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Erin Seekamp

Goodnight Distinguished Professor, Director Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative


Biltmore Hall (Robertson Wing) 4008H


I am a social scientist with expertise in collaborations and partnerships for conservation, community engagement, and capacity building for climate resilience. My work centers around integrating stakeholder values and perspectives in adaptation planning and decision making using science co-production and deliberative science approaches. In 2019, I served as a Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), where I expanded my work on climate adaptation planning of cultural resources to World Heritage Sites. In 2022, I became the Director of the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative.

Through my research, I am to enhance adaptive capacity and foster vibrant and resilient socio-ecological communities. I seek interdisciplinary collaborations with individuals skilled in quantifying and modeling climate change impacts and scenario projections, including the integration of adaptation strategies into optimization models.


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Date: 09/01/22 - 8/31/25
Amount: $399,053.00
Funding Agencies: US Geological Survey (USGS)

This project seeks to enhance the stewardship of historic buildings vulnerable to climate change impacts. As sea level rise and storm-related flooding and erosion threaten our nation??????????????????s cultural heritage, there is a critical need to ensure that adaptation decisions, including what cultural resources will be ????????????????let go???????????????, are transparent and informed by the opinion of people whose heritage is tied to those resources. This project aims to enhance a decision support framework designed for adaptation planning by the National Park Service at coastal parks, with Cape Lookout National Seashore being selected as the study site. The decision support framework, called the Optimal Preservation (OptiPres) Model, enables managers to consider complex tradeoffs during a 30-year planning period under different annual budget scenarios. However, the OptiPres Model is currently limited in that it only currently addresses one management objective (that is, maximizing the resource value of buildings retained across the 30-year planning period), when multiple management objectives drive decision making (for example, visitor safety and enjoyment, and cost efficiency of actions). This project will include ongoing engagement with partner organizations affiliated with two historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office staff and National Park Service staff, to broaden the inclusion of stakeholder values and preferences into the OptiPres Model. Integration of different sequencing of hurricane events, associated damage to historic buildings, and different strategies for recovery and adaptation into the OptiPres Model will enhance its utility and identify adaptation actions for historical structures to ????????????????best??????????????? prepare and recover from climate extreme events. Project results will enhance National Park Service managers?????????????????? understanding of the complex tradeoffs that need to be made when funding for adaptation is limited.

Date: 06/01/21 - 9/30/24
Amount: $248,584.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

The primary goal of this project is a planning and decision support tool that will help the NPS and partners prioritize archeological sites for climate adaptation treatments. An equal necessary goal is to involve Tribal and community engagement in how sites are prioritized and how data are handled. Project goal following successful pilot phase is ultimately build-out of a service-wide framework, and use of the results to inform baseline documentation and implement future management decisions.

Date: 02/02/22 - 7/31/24
Amount: $285,388.00
Funding Agencies: NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

In 2020, the NC State Park system received a record 19.8 million visitors. This increased visitation rate meant the system supported 1.2 million more visitors than in 2019 and 400,000 more than 2017, the previous record year. Although the record-high visitation in 2020 is largely attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made outdoor recreation a safer and more appealing alternative compared to indoor activities, historic long-term trends show an increase in visitation to parks and outdoor areas in the state of North Carolina as well as around the country. Therefore, the NC State Parks system can likely expect a continued rise in visitation, which will require additional resources to support such visitation. Identifying and understanding potential funding options that can help support growing demands and prepare the NC State Park system for this eventuality are needed. Equity is another pressing issue for the system. Although there is increasing demand, it is necessary to acknowledge some communities in North Carolina have been historically underserved by the NC State Parks. Identifying barriers and opportunities related to park visitation can help state park managers develop strategies for more equitable park access. To continue to be relevant to future generations, it is essential that the NC State Park system foster inclusion and provide recreation opportunities for all residents of North Carolina. In sum, due to the increase in demand on the NC State Parks system resources as well as the need for more inclusive and equitable park usage for all North Carolina residents, the goal of this study is to identify pricing strategies that will support demand, promote more equitable use of NC State Parks, and contribute to more sustainable park management. This goal will be achieved through the following objectives set forth by the NC State Parks: 1. Review existing funding mechanisms and pricing strategies for other state and national recreational areas to identify a variety of options for valuing services (e.g., amenities, facilities, campground reservations, permitting fees); 2. Discern barriers to communities that have historically been underserved by the NC State Parks system, the role pricing strategies can play in limiting future use of NC State Parks by these communities, and opportunities for the parks system to be more inclusive and equitable to all North Carolina residents; 3. Identify locations and dates of high/low visitation activity to inform dynamic pricing strategies, to help reduce crowding, and to identify less visited parks that may benefit from promotion; and, 4. Establish stakeholder perceptions of pricing strategies and feasibility of application for the NC State Park system.

Date: 08/01/17 - 7/31/24
Amount: $5,420,267.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

The guiding strategy of the Southeast Climate Science Center (SE CSC) is to provide staffing and institutional support for core SE CSC mission areas. The SE CSC's mission involves supporting researchers and managers to co-produce science connected to management decisions (actionable science), coordinating logistics and communications to bring partners and the community together (within NCSU, with USGS researchers, and across the broader community) to discuss global change impacts to the DOI mission, and training the next generation (graduate students) and current managers on how to use and develop global change science.

Date: 12/31/21 - 7/01/23
Amount: $56,046.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

Achieving the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) goal of a 10% improvement in health, function, and connectivity in southeastern ecosystems by 2060 requires regional conservation efforts. Regional science based conservation partnerships are critical for AFWA goals (e.g., President??????????????????s task force report), national responses to SWAP revisions (Mawdsley et al., 2020), tackling the 30x30 initiative (Stein et al., 2021), and responding to climate change (Lackstrom et al., 2018). We propose addressing the primary gap in knowledge around viability of regional responses to wildlife conservation initiatives by surveying state agency leadership (at the division chief level) and field biologists from across the SEAFWA states. We will address several questions. First, we will measure which elements of wildlife conservation respondents are willing to engage in at a regional level and how much they are willing to push for a regional response to each element (Objective 1). The ten elements to be assessed include the eight required elements of the 2025 SWAPs as well as the 30x30 initiative and climate change adaptation. The SWAP elements, however, may be collapsed into a smaller set based on feedback from the project advisory board (e.g., planning for adaptive management and coordinating among stakeholders could be merged). Second, we will ask respondents what assistance is most valuable for developing regional responses (Objective 2). Third, we will ask participants to list perceived costs (e.g., interfering with long term data collection for indices) and benefits (e.g., leveraging resources across state borders) associated with regional planning for each element (Objective 3).

Date: 11/04/21 - 12/31/22
Amount: $9,973.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

On September 6th, 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall on North Carolina??????????????????s Outer Banks, causing historic flooding and widespread damage across tourism-dependent barrier island communities. Two communities, Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, were among the hardest hit. As Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts began, the COVID-19 pandemic substantially altered recovery within the tourism sector. Fragile, outdated infrastructure and limited access policies disrupted supply chains and workforce availability, significantly lengthening recovery efforts well into the 2020 hurricane season. Once access was restored, the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke boomed with visitors seeking a ????????????????safe??????????????? escape from the pandemic, even while business owners were struggling to rebuild and housing shortages continued. The compounding crises of Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected the decisions within the tourism industry in Hatteras and Ocracoke. Through an NSF-funded project ????????????????RAPID: Disaster recovery decision making in remote tourism dependent communities??????????????? the research team uncovered pathways of near-term decision making and integrating these decisions within a broader network of actors establishing a baseline for understanding disaster recovery in remote tourism-dependent communities. Through this research the need for a centralized location to integrate information sources and recovery resources, facilitate sharing of capacity strengths and weaknesses, and foster learning and partnerships among tourism-dependent coastal communities. This proposed project seeks to define inter-community, region-specific components (e.g., resources, information pathways, community interactions, and knowledge brokers) needed to create a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. The objectives of this project are designed to build upon the data from the NSF-funded project, by identifying existing community-based planning resources, hosting community focus groups to prioritize resources and actions the community members are willing to take, analyze the feedback from the focus groups, and develop a blueprint for a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub. This process will identify the infrastructure and management foundations needed to establish and sustain the hub as well as how tourism-dependent community stakeholders would contribute to and utilize a virtual community-based disaster preparedness hub could advance knowledge and practice of resilience strategy development and planning efforts in coastal community contexts.

Date: 04/01/18 - 6/30/22
Amount: $251,376.00
Funding Agencies: Montana Conservation Corps

Working in a partnership model, conservation corps provide land management agencies with resources that support youth development and community engagement [Engagement], a dependable workforce that balances high quality work with reduced agency costs [Efficiencies], and ensure the enhanced ability of public land agencies to sustainably provide for conservation and visitor recreation [Enhancement]. Relevant to the evaluation, the primary long-term impact associated with these program activities ensures resource institutions, managers, and industries have the long-term capacity to sustainably manage natural resource assets. Conservation corps work with public land agency partners at multiple levels. However, most of this work occurs on federal and state lands. Two important partners for conservation corps are the USFS at the federal level and respective State Parks at the state level. This evaluation will focus on the ability of participating corps to enhance the capacity of these two organizations. The overall aim of the current evaluation is to examine the outcomes of corps program on partners. The primary outcome-related goal is to determine, through a matched, quasi-experimental design, whether there is evidence that host partners demonstrate higher levels of engagement, efficiency, and environmental stewardship than similar, non-hosting affiliates. The primary research questions of this evaluation are: Using partner interviews and surveys, this evaluation will address the following research questions: Does hosting a conservation corps program increase public land agency partners?????????????????? capacity to:Engage youth and communities? Manage organizational resources more efficiently? More effectively manage public lands for conservation and visitor recreation?

Date: 09/12/17 - 6/30/22
Amount: $377,894.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

This research project is a collaborative study with the National Park Service, including staff of the South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (SALCC), to communicate and expand decision guidance for budget optimization and adaptation planning. The study will synthesize existing data sources from two separate projects at Cape Lookout National Seashore and determine the transferability of a decision support tool to a minimum of one other National Park Service site with vulnerable coastal cultural resources.

Date: 02/15/20 - 1/31/22
Amount: $58,934.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian severely impacted remote, tourism-dependent communities in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. The communities of Ocracoke and Hatteras sustained the most infrastructure damage (e.g., businesses, homes, schools, power, potable water, transportation, and telecommunications). As recovery efforts begin, tourism business owners have to determine whether or not to reinvest, while individuals employed within the tourism industry have to determine whether or not they will remain. These decision processes include utilizing their hurricane experience (both past and present) and a variety of information sources within their local networks to inform perceptions of access to an available workforce or workforce housing, the availability of recovery resources, and the likelihood of future visitors, as well as perceptions of recovery risks. In turn, these perceptions influence recovery intentions and actual recovery decisions. This study specifically explores this decision making process in near-term, post-disaster contexts. The project has three objectives to: (1) identify the information networks accessed by individuals?????????????????? within the tourism industry to inform recovery decisions; (2) evaluate the extent to which recovery information activated through those networks is processed; and (3) document decision making pathways that influence risk perceptions and intended recovery decisions.

Date: 04/30/19 - 6/30/21
Amount: $48,824.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

Barrier islands are subject to natural and anthropogenic changes, such as hurricanes, sea level rise and dredging. These changes can influence the persistence of natural and cultural resources. For example, a single storm event can drastically alter barrier islands, damaging or destroying cultural resources and impacting (either negatively or positively) habitat. Moreover, dredging can change the natural rates of lateral sand transport and placement of dredge materials can also influence natural rates of lateral sand transport, both of which can have positive (sand accretion) or negative (sand erosion). These changes to barrier islands can also influence the ability of the islands?????????????????? dunes to serve as a first-line of defense for the mainland during storm-events. A better understanding of sediment budgets related to coastal vulnerability (storm events and dredging) can enhance the protection of both natural and cultural resources and guide future nourishment and placement of dredge materials. This work will support the conservation stewardship mission of the National Park Service by providing science to inform management of its natural and cultural resources at Gulf Islands National Seashore. Specifically, this project will contribute to ongoing research at Gulf Islands National Seashore related to cultural resource adaptation planning, as well as identify future research and information needs to better conserve the cultural and natural resources on the barrier islands. The project will include (a) updating a planning exercise framework designed to assist the National Park Service optimize cultural resource adaptation planning given a range of budget constraints and (b) conducting a sediment budget needs assessment workshop with National Park Service personnel and other regional stakeholders, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Intended outcomes from the project include enhancing efficiency in adaptation planning of vulnerable coastal resources and identifying research priorities that will help predict changes of barrier islands and reducing the negative impacts associated improperly placed dredge materials.

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