Cascadia CoPes Hub: a new regional research hub for facilitating coastal resiliency

Peter Ruggiero and Alessandra Burgos

The Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, or Cascadia CoPes Hub, is a new multi-institutional team funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) for five years. The Hub will advance scientific knowledge about hazards facing coastal communities and approaches to increase their resilience. The Hub is working with coastal communities throughout northern California, Oregon, and Washington to increase their adaptive capacity and ability to mitigate impacts from hazards such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and climate change-induced coastal flooding and erosion. The Cascadia CoPes Hub represents a broad coalition of more than 40 investigators at Oregon State University; University of Washington; University of Oregon; California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt (formerly Humboldt State University); Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; the Ruckelshaus Center at Washington State University; Washington and Oregon Sea Grant; and the U.S. Geological Survey; and nearly two dozen partnering organizations. CIRC co-Principal Investigator Peter Ruggiero is Director of the Hub. Additional members of the Hub’s leadership team are Ann Bostrom, Alison Duvall, Nicole Errett, and Harold Tobin (University of Washington) and Lisa Gaines, Dwaine Plaza, Jenna Tilt, and Alessandra Burgos (Oregon State University).

Cascadia, which stretches from Humboldt County in California to the Salish Sea, is a magnificent living landscape. Cascadia also lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire and is exposed to a confluence of coastal hazards: three types of earthquakes, including the “Really Big One”; tsunamis; landslides; and climate change induced sea-level rise, changing patterns of storminess, and increasing risks of intense precipitation. The Cascadia CoPes Hub formed in response to locally, regionally, and nationally identified needs for improved coastal resilience in the face of these chronic and acute hazards, and specifically to the calls for increasing research on coastal resilience throughout Cascadia that were made in several recent studies and reports (e.g., Oregon Resilience Plan 2013, Ruckelshaus Center 2017).

The Hub’s five connected teams (Figure 1) seek to improve coastal communities’ preparedness for natural hazards and their capacity to bounce back after any disturbances caused by these hazards. The Hub also aims to help communities focus, protect, and further develop the assets they value by providing equitable access to preparedness resources. Accordingly, Cascadia CoPes Hub researchers are beginning to advance understanding and planning for coastal change, including increasing risks from extreme hazards.

Figure 1. Cascadia CoPes Team.

The Hub is also responding to grand challenges identified by the National Academies and others, which called for a better understanding of the causes and consequences of topographic changes, more-systematic research on science communication, and enhanced understanding of inclusive science with community engagement. Hub researchers are working on topics such as the recurrence rate of megaquakes on the Cascadia Subduction Zone and how geological events – such as increased sedimentation and erosion – may affect biodiversity and marine ecologies on which coastal communities depend. Hub teams are also exploring the potential impacts of earthquakes on transportation and health systems, and how local governance structures are organizing and preparing to respond.

This work has the potential to inform coastal community planning and resilience in immediate ways. Hub projects are being co-developed with collaboratories, coastal areas where the project can leverage ongoing research and relationships (Figure 2). For example, the Hub builds on relationships developed in prior CIRC initiatives such as the Tillamook County Coastal Futures Project and the Grays Harbor Coastal Futures Project. In these projects, CIRC researchers and stakeholders explored alternative future scenarios by integrating physical drivers of coastal hazards and potential adaptation pathways (Figure 3) into regional models. This work launched conversations about planning for the future among researchers, decision makers, area homeowners, and other coastal stakeholders.

Figure 2. CoPes hub collaboratories.

Each Hub team has community liaison leads who are focused on helping coastal communities to integrate scientific advances into their planning. The Hub will also fund seed grants to foster new research ideas and projects. In addition, the Hub aims to increase the diversity of coastal hazards practitioners and scholars, increase the exchange of information about hazards and resilience among communities, and integrate diverse perspectives into hazard mitigation planning and practices. Across Cascadia, people who identify as Hispanic, Latino, Black, African American, American Indian, and Alaska Native are underrepresented in undergraduate and graduate education, particularly in science and technology. The Hub will support experiential education about hazards science in coastal schools and actively recruit and support students from coastal communities. We are excited by the Cascadia CoPes Hub’s potential for capitalizing on CIRC’s 11 years of knowledge and experience.  

Figure 3. The CoPes hub builds on CIRC’s previous exploration of coastal hazards and potential adaptation pathways.

Peter Ruggiero is co-Principal Investigator of CIRC, Professor at Oregon State University, and Director and Principal Investigator of The Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, a multi-institutional NSF-funded project focused on increasing resiliency among coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Alessandra (Ali) Burgos is based at Oregon State University. She is Project Manager of the The Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub.

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