Session: Community Science in Southeastern Ecosystems
Ghosts of the Coast: Engaging citizen scientists to help document the formation of ghost forests
Thursday, August 5, 2021
Link To Share This Presentation: https://cdmcd.co/LdDgm5
Sarah Noyes, The George Washington University, Keryn Gedan, Biological Sciences, George Washington University, Washington, DC and Cora Johnston Baird, VCR-LTER, UVA Coastal Research Center, University of Virginia, Cape Charles, VA
Background/Question/Methods The submergence of low lying coastal land due to sea level rise results in the formation of ghost forests, a striking indicator of climate change. They are characterized by lingering stands of dead trees and marsh grasses that have migrated upland into the forest understory. The conversion of forests to marshes is changing more than just our coastal ecosystems, it is affecting land that has been inhabited by people for many generations. We are engaging citizen scientists to help document the formation of ghost forests at a larger scale. The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness about our fast changing coastal landscapes, while also collecting data that can inform where ghost forests are being observed and what these ghost forest observation locations have in common. The target participants for this project are residents of coastal communities within the Mid-Atlantic sea level rise hotspot that runs from North Carolina to Massachusetts, but participation is also encouraged from outside of this region. Citizen scientist’s ghost forest observations are collected through a survey application created with Survey123. Each observation is logged on a public collaborative map as part of an informational ghost forest website.
Results/Conclusions This project is currently in the first phase of public participation. The goal of this phase is to collect ghost forest observations from academics working in wetland ecosystems in order to populate the public collaborative map with an initial grouping of points. Thus far, ghost forest observations have been logged in coastal forests of Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia. In phase two (beginning in April 2021) of public participation the project will be shared with master naturalists, environmental organizations, and students. Through citizen science and public engagement, we aim to inspire a greater connection, curiosity and understanding in the responses of coastal ecosystems to rising seas.