Final Reflection: Resilient Islands Project in the Dominican Republic

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While working with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) this summer, I focused on three research questions. In my final post, I would like to revisit my research questions and summarize what I have learned during the past several months.

1)  What techniques are used for assessing a community’s vulnerability to climate change?

I learned several different techniques for assessing a community’s vulnerability to climate change. Through a literature review and analysis of the Resilient Islands Project conducted in Grenada, I was able to see how census information can be used to identify variables that make communities vulnerable to climate change. These different variables can then be analyzed geographically in indices, which combine several different variables to analyze different qualities of a community. Using these indices, vulnerable areas can be visualized and identified. Afterwards project efforts can be focused in the most vulnerable locations.

Through my discussion with staff from the Red Cross and from The Nature Conservancy, I learned that beyond the variables listed in the census, there are several other factors to note. For instance, one factor to consider is a location’s history of natural disasters, such as flooding events. The Red Cross keeps track of relief efforts and the locations of these efforts, so that a locations history of disasters and storm events can also be considered when measuring its vulnerability.

2) How can EbA (Ecosystem-based Adaptations) and CbA (Community-based Adaptations) methods be implemented by the Resilient Island Project to address climate change in the Caribbean?

For the Resilient Islands Project to be implemented in an area the site must have ecosystems around it that can be expanded or rehabilitated in order to function as EbA. If a site is too industrial and does not have mangroves or coral reefs for example, then the site cannot be used for this project. During my time conducting fieldwork, we discussed which areas had ecosystems that could be improved to help the community prepare for the effects of climate change. The two main ecosystems of interest were mangroves and coral reefs.

During the time that I traveled to the Dominican Republic, the project was still very much in its infancy. Thus, I did not get to see EbA or CbA implemented into Dominican communities. However, I learned about EbA techniques that were employed in Grenada.

Dr. Schill explained EbA to me as,  “How can we use nature to help people ?”. He showed me an example of a community in Grenada where an artificial reef was strategically placed to protect the community from storm surge. Data was collected about current patters, wave heights, and other metrics. Next, computer models were run to determine the best location and angle for this reef. Once the location was identified, the community worked together to construct the reef. This project utilized community efforts to adapt to their local environment to better prepare the area for the effects of climate change.

While in the Dominican Republic I worked almost exclusively with The Nature Conservancy. Thus, I learned more about Ecosystem-based Adaptations, than about Community-based Adaptations, which is the portion of the project that the Red Cross is focused on.

3) How can geospatial tools be implemented to help communities prepare for changing climate conditions?

The main way that I saw GIS implemented this summer was through the use of drones to develop high resolution imagery. For instance, in the community of Miches, the existing flood data was based on 30-meter resolution raster data. By using the drone imagery we collected, we were able to collect much finer resolution data, which can be used to more accurately predict which areas will be effected by flooding.

Drone imagery can also be used to collect high-quality data over long periods of time. During the first week of fieldwork, we flew the drone over several coral  reefs. If the same area is flown using a drone in consecutive years, the data collected can be used to help track changes in coral cover. In this way, geospatial tools can provide a better understanding of the scope of nearby ecosystems, which assists with protection and management.

A third way that geospatial tools were used was to record the latitude and longitude of important community buildings in the town of Miches. Using a tablet and an app, we were able to record the location of critical structures like churches, schools, and hospitals. Additionally, we took photos of each location and these are attached to each location.

Final Reflections:

The time that I was conducting my research fell into a 10-week period of a four year project that is just getting off the ground. Thus, some of my research questions were only answered to a limited-extent.

In addition to learning about the logistics of drone flying this summer, I also was exposed to a collaborative research project outside of academia – including different NGOs, local and community governments, and private companies. I saw how these different groups worked together to share and collect data. The sharing of knowledge and tools between multiple groups allowed for an increase in collective knowledge and opened conversation for more effective ways to achieve common goals. For instance, the drone imagery collected of the coral reefs can be used by TNC, local NGO’s, and other companies to improve coral conservation efforts.

As the summer comes to a close,  I am wrapping up the process of digitizing all of the roads and structures in Miches. To record my experiences, I am finalizing a StoryMap that displays the videos and images from this summer. I hope to continue conducting this research next semester and see where the next steps of the Resilient Islands Project will go.

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Above: Fun de Mar, a non-profit for coral restoration in Bayahibe, Dominican Republic.

Comments

  1. pshukla01 says:

    Loved the project and jealous of your drone research. What are some other ways that you see drones benefiting data collection and research, particularly in more underdeveloped countries?

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