The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) will receive federal funding for two projects that bolster resilience to extreme coastal storm and flooding events in Naval Weapon Station (NWS) Earle and its surrounding communities and help economically disadvantaged New Jersey municipalities improve their resilience and readiness for climate threats. The Community Project Funding was included in the $1.5 trillion fiscal year 2022 government appropriations bill signed into law in March.
A military vessel docked at the Naval Weapons Station Earle pier.
Rep. Frank Pallone secured $450,000 as part of the Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations for the NWS Earle project, which will be led by UCI Associate Director and New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium Resilient Communities and Economies Specialist Thomas Herrington. The project will build upon a 2019 Raritan/Sandy Hook Bay Coastal Resilience Planning Study conducted by Monmouth County and the DOD that created 11 concept plans for projects that would improve resilience in and around NWS Earle, including steps to address worsening bayfront erosion that could jeopardize the long-term operation and safety of the installation’s pier, facilities, and navigational channels.
The funding will advance one or more of the highest-priority projects through the design and engineering phases needed to make them shovel-ready. The project team is expected to include Monmouth University faculty and students, NWS Earle, and other partners involved in the 2019 study.
“We know the climate crisis is here and that sea level rise threatens the Jersey Shore and coastal communities across the country,” Pallone said. “This is exactly why I fought for federal funding to strengthen coastal resilience along the Shore, including the Bayshore communities, so that we can protect them from major weather events and flooding. This funding will enable cutting-edge research at Monmouth University to help us better understand how we can bolster our state’s defense against the effects of the climate crisis. I’m grateful for the work our scientists and engineers are doing to advance this important cause and look forward to seeing their conclusions.”
The second project, secured by Sen. Cory Booker and supported by Sen. Robert Menendez, will receive $460,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the UCI to partner with local leaders and stakeholders in overburdened communities and planning and resource experts to produce climate adaptation plans that foster equitable community resilience. Herrington will lead a project team that works with selected municipalities from Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Middlesex, and Union counties that express interest in receiving planning assistance.
The project will pilot methods for engaging stakeholders in socially vulnerable communities, who are often difficult to reach in planning processes. To overcome these barriers, the team will use collaborative approaches that aid in engaging all community members, including providing compensation for participants’ time and scheduling meetings at hours favored by residents. The community-centric engagement and planning process will develop resilience and adaption plans that can serve as a model for disadvantaged and environmental justice communities throughout the state.
“Research has shown that communities of color and those with limited economic means have borne a disproportionate share of the brunt of coastal hazards caused by climate change, such as sea level rise and chronic flooding,” Herrington said. “This project will ensure that the participating towns have access to the resources they need to plan for the future and provide residents a greater voice in the process.”
“The fact that climate change disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities as well as underserved populations must be taken into account as we work to build more resilient infrastructure,” Booker said. “This project from Monmouth University will foster collaboration between researchers and environmental justice communities to develop future plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. I was proud to support the federal funding that made this initiative possible and look forward to seeing the results it produces.”
“At Monmouth, we feel a strong responsibility to be a force for positive economic, cultural, and social development in our communities. Higher education institutions should seek ways to partner with other local enterprises and social service organizations to improve communities, and these two projects exemplify this commitment perfectly,” Monmouth University President Patrick Leahy said. “We are extremely grateful for the confidence in our capacity for delivering science-based solutions to resiliency issues that affect the safety and quality of life of our neighbors.”
The federally funded projects are being managed through the UCI’s Coastal Community Resilience Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI focuses on providing community resilience and planning support for disadvantaged communities, promoting the development of natural features and green infrastructure to improve the resilience of communities and ecosystems, and working with other Monmouth University partners and outside experts to advance elements of the New Jersey Coastal Resilience Plan.
Monmouth University students Mia Njad and Evan Rankl are forming a Monmouth chapter of Love Blue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting oceans through community outreach and beach cleanups. The group, which is currently in the process of obtaining club recognition by the University, has begun its work of planning student-led beach sweeps along the Jersey Shore. Its next will be held at 11 a.m. on April 24 at Seven Presidents Park’s beach in Long Branch.
We caught up with Njad and Rankl, the chapter’s president and vice-president, to learn more about Love Blue and their plans for the group on campus. To get in touch or for more information, visit the Love Blue Monmouth Chapter on Instagram at @lovebluemonmouth.
Student name, year and major:
Mia Najd, junior, marine and environmental biology and policy major
Evan Rankl, junior, finance and real estate major
Q: What drew you to get involved with Love Blue and organize a chapter here at Monmouth?
Our first knowledge of Love Blue was in the fall 2021 semester, when Nick Olson with Love Blue Stockton came up and coordinated a cleanup with two Monmouth clubs. That day, hearing them talk about what an exploding organization Love Blue is and getting to be a part of such a special movement was an eye-opening experience. Immediately we felt like there was no reason for Monmouth to not have our own Love Blue. Being a mile from the beach, tons of Monmouth students utilize the area, which makes it our responsibility to keep it clean and beautiful. It’s a great group of people with great potential and an even greater cause!
Q: What are your hopes for the Monmouth chapter of Love Blue? What types of activities do you expect to offer or be involved in?
Our hopes are to continue to grow our presence throughout the school and make a big impact in the amount of trash that Love Blue has taken off our beaches. The most important activity that we aim to offer are regularly scheduled beach cleanups with various campus groups. We are excited to work closely with the Urban Coast Institute and all of the resources that Monmouth has to offer. Love Blue is a certified (501 c3) nonprofit organization, so we also hope to hold some fun and creative fundraisers as well as get community businesses involved through our Seal of Support. Students can also get excited about leadership opportunities!
Q: Are you seeking members or volunteers? How can others get involved?
Absolutely! We encourage as many people to come out as possible. If you are a Monmouth student looking to become a member, give @lovebluemonmouth a follow on Instagram to stay up to date on the next meeting or cleanup. If you want to be more involved with Love Blue Inc. as a whole volunteers, you can check out www.loveblueinc.org to see all of the locations that you can get involved at as well as ways to donate!
Q: What is your ocean story?
We both grew up with a certain love and appreciation for the beach and its wonders:
NAJD: A particular moment that cemented my love for the beach and marine life was during one of our summers in South Carolina when we found a stranded baby sea turtle stuck in the dune grass. That night under the moonlight we safely stood behind and watched as it made its way to the water. We learned that South Carolina does a great job of making sure that residents’ outdoor lights must be colored red or facing down and away from the water so as to not confuse the sea turtles that are trying to follow the moonlight. Memories like that are always so special and fulfilling and make me excited for my future in marine science.
RANKL: My memorable story is from when I was younger going to the local beach state park in Florida, called Stump Pass, with my mom. We would go around and pick up garbage and enjoy the beautiful views. In Florida, taking care of the beach was always taught from a young age in elementary school. My parents always taught me to care for the ecosystems. I hope to bring that same importance to New Jersey beaches too!
The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has been granted special accreditation for the 2022 U.N. Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from June 27 to July 1. UCI Director Tony MacDonald and Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair of Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate will attend the event and participate in its proceedings.
Co-hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal, the conference seeks to “propel science-based, innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action,” according to its website. Member states are expected to adopt a declaration to implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of the ocean and its resources. Stakeholders from governments, businesses and civil society are also expected to make commitments to address ocean-related issues affecting their communities, countries and beyond.
The conference will focus on eight thematic dialogues: marine pollution; ocean acidification; deoxygenation; ocean warming; sustainable fisheries and other ocean-based economies; scientific knowledge; marine technology; and the international legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. Participants will review the opportunities and challenges in these areas with the ambition to advance commitments and action on wide-ranging ocean issues. A report from the relevant chairs is expected at the end of the conference.
“The purpose of the conference is to bring governments, experts and civil society groups together to advance UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.’ While this conference will focus on a global context, it is recognized that actual implementation requires actions at the national and local levels,” MacDonald said. “Nothing could be more relevant to the UCI, which is committed to reversing the deterioration of coastal waters caused by pollution and impacts of climate change, and sustainable management of ocean resources.”
He added that Monmouth students and other young people have a unique role to play to assure that decisions made by governments today will protect the oceans for their future.
“Professor Abate and I hope to bring back lessons learned and engage students with the UCI and Monmouth’s other U.N.-focused activities and programs, including the Institute for Global Understanding, U.N. Academic Impact, the U.N. Framework Convention for Climate Change, and the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development,” MacDonald said.
In the fall, MacDonald and Abate participated as official observers at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), held in Glasgow, Scotland. Over 40,000 representatives of world governments, industries, advocacy organizations, scientific and policy bodies, and other interests gathered to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. MacDonald and Abate shared their insights from the proceedings on a COP26 Trip Journal and a subsequent webinar.
MacDonald also serves as a member of the U.S. National Committee for the U.N. Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The committee encourages diverse and cross-sectoral participation, convenes activities and serve as a communication channel for the U.S. ocean science community regarding national and U.N. Decade events.
The Ocean Conference will be the second held by the U.N., with the first having been in New York City in 2017.
The Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute (UCI) hosted the virtual panel discussion “International and Domestic Strategies for Ocean Conservation and Biodiversity: Is 30 by 30 Enough?” on April 6. The event was part of the Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series, which assembles international experts to discuss scientific and policy issues that hold important implications for coastal and marine ecosystems. The discussion was moderated by UCI Director Tony MacDonald and included the following speakers and presentations:
Mark Gold, executive director, California Ocean Protection Council: “California’s 30 by 30 Initiative for State Ocean Waters”
Sebastian Nicholls, principal associate, Pew Charitable Trusts Ocean Conservation Program: “Realizing the 30 by 30 Vision: The Need for a Strong High Seas Treaty to Reach the Ambition of 30 by 30”
Lauren Wenzel, director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Protected Areas Center: “Diving Into and Beyond Numeric Targets: A National Perspective on Ocean Conservation and Biodiversity”
Biographies & Abstracts
Bio: Mark Gold joined the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) in July of 2019. As executive director of OPC and the deputy secretary for ocean and coastal policy for the California Natural Resources Agency, he serves as a key advisor to the governor and the secretary of natural resources and directs policy, scientific research, and critical partnerships to increase protection of coastal and ocean resources in California. Prior to his appointment, he was the associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability at UCLA, where he led their Sustainable Los Angeles Grand Challenge effort. Prior to UCLA, Gold was the first hire at Heal the Bay, where he served as their president for 18 years. During that time, he worked on ocean and coastal legislation and policy, stormwater, watershed management, and marine conservation and coastal restoration issues, projects and programs. Over the course of his career, his research focused on beach water quality and health risks, as well as sustainable water resources management. Mark received his bachelor’s and master’s in biology as well as his doctorate in environmental science and engineering, all from UCLA.
Abstract: Over 115 country governments have made public commitments or statements supporting the vision of protecting at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030, though current marine protected areas (MPA) coverage is just under 8%. Simple math shows protecting a large portion of the high seas will be required to reach 30%, but our ability to do so depends on UN biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ) negotiations. This presentation will focus on the treaty elements needed to enable effective, representative, and connected networks of MPAs on the high seas, as well as candidate areas identified by scientists for a first generation of High Seas MPAs. The presentation will also address the core question — whether 30 by 30 is enough — by briefly discussing how governments can ensure reporting and accounting on the quality of protected area coverage, and not just extent.
Bio: Sebastian Nicholls is the principal associate on the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Protecting Ocean Life on the High Seas team. He closely follows international policy discussions at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on the 30 by 30 target, monitoring framework and contributions from areas beyond national jurisdictions. In addition to CBD, he also engages on the United Nations negotiations on an international legally binding instrument for the governance of biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ). He has been with Pew for two years, and previously worked with Marine Conservation Institute, and as a consultant to philanthropic organizations investing in new technologies and approaches to protect marine habitats effectively.
Abstract: The U.S. has committed to conserving 30% of its lands and waters by 2030 to help conserve biodiversity and its benefits; advance climate resilience; and make nature more accessible to all. But the numbers only tell part of the story. This presentation will share the global and U.S. policy contexts for marine protected area (MPA) targets, describe progress toward tracking progress on area-based conservation, and discuss the concept of a “conservation continuum” that identifies opportunities for greater conservation outcomes in U.S. waters. MPAs are just one part of a complex mosaic of area-based management of the ocean. We’ll discuss how MPAs can function as the core of conservation networks that can help sustain ecosystem benefits in a rapidly changing ocean.
Bio: As the director of NOAA’s National Marine Protected Areas Center, Lauren Wenzel focuses on connecting and strengthening the nation’s diverse marine and coastal protected area programs through capacity building, information and tools, communication, and collaborative governance. Her focus is on building partnerships among U.S. and international marine and coastal programs and stakeholders to demonstrate the value of protecting the ocean’s most important places. Lauren has been with the MPA Center since 2004.
The American Shoreline Podcast Network’s “Capitol Beach” podcast kicked off a five-part series on the 50th anniversary of the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) with an episode featuring National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Rick Spinrad and Urban Coast Institute Director Tony MacDonald. The conversation explored Spinrad and MacDonald’s careers in ocean policy, the landmark legislation’s historic impacts, and its staying power in the face of mounting challenges such as climate change, new and competing ocean uses, and America’s growing economic reliance on coastal resources. The podcast is moderated by Coastal States Organization (CSO) Executive Director Derek Brockbank.