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Transdisciplinary sea level rise risk communication and outreach strategies from stakeholder focus groups

Abstract

As part of a larger transdisciplinary sea level rise (SLR) research project, six face-to-face, repeated focus groups with stakeholders (coastal resource managers and environmental communications professionals) were conducted in three states (Alabama, Florida, Mississippi) in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The purpose was to collect input on development of the project’s scientific research and models and gather future project outreach recommendations. This paper reports on the outreach-related results, which synergistically grew to encompass not only project-specific outreach but also broader concerns of stakeholders pertaining to risk communication. Participants believed outreach on SLR preparation was urgently needed and could be facilitated with a multifaceted targeted approach despite various challenges. Analysis revealed five target audience recommendations, six message content and format recommendations, and eight message delivery recommendations. Overall, the study provides empirical support for the perceived value and added benefits of social science, particularly qualitative methods, to foment transdisciplinary projects and for effective SLR communication. The paper concludes with a discussion of connections to the transdisciplinary research and risk communication literature followed by practical and future research implications.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded in part under award NA10NOS4780146 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. The authors wish to thank management and staff of the Apalachicola, Grand Bay, and Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves as well as the NOAA Office of Coastal Management.

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Correspondence to Sonia H. Stephens.

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Research procedures were approved by the appropriate Institutional Review Board prior to beginning the study.

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DeLorme, D.E., Stephens, S.H. & Hagen, S.C. Transdisciplinary sea level rise risk communication and outreach strategies from stakeholder focus groups. J Environ Stud Sci 8, 13–21 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-017-0443-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-017-0443-8

Keywords

  • Transdisciplinary research
  • Outreach
  • Sea level rise
  • Stakeholder communication
  • Focus groups