Science Excellence

2015 Sam D. Hamilton Award for Transformational Conservation Science (Group)


The Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment Team

GCVA cover image. Credit USFWSClimate, sea level rise, and urbanization are undergoing extraordinary rates of change and are expected to have large effects on natural resources—particularly along the Gulf of Mexico coastline (Gulf Coast). Management decisions to address these effects (i.e., adaptation) require an understanding of the relative vulnerability of various resources to these stressors.

To meet this need, the Service facilitated an effort through the four Landscape Conservation Cooperatives along the Gulf Coast—Gulf Coast Prairie, Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks, South Atlantic, and Peninsular Florida LCCs—in collaboration with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and more than 50 partners to conduct the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment (GCVA).

The GCVA provides an unprecedented look at the vulnerability of four Gulf Coast ecosystems and 11 associated species to assess their susceptibility to future change and aid in developing adaptation strategies. The ecosystems are mangrove, oyster reef, tidal emergent marsh, and barrier islands. The species are roseate spoonbill, blue crab, clapper rail, mottled duck, spotted seatrout, eastern oyster, American oystercatcher, red drum, black skimmer, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and Wilson’s plover.

Given the strong social interest in Gulf Coast restoration in the wake of recent hurricanes and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it was imperative to the GCVA team that the GCVA offer a shared vision that was reflective of a collaborative effort rather than a “one off” assessment of a few individuals’ perspectives.

The GCVA will guide future conservation and restoration efforts by helping conservation partners across the Gulf identify vulnerable areas where they can focus critical resources and maximize the efficacy of limited conservation funding. In addition, the GCVA team’s report pinpoints additional research needed to better anticipate impacts to coastal ecosystems and species along the northern Gulf of Mexico. 

The GCVA is a clear example of collaborative coordination across a large landscape. It serves as a catalyst for improved collaboration in conservation efforts along the Gulf Coast and highlights the leadership and science-based decision making approach of the Service in those efforts.

Learn more about the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment, download the GCVA report, and discover which ecosystem and species is the most vulnerable

Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment Team
USFWS: John Tirpak, Rua Mordecai, Bill Bartush, Steve Traxler
USGS: Blair Tirpak, P. Soupy Dalyander
Mississippi State University: Amanda Watson (Project Coordinator, Lead Author), Mark Woodrey
Gulf Coast Prairie LCC: Cynthia Kallio Edwards (Assistant Project Coordinator, Co-lead Author)
Valdosta University: Joshua Reece
Louisiana State University: Megan LaPeyre
The Nature Conservancy: Laura Geselbracht


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Last updated: March 21, 2017

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