2009 Workshop Agenda

Eleventh Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists
Coastal Impacts: Global Change in Coastal Ecosystems
June 7-12, 2009
View Past Workshop Agendas

Day 1
Science From the Ground Up

The Building Blocks of Scientific Knowledge
While science is mainly conducted at the highly specialized level, journalists need to understand the big picture. Presenters will review the culture and practice of science, ranging from the identification of research questions to the peer review process. Although scientists see peer review, prior to the publication of a study, as an essential stage in the development of scientific consensus, the general public largely does not understand the peer review process and its value. Familiarity of this process is critical to understanding the culture of science. In this discussion, we will explain peer review, identify its limitations, and talk about how to separate the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Day 2
How Local Science Can Yield Global Answers

Field Activities and Lab Practicum
Nutrient Enrichment as a Global Change Issue
Stormwater runoff to coasts constitutes an often-overlooked aspect of global environmental change, although its impacts are seen everywhere. Scientists and regulators have worked to manage the nutrient inputs from this runoff for decades, typically through advanced wastewater treatment. But with coastal populations continuing to increase and climate shifts potentially leading to stronger or more frequent storms, estuaries like Narragansett Bay must adapt to additional runoff.

Monday’s activities will examine nutrient cycling and water quality issues at multiple scales, from local to global. Our case study will be Greenwich Bay, a sub-estuary of Narragansett Bay, where Fellows will collect and analyze standard water quality measurements — including light penetration and nutrient, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen concentrations — from two very different locations. We will discuss ways nutrients can enter Greenwich Bay and the factors that make coastal waters vulnerable to nutrient enrichment and hypoxia.

Field Activities (Greenwich Bay)
Data Collection for Assessment of Water Quality
Arrive at the first sampling site: Greenwich Cove, an inlet of Greenwich Bay. This site is near a wastewater treatment facility outfall in the narrow, poorly flushed cove. After a demonstration, Fellows will collect water with either a Niskin bottle or a bucket and then filter the water for nutrients and chlorophyll using syringes and filter cartridges.

Lab Practicum (Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory)
Analyzing Water Quality Samples
Researchers often employ a variety of tools and methods for analysis of water quality samples. In the Marine Ecosystems Research Laboratory (MERL), Fellows will see two versions of a nutrient auto analyzer, used to determine the concentrations of various nutrients from water samples. Fellows will also perform the preparation and measurement of samples for chlorophyll analysis.

Interpreting Water Quality Data
After data analysis, we will discuss the significance of these various water quality measures. The discussion will then turn to the issue of scaling scientific research: how do the Greenwich Bay samples relate to Narragansett Bay as a whole? Are the underlying chemical, physical, and biological mechanisms influenced by the same factors? What are the implications of these water quality issues for the world’s coasts and estuaries?

Public Lecture (Coastal Institute Auditorium)
Chasing Nitrogen Atoms in the Global Nitrogen Cycle
WILLIAM SCHLESINGER, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Global change encompasses a wide variety of human-caused impacts, including climate change, loss of biodiversity, and nutrient pollution. Schlesinger will discuss the value of the ecosystem concept in investigating and addressing global change. He will describe the interactions and feedbacks among biological and chemical processes: interactions that are critical to ecosystem health, but which also exacerbate the impacts of excessive inputs of nutrients such as nitrogen.

Day 3
Long-term Research: Analyzing and Interpreting Time Series Data

Fieldwork and Lab Practicum (Narragansett Bay and GSO)
Assessing the State of Fisheries
ERIN BOHABOY, LAURA WINDECKER, GSO Graduate Students; SCOTT OLSZEWSKI, Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife
Fellows will gain an appreciation for the development of a long-term data series by participating in a fish trawl modeled on the GSO Fish Trawl Survey. The GSO survey is celebrating its 50th year in 2009, and the data gathered from this effort have informed scientists around the world.

Lab Practicum (Coastal Institute)
Graphing for Communication of Complex Data
Fellows will receive an introduction to the GSO fish trawl dataset, including expanations of how data from the day’s trawl are organized, the basics of creating and interpreting graphs, and how complex data sets may be graphed. Fellows will have a chance to review various graphs recently published in scientific articles on population trends of marine species and will apply what they’ve learned in an informal challenge to interpret complex graphs.

Journalism Lab (Coastal Institute)
Science in Translation: Navigating the Publication Landscape
A scientific paper is published and your editor decides it’s newsworthy. Now what? Translating science on deadline for the average news audience is a challenge. In this exercise, Fellows will gather with scientists in five pre-assigned teams. Scientists will identify a series of tools for interpreting science journal articles. As time allows, groups may discuss the significance of the assigned articles (although this is not the primary goal of the exercise). The session will conclude with one member of each team explaining one of their science translation tools to the whole group.

Public Lecture (Coastal Institute Auditorium)
Thresholds of Climate Change in Ecosystems
COLLEEN CHARLES, Terrestrial, Freshwater, and Marine Ecosystems Program, U.S. Geological Survey
Climate change has become a recognized driver of ecosystem change. Shifts in the geographic ranges of species and increases in disturbances such as wildland fires are examples of ecosystem-scale responses to a warming Earth. Even the slightest climate changes may trigger abrupt responses in ecosystems. The potential for sudden, unanticipated shifts makes resource planning, preparation, and management difficult but extremely important if resource managers are to succeed in developing adaptation strategies. Charles will talk about the factors that control ecosystem structure and function, and the new research needed to predict future ecosystem changes and improve management.

Day 4
Mapping Complexity: Collecting Scientific Data Over Varying Scales

Fieldwork (Charlestown Beach and Ninigret Pond, Charlestown)
How Will Coastal Systems Respond to Sea Level Rise?
JANET FREEDMAN, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council; LEANNA HEFFNER, GSO Graduate Student; MONIQUE LAFRANCE, GSO Graduate Student; MAGGIE PAINE, Natural Resource Conservation Service; NATHAN VINHATEIRO, GSO Graduate Student
Although scientists can make reasonable predictions of expected physical and ecological changes resulting from climate change, considerable uncertainty remains. As these changes occur, the development of effective and scientifically sound coastal management policies will depend on sustained monitoring and accurate mapping of coastal systems. Scientists map shorelines and coastal ecosystems at a variety of spatial and temporal scales, requiring the collection of detailed data. Mapping sea level rise requires elevation data for beaches and other coastal formations. Mapping changes to biological communities requires baseline information about the current status of those communities. This program will examine some of the tools used to collect data for mapping.

Mapping Shoreline Change
JANET FREEDMAN, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council; MAGGIE PAINE, Natural Resource Conservation Service; NATHAN VINHATEIRO, GSO Graduate Student
Freedman will provide an overview of coastal geological processes in the area, including: the formation and nature of a barrier; storm-induced erosion and sea level rise; the effects of breachway construction and shoreline structures on beaches; and a summary of local shoreline change over time. Vinhateiro will describe the Emery method of beach profiling, a simple technique that provides a snapshot of beach topography. After Fellows conduct a sample beach profile, Paine will demonstrate the Real Time Kinematic (RTK) method of beach profiling. This session will conclude with a discussion about additional methods for mapping coastal elevation data, including LiDAR, in order to capture larger spatial scales.

Mapping Biological Change
Fellows will kayak in a lagoon behind the dynamic Charlestown barrier complex to better understand how researchers measure change in biological communities over varying timescales. Kayaking and water safety instruction will be provided, followed by a discussion of methods that scientists use to survey and map seafloor (“benthic”) habitats, and a demonstration of several biological sampling techniques including quadrat and benthic grab sampling. By using these methods repeatedly over time, changes in benthic habitats can be documented. We will kayak to the center of the pond and measure benthic diversity using quadrats and benthic grabs, as well as examine benthic plant and animals communities in the area. Paddle back to Shelter Cove Marina boat launch.

Journalism Lab (Coastal Institute)
Science in Translation: Telling the Story
For the second day of Science in Translation, Fellows will gather in four pre-assigned groups. Building on the science translation tools identified on Tuesday afternoon and with the help of the participating scientists, Fellows will read and translate a science journal article and identify one or two key conclusions from the paper. Fellows will then help their partner scientist understand how to identify an effective news pitch for the article. For each group, a journalist will summarize the conclusions of the science paper, and the scientist will give a brief pitch for a news story relating to those conclusions.

Public Lecture (Coastal Institute Auditorium)
Resilient Coasts Blueprint: Reducing Risk in Coastal Areas
CHRISTOPHE TULOU, Resilient Coasts Initiative
Sea level rise, temperature increases, changes in precipitation patterns and other climate-related changes are expected to occur and to become increasingly severe over the coming decades. The need to adapt to these climate-driven changes and to better manage existing coastal risks is obvious and immediate. Tulou will describe the Resilient Coasts Blueprint, the product of a collaborative process involving leaders from the insurance, reinsurance, development, conservation, government and academic sectors. The Blueprint codifies consensus on principles and recommendations to mitigate coastal risks resulting from development decisions and exacerbated by changing climate.

Day 5
Rubber, Meet Road: Integrating Multidisciplinary Research to Inform Policy

Boat Tour and Panel Discussion (Providence Harbor and Save the Bay, Providence)
Can Coastal Communities Adapt to Sea Level Rise?
JON BOOTHROYD, URI Department of Geosciences and Rhode Island State Geologist; PAIGE BRONK, City of Newport Planning Division; RACHEL CALABRO, Save The Bay; LT. COL. PETER GAYNOR, Providence Emergency Management Agency; PETER LORD, The Providence Journal; JOHN TORGAN, Save The Bay; RALPH WILLMER, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
Over the past several days Fellows have been introduced to some of the techniques used to assess geological and biological impacts of climate change. But how is this scientific information transferred to regulatory and policy decisions? How will multiple stakeholders work together to face the daunting problems of revisioning urban infrastructure planning to accommodate projected sea level rise? Fellows will examine a case study of the infrastructure problems facing Providence and Newport, Rhode Island.

Boat Tour (Providence)
A Seagull’s Eye View of the Providence Waterfront
LT. COL. PETER GAYNOR, Providence Emergency Management Agency; JOHN TORGAN, Save The Bay
Depart for tour of the Providence waterfront on the R/V Hope Hudner, one of the vessels in URI’s research fleet. While Fellows observe a unique view of the city, Torgan will provide an introduction to the rich history of the Providence working waterfront. Gaynor will describe the business activities within the port and explain how the Providence Emergency Management Agency plans for extreme events such as hurricanes and storm surge.

Panel Discussion (Save the Bay Conference Room)
Infrastructure Impacts of Sea Level Rise: What Can be Done?
JON BOOTHROYD, URI Department of Geosciences and Rhode Island State Geologist; PAIGE BRONK, City of Newport Planning Division; RACHEL CALABRO, Save The Bay; PETER LORD, The Providence Journal, moderator; RALPH WILLMER, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.
Are academics, governments, communities, and businesses working on the problem of adapting to sea level rise in concert — or separately? After an introduction to the current projections of sea level rise by Boothroyd, Lord will moderate a discussion with representatives from each of these groups, who will offer their perspectives on how to address sea level rise impacts on urban infrastructure. What do municipalities have to consider? How will environmental consultants and their clients, developers, participate in determining appropriate and cost-effective adaptation measures? How can the planning process insure that the best interests of communities, businesses, and the environment are maintained?

Journalism Lab (Coastal Institute)
Computer-Assisted Reporting
Many environmental stories require a familiarity with the use of databases. Whether searching for the economic impacts of fisheries in your region or a history of mercury emissions at a local power plant, a journalist’s story will be much stronger with hard numbers to support the lede. Schwadron will give an overview of the use of databases for journalists, as well as some methods and resources to learn more about computer-assisted reporting.

Public Lecture (Coastal Institute Auditorium)
Is Journalism Dying? The Future of News, Journalism and Journalists
TOM ROSENSTIEL, Project for Excellence in Journalism
Journalism has experienced major shifts over the past five years, particularly in the way news is produced and the way the business functions. Is journalism as we know it disappearing? Or with new technology and new platforms is journalism simply evolving? Drawing on the work of the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s comprehensive research, Rosenstiel will offer an authoritative outline of what is and what is not occurring in journalism. While some assumptions are wrong, the notion that everything will simply solve itself in a new technology marketplace is also misguided.

Evening Presentation (Bay Voyage Inn)
Making Environmental Journalism Relevant
DAN GROSSMAN, Freelance Environmental Reporter
Environmental journalism is more important now than ever. But with the decline of many mainstream journalism institutions and the gradual replacement of news production with news aggregation and opinion making, can journalists communicate critical environmental topics to a distracted public? No matter what mainstream institutions do, Grossman will argue that there are many opportunities for individual journalists to create multimedia and interactive products with widespread distribution, making his point with examples from his own reporting.

Day 6
Connecting Research to the Big Picture

Presentation (Coastal Institute)
The Ocean in Google Earth as a Visualization Tool
Google Earth is used by many as a virtual portal to distant lands. It can also be used as a powerful tool for visualizing scientific information. This session will provide an introduction to the ways that Google Earth can inform and supplement your reporting, with a focus on the program’s new Ocean feature and content layers.

Public Lecture (Coastal Institute Auditorium)
The Economics of Climate Change
JOHN REILLY, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, M.I.T. Sloan School of Management
Economists typically frame environmental issues as a balancing of the costs of reducing environmental damage against the benefits of avoided damage. This is a useful starting point, but the enormous complexity of the climate issue, uncertainty about the response of the climate system to unprecedented forcing from greenhouse gas accumulation, and the difficulty of valuing impacts in a way to meaningfully compare across cultures and generations means that empirical cost-benefit calculations are themselves highly uncertain and, necessarily, based on great simplifications. Reilly will introduce the economic framing of the problem, the range of existing estimates, and the limits of these approaches.

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