Resilience Initiative – Projects & Collaborations

The Resilience Initiative collaborates with local, regional, and national communities, organizations, and universities to advance resilience research and planning.  Below is a list of core projects and collaborations that are advanced and leveraged by the Initiative.



Projects occur at multiple geographic scales, ranging from local to national efforts.

Tijuana Estuary and River Valley

San Diego Region

Southern California Region

National Estuarine Research Reserve System


Regional Networks

13th Street Enhancements workshop











Marshes on the Margin

Marshes on the Margin

Developing Tidal Wetlands Adaptation Strategies in Southern California

Through the  Marshes on the Margin we are investigating how the dynamic and heavily altered estuaries of Southern California will be affected by sea level rise. Project partners are also working to identify nature-based conservation and restoration strategies to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise, and will share the tools developed with local stakeholders and coastal managers.

Why we care

Historically, approximately 98 percent of tidal wetlands in Southern California were intermittently open to tidal action. The diverse and seasonally varying habitats provided by intermittently open estuaries serve a wide variety of estuarine species. However, very few estuaries in Southern California still exhibit natural cycles of intermittency, and many are managed as permanently open systems either through construction of jetties, or through dredging.

The conversion from intermittent dynamics to permanently open leads to a reduction of habitat diversity in the region and a reduction in the support of certain NOAA trust species, such as tidewater gobies and juvenile steelhead. Wetlands around these estuaries also host a number of endangered and threatened plant and animal species. Very little data and understanding exists about intermittently open estuaries in Southern California, and resource managers frequently need better information to make management decisions. Because the patterns of opening and closure in tidal wetlands is likely to change with rising sea levels, we have an opportunity and a need to rethink management of these systems, and to better understand the trade-offs between various management scenarios.

What we are doing

Our project will have four stages: 

  • Identifying the vulnerability of intermittently open estuaries,
  • Developing natural and nature-based adaptive strategies
  • Implementing these developed tools at case study sites, and
  • Leveraging existing coastal management networks to share outcomes and promote management solutions that rely on natural and nature-based features.

First, the project team will model and analyze the vulnerabilities and response of intermittently open estuaries and tidal wetlands to sea level rise. Next, the team will identify opportunities for natural restoration through construction of nature-based features. The tools are being applied at four wetland systems in Southern California, including:

  • Goleta Slough (Santa Barbara County)
  • Los Cerritos (Orange and Los Angeles Counties)
  • Los Peñasquitos Lagoon (San Diego County)
  • Tijuana River & Estuary (San Diego County)

Finally, the project team will leverage existing scientific, management, and practitioner networks, developed through the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, to gain input during the project’s product development stage and to promote inclusion of natural and nature-based features in the wider range of adaptation strategies available to coastal managers. These steps are expected to improve the number of tools available for managing intermittently open estuaries in Southern California.

Project partners include the California State Coastal Conservancy (South Coast Region), Climate Science Alliance – South Coast, Point Blue Conservation, San Francisco Estuary Institute, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, U.S. Geological Survey, University of California- Davis, and University of Southern California Sea Grant. This project builds on the collaborative work of the Southern California Wetlands Recovery project partnership, and  is funded through NOAA’s funded through the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise (EESLR) Program.

Engagement at case study sites

Introductory meetings are being held at each individual case study site and are designed to ensure:

  • Marshes on the Margins project team better understand each specific site and stakeholder needs
  • Stakeholders understand Marshes on the Margins project and approaches
  • A shared understanding of the use of each site as a case study site is developed

Meetings have included:

  • Los Peñasquitos Lagoon (San Diego County) – March 21, 2018
  • Los Cerritos (Orange and Los Angeles Counties) – June 4, 2018

Management Transition Advisory Group (MTAG)

The MTAG is made up of Southern California wetland resource managers who have unique knowledge of local wetlands, and additional key stakeholders, including local government representatives, whose decisions directly affect the resilience of wetlands in the face of climate change and sea level rise.

Transition Zones & the Future of Restoration

August 14th | Metropolitan Water District, 700 Alameda St. Los Angeles, 90012


  • Increase understanding of transition zones and resilience, and their role in the Regional Strategy Update (RSU).
  • Increase understanding of different local transition zone types, and in the context of sea level rise, what future opportunities exist and solutions are viable for each type.
  • Discuss opportunities, challenges, and priorities of implementing different management measures that restore transition zones.

Workshop materials

  • Presentation – Jeremy Lowe, San Francisco Estuary Institute
  • Workbook

Follow-up Resources

Science & management workshop

Intermittently Open Estuaries: Science & Management Perspectives

September 28, 2016 | Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) |
Agenda | Workshop summary

This workshop increased participants common understanding of:

  • Mouth dynamics and their relationship to estuarine conditions;
  • Existing management approaches regarding mouth management;
  • Data and knowledge gaps; and
  • Trade-offs associated with mouth state and management.

Workshop discussions are informing: (1) ongoing and future data analyses; (2) regional objectives; and (3) the guidance for the Board of Governors.

Presentations included:

Special Exhibit

Visualizing the Future

Preparing for climate change in the Tijuana River Valley


mural_paintingClimate change poses a new challenge as we work to conserve coastal landscapes, habitats, and communities. To address this new challenge, the Climate Understanding and Resilience in the River Valley (CURRV) project assessed the potential local effects of climate change associated with sea level rise and flooding from the Tijuana River. This exhibit contains murals that illustrate four different possible futures, or scenarios, that scientists developed through CURRV.


 Click here for a preview!


Art as Science – Science as Art

Our Artist-In-Residence, Audrey Carver, brought the science to life through her painting.  Each of the four scenes highlights the habitats and wildlife that would be characteristic of each scenario.  The paintings are interpretations of the science behind the scenarios, providing a window into the future.

Understanding Scenarios

Scenarios are not predictions. Each scenario is an alternative representation of how the future may unfold. Considering the past, present and future, three overarching questions guided the formation of each scenario:

  • Past: What was the Tijuana River Valley like historically?
  • Present: What characterizes the River Valley today?
  • Future: How might changes in our climate shape the River Valley in the future?

See the exhibit announcement here!



Meet the Artist – Audrey Carver

Art is how I interpret the world around me. When I was two years old, I loved to color. Pieces of paper, the walls, the floor and even my feet were all potential masterpieces. By five, I was painting and drawing everything I experienced, from wildlife to kids on the playground. My home in the small mountain town of Idyllwild, California has been a constant source of inspiration; a beautiful, strange community where it is more acceptable to be a barefoot artist than a lawyer or doctor. Now, at 17, I am lucky to be attending Idyllwild Arts Academy. I hope that, through my paintings, I can share the beauty and drama of the natural world, and communicate the importance of respecting ­­our environment to create a sustainable future.


In addition to Audrey, thank you to everyone at TRNERR who made this exhibit possible, including:

  • Marya Ahmad
  • Dani Boudreau
  • Jeff Crooks
  • Julio Lorda
  • Anne Marie Tipton
  • Enrique Mendibles
  • Lorena Warner- Lara

Special thanks to Amber Pairis and the Climate Science Alliance – South Coast for helping to make this exhibit possible through their Artists in Residence Program. Learn more:

Funding provided by grants from the Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative.


Climate Change Communications training

Strategic Framing for Climate Change Conversations

June 15, 2016

Based on the framework and techniques developed as part of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Intepretation (NNOCCI) project*, participants learned about:

  • Strategic framing – a research-based approach to communications that helps to engage audiences in thinking productively about how they can participate in creating or supporting solutions that address climate change.
  • How strategic framing elements, when put together, tell a story about climate change that can help communicators to engage audiences in positive ways.
  • Framing tools using tone, values, metaphors, and solutions.

This training was co-hosted by the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, Sea Life Aquarium, and the Climate Science Alliance- South Coast.




Know Your Swamp



Climate Science Cheat Sheet

Strategic Framing Cheat Sheet

Strategic Framing Journey

Explanatory Metaphors

Strategic Framing ‘Traps’

Swamp Graphic


Navigating the Swamp with Bridging & Pivoting

Framing With Explanatory Chains

Cultural Models

Navigating the Swamp – Using Cultural Models

Framing in Six Steps

Framing Fluency Rubric



Practice with ‘Heat Trapping Blanket” Metaphor

Vetting A Solution Discussion



Street Interviews – Understanding Climate Change and our Oceans

Social Math Webinar – NNOCCI Mini-Training

Interpreting Climate Change – Monarch Butterfly


Websites & Additional Resources

Climate Interpreter

Skeptical Science

Climate Change Communication & Education Resources



*National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Intepretation (NNOCCI): With support from the National Science Foundation’s Climate Change Education Partnership program, NNOCCI’s goal is to establish a national network of professionals who are skilled in communicating climate science to the American public in ways that are engaging and stimulate dialog that is interesting, welcoming and solutions-oriented.

This is a collaborative effort led by the New England Aquarium with the Association for Zoos and Aquariums, FrameWorks Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, National Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium, New Knowledge Organization in partnership with Pennsylvania State University and Ohio’s Center for Science and Industry.
Learn more:

Climate scenario planning for the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Coastal managers from California and Alaska partnered to apply the Tijuana River Reserve’s expertise in collaborative scenario planning to prepare for the future in Kachemak Bay, Alaska.


Explore some of the great resources and tools resulting from this collaboration!


Capturing the discussion

Decision-support tools


Learn more about the project and process below.


Enhancing resiliency through collaboration


Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve  (Kenai Peninsula, Alaska)

Climate change impacts in Alaska are much more pronounced than in other regions of the United States. Outside of the high-arctic, the impacts of recent climate change have been better documented on the Kenai Peninsula than elsewhere in Alaska.

However, none of these efforts have resulted in tangible recommendations or a long-term strategy for adaptation when faced with uncertainty about forecasted futures as a result of rapid climate change. Barriers hindering effective climate change planning on the peninsula include the uncertainty of future trajectories, a need for a synthesis of regional data, and limited capacity for interagency collaboration. To address these issues, the Tijuana River Reserve partnered with their sister Reserve in Kachemak Bay to enhance the regional capacity of coastal communities on the Kenai Peninsula to adapt and prepare for a changing climate through climate scenario planning.


Transferring knowledge

Drawing upon experience using scenario planning to help local communities prepare for climate change in the Tijuana River Valley (Southern California), the Tijuana River Reserve supported Kachemak Bay Reserve (Southeast Alaska) in using the best available science to inform dialogue among local decision-makers on the Kenai Peninsula about how climate change may impact communities. The project engaged regional leaders and community stakeholders to collaboratively develop plausible future planning scenarios based on a wide range of possible environmental responses to a changing climate. Ultimately this process and the resulting scenarios are helping to inform area resource managers and land use planners as they lay the groundwork for future research and community planning.

An interdepartmental team from both Reserves, lead by the Coastal Training Programs at each Reserve, facilitated discussions among Kenai Peninsula stakeholders through a workshop series from March 2016 to April 2017 in Homer, AK.


Climate Adaptation for Coastal Communities (CACC) training

March 2016 | Homer, Alaska | Agenda

Partnered with NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (OCM) to host the CACC training. This workshop laid the ground-work for the scenario planning workshops by introducing local stakeholders to:

  • Climate science,
  • Vulnerability assessments,
  • Climate adaptation planning, and
  • Climate communications.


Scenario Planning & Pathways to Successful Adaptation workshop

October 2016 | Homer, AK | Agenda | Workshop Summary

Workshop participants took the next steps in thinking about Homer’s, and the surrounding areas’ and communities’ efforts to prepare for, adapt to, and work together towards a climate-resilient future. In this workshop participants:

  • Identified a desirable future for Homer and surrounding areas, considering diverse community goals, climate change, and other opportunities and stressors;
  • Developed feasible, climate-resilient pathways from the present state to the desired future state; and
  • Linked the work accomplished during the workshop (on a vision of a desirable future and adaptive pathways) to their daily work, planning efforts and decisions.

This workshop was developed and facilitated in partnership with the NERRS Science Collaborative’s Successful Adaptation Indicators & Metrics (SAIM) project.


Successful Adaptation Part II: Strategies, Pathways and Evaluation workshop

April 2017 | Homer, AK | Agenda | Workshop Summary

Building on participants’ experience and expertise, as well as the workshop in fall 2016, and the
Kenai Lands Forum (Spring 2017), participants took the next steps in thinking about planning processes
and community efforts to prepare for, adapt to, and work together towards a climate‐resilient
future. In this workshop attendees:

  • Linked the search for solutions to current problems to planning processes and partnerships;
  • Evaluated short- and long-term adaptation in light of their vision and future scenarios;
  • Developed indicators and metrics of successful adaptation; and
  • Identified ways to proactively build capacity to respond to change.

This workshop was developed and facilitated in partnership with the NERRS Science Collaborative’s Successful Adaptation Indicators & Metrics (SAIM) project.


Capturing the discussion

Summarized below are the key takeaways from the facilitated dialogue at the workshops.


Empowering the Kenai Peninsula

This project helped empower and support stakeholders in the Kenai Peninsula, providing them with a framework from which they can work towards a common vision for the future of their community in the face of a changing climate.  Benefits of this process for the region included:

  • Increased awareness and understanding of climate change science and vulnerabilities among decision-makers.
  • A strengthened stakeholder network to address a changing climate and increase coastal resilience.
  • Expanded regional capacity to prepare for climate change with tangible adaptation actions.


Empowering your community

The benefits go beyond the Kenai Peninsula, as this process was well documented in order to provide other communities tools for fostering similar future planning discussions.  Below are some of the decision-support tools that were developed and enhanced throughout this process.


Decision-support tools

  • Workshop series – What facilitation strategies and tools did we use throughout the project?



  • Game of Futures – Do your adaptation strategies work under different future scenarios?

Contact Dani Boudreau, Coastal Management Specialist at dboudreau(at) for more information and resources.

Learn more about our funder, the Science Collaborative…
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative supports collaborative research that addresses coastal management problems important to the reserves. The Science Collaborative is managed by the University of Michigan’s Water Center through a cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Funding for the research reserves and this program comes from NOAA. Learn more at or

NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grant Awarded!!

San Diego Organizations Receive Landmark Federal Funding to Help Prepare Local Communities for Coastal Storms & Flooding


February 4, 2016

The San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative and project partners, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR) and the Climate Science Alliance- South Coast, secured an extremely competitive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant for $689,500. The project is one of only six grants awarded out of a pool of 150 national proposals, and is the first West Coast project to receive funding from this landmark federal program addressing coastal climate hazards.

“Our success in securing this funding is due in large part to the valuable partnerships that our organizations have with San Diego cities, scientists, and non-profits,” states Laura Engeman, Manager of the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative.  “No one organization or community is single-handedly capable of warding off the potential threats of storms, waves, and coastal flooding, so we are finding ways to combine our collective resources to protect our region.” Matching project funds are being provided by the cities of Carlsbad and Del Mar, and The San Diego Foundation.

This funding will assist coastal cities currently working to address coastal flooding and sea level rise vulnerabilities (Carlsbad, Del Mar, Imperial Beach) by bringing in scientific, legal, and economic expertise.  “By leveraging the unique expertise we have in this region, we can collectively develop innovative and creative solutions to safeguard our communities and natural places from climate impacts,” says Amber Pairis, Director of the Climate Science Alliance.

Another component of the project will focus on how natural coastal habitats can be used to help protect the places where we live, work, and play from coastal flooding and extreme storms. Danielle Boudreau, Coastal Management Specialist (Coastal Training Program) with the Tijuana River NERR, states that “Natural habitats, such as wetlands and dunes, not only serve to protect wildlife but these systems mitigate the impacts of rising tides, waves, and shoreline erosion to our coastal communities.”

The NOAA award provides national recognition of the value of our region’s shoreline and coast. It’s an unparalleled opportunity for San Diego to highlight its role as a national leader in proactively protecting our residents, businesses, and natural habitats in the face of increasing climatic extremes and changes.

About the Lead Organizations

  • San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative: A network in the San Diego region supporting public agencies with advancing climate change planning. SDRCC partners with academia, non-profits, and businesses to demonstrate regional leadership and share expertise, leverage resources, and advance comprehensive solutions.
  • Climate Science Alliance- South Coast: A multi-organization partnership formed to create and support a network of leaders, scientists, and natural resource managers focused on sharing ecosystem-based resiliency approaches to safeguard our communities and natural resources from climate change risks. The alliance was established through a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative.
  • Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR): Located on the US-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana, TRNERR is part of a national network of 28 protected areas established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct research, monitoring, restoration, education, and training. The Reserve works to improve our understanding and management of estuaries and coasts through a partnership between NOAA, California State Parks, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association.

For more information contact Dani Boudreau at dboudreau(at) or visit the NOAA grant notification website at

Managing Visitor Use workshop materials

Managing Visitor Use: Planning Worksheets

Working Group

Successful Adaptation & the Tijuana River Valley

August 27, 2015 | Agenda

An interactive discussion in pursuit of the following objectives:

  • Begin to collaboratively develop a vision and goals for successfully adapting to climate change in the TRV, while exploring what successful adaptation looks like on-the-ground
  • Learn about techniques for and examples of measuring “successful adaptation” through development of indicators/metrics
  • Consider what indicators/metrics can be used to measure and propel us toward climate resiliency