germany. IAN also serves on the Executive Committee. Initiatives include the development of a global coastal assessment framework, a conceptual roadmap to coastal sustainability, called Our Coastal Futures, and a global partnership survey to share regional and local understandings of sustainability.

Belmont Forum. Belmont Forum involvement: The Belmont Forum was formed in 2009 in response to “The Belmont Challenge” formed by the major scientific funding organizations in the developed world at a workshop held in Belmont, MD. The Belmont Challenge recognized the impacts of accelerating global change due to population pressures and climate change and set up a consortium approach to pool resources from different countries to address these global issues. Belmont Forum funding is transnational and transdisciplinary. IAN was asked to help Future Earth Coasts facilitate a synthesis workshop of Belmont funded projects in 2017, associated with the American Geophysical Union conference. This led to IAN as synthesis facilitators for a series of Belmont Forum initiatives.

When an Ocean Sustainability call for proposals was posted in 2019, IAN staff made the rare effort to submit a pre-proposal followed by a full proposal to a funding agency (National Science Foundation serves as the US Belmont Forum partner) in an open call. Note, most to all of IAN grants historically have been negotiated with a diversity of organizations prior to submitting a proposal, thus the proposal success rate is at or nearly 100%. Thus, IAN staff rarely submit unsolicited proposals, but this Belmont Forum opportunity was particularly interesting based on previous Belmont Forum interactions that IAN staff have experienced. This proposal effort to Belmont Forum paid off and UMCES is the lead organization for institutions in 5 countries (Norway, Japan, Philippines, India and USA).

India Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change. IAN has been working with the ministry since 2012, creating stakeholder-led coastal assessments in Chilika Lagoon and Bhitarkanika National Park in Northeast India, Gujarat Marine National Park and Sanctuary and Gulf of Kachchh in Northwest India. The partnership eventually intends to perform coastal assessments for each coastal state in India.

NOAA. IAN has a long-standing and strong partnership with NOAA, beginning with the establishment of the EcoCheck group at the NOAA Cooperative Oxford Laboratory in Oxford Maryland. This partnership was responsible for developing the first several years of the Chesapeake Bay Report Card, and numerous science communication products for Chesapeake Bay and regional environmental issues. Recently the NOAA Partnership has led the creation of standardized assessment frameworks for NOAA’s Coral Reef Monitoring program, which resulted in status reports for all NOAA Coral Reef Jurisdictions, including Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Confederated States of Micronesia, Guam, and Remote Pacific Areas, in the Pacific, and Florida, the USVI, Puerto Rico, and the Flower Gardens Marine Sanctuary in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. A synthesis of all results will be released in November 2020. NOAA also participated in the IAN-led Tri-National Coral Reef Report Card development with representatives from the US, Mexico, and Cuba.

USGS. IAN has worked closely with the USGS to produce meaningful syntheses of important environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay Region and nationally. A recent series of publications on the unique effects of climate change at each of the 8 USGS Regional Climate Change Research Centers was the result of a years-long effort with the organization. Currently, IAN is working with USGS to develop a series of science communication and synthesis products for Chesapeake Bay regional environmental issues.

State of Maryland. IAN has been working with the State of Maryland since it began in 2002. IAN continues to closely collaborate with the Department of Natural Resources, to produce the Chesapeake Bay Report Card, and is currently working with the MD Climate Change Commission to develop a Coastal Adaptation Score Card framework that will enable tracking of progress toward coastal adaptations necessary to address coastal climate change issues. Coastal communities can scale the approach to address specific concerns for their area. IAN has also worked with the DNR to complete the Maryland Coastal Bays Report Card since 2007. Additionally, IAN provides one staff person under contract to support integration of new and innovative data into policy and restoration initiatives.

US Environmental Protection Agency. IAN has an especially strong relationship with the USEPA Chesapeake Bay Program. IAN coordinates the Scientific and Technical Assessment workgroup, and participates in numerous Chesapeake Bay Program Initiatives. Importantly, IAN has 11 staff members embedded with the Chesapeake Bay Program to support the modeling, data analysis and web development components of the Bay Program work.

Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative. The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperative connects initiatives across monitoring groups and Chesapeake states in order to amplify voices and enhance our understanding of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. To accomplish this, we provide technical, programmatic, and outreach support in order to integrate volunteer-based water quality and macroinvertebrate monitoring data into a centralized data hub, the Chesapeake Data Explorer. The Cooperative is led by regional organizations - US EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, Alliance for Chesapeake Bay, Izaak Walton League of America, the Alliance of Aquatic Resource Monitoring and UMCES IAN. This six-year partnership is continuing into a second six-year phase starting in 2021.

National Fish & Wildlife Foundation: IAN has worked closely with NFWF on several projects, both in the capacity of a mechanism to secure funding from federal agencies for our work (e.g., NOAA Coral Reef Monitoring Program), but also more directly to achieve NFWF objectives. For example, we have been working with NFWF since 2017 to expand the scope of the Chesapeake Bay Report Card to include assessment of the watershed as well as the tidal portions of the Bay, and also to include socio-economic indicators. This represents a significant advance in the report card, and reflects learnings and lessons from our work with other partners globally.

Australia. IAN maintains an especially strong bond with Australian projects and partners. IAN was instrumental in creating the International Riverfoundation; Dr. Dennison currently serves on the Board of Directors, and supports the annual International Riversymposium. Dr. Dennison also led the creation of the first ever ecosystem health report card, for the Brisbane River in 2000, which has evolved into a region-wide campaign and organization called Healthy Land and Water, which produces assessments for the entire southeast part of the state of Queensland, including both aquatic and land-based indicators. IAN staff are now participating in a long-term campaign to dramatically re-envision this campaign to align reporting with regulatory, and enforcement initiatives, as well as stakeholder needs.