Enhancing socio-ecological resilience in coastal regions through collaborative science, knowledge exchange and social networks: a case study of the Deal Island Peninsula, USA


Collaborative science brings together diverse stakeholders to share knowledge and form networks that in turn can be foundational to policies and practices to increase socio-ecological resilience. In this article, we present results from a collaborative science project that employed collaborative learning methods to develop a network of local, regional, state and academic stakeholders. These stakeholders had little social interaction prior to the project and represented a diversity of views, positions and responsibilities. They shared in common a concern for the effects of climate change on a coastal socio-ecological system and the desire to reduce vulnerabilities and enhance resilience. Through ethnographic and survey methods, we found that collaborative science and learning promoted the exchange of cultural and environmental knowledge and expertise among individuals who previously had no sustained interaction. Stakeholders perceived these exchanges as worthwhile in that they allowed individuals to express viewpoints and share knowledge and expertise, which was seen to have the potential to increase socio-ecological resilience. Our results suggest that social networks can emerge from collaborative science and learning projects and can become formally organized and help foster opportunities to enhance socio-ecological resilience.

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  1. 1.

    Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources’ Maryland Coastal Atlas provides detailed maps indicating shoreline erosion via shoreline change between 1841 and 1999. http://gisapps.dnr.state.md.us/coastalatlas/iMap-master/basicviewer/index.html.

  2. 2.

    The ICRA was funded by Maryland Sea Grant (SA72581450-N).

  3. 3.

    This research is funded by the NOAA Coastal and Ocean Climate Adaptations Program (COCA) (NA17OAR4310248).


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The authors would like to acknowledge funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Estuarine Research Reserve Science Collaborative Program (Grant Number: 018245-001). In addition, we would like to thank project stakeholders for the time they graciously offered to be a part of this collaboration.

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Correspondence to Michael Paolisso.




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Paolisso, M., Prell, C., Johnson, K.J. et al. Enhancing socio-ecological resilience in coastal regions through collaborative science, knowledge exchange and social networks: a case study of the Deal Island Peninsula, USA. Socio Ecol Pract Res 1, 109–123 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42532-019-00010-w

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  • Coastal regions
  • Climate change
  • Collaborative science and learning
  • Exchange of environmental knowledge and expertise
  • Socio-ecological resilience
  • Social networks
  • Chesapeake Bay