Network Member of the Month: Danielle Boudreau

Dani Boudreau is the Coastal Management Specialist at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve in San Diego, CA, where she works on the Climate Understanding and Resilience in the River Valley Project, developing visions and management plans for the reserve in the face of climate change.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the habitats and wildlife stay healthy and are managed in a sustainable way.” -Dani Boudreau

An interview with the Member of the Month:

Tell us about your coastal climate adaptation work at the TRNERR.
We are working on the Climate Understanding and Resilience in the River Valley project, which is funded by NOAA’s climate program office. Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re thinking about what the future may hold for the endangered habitats and species that live here at the reserve. We’re using that information to inform how we will adapt to climate change, and linking the science directly to action.

One reason we began climate change planning was because we have several hundred acres that are about to be restored, and we really needed to think about what that means in the face of climate change. We don’t want to restore a natural habitat to have it not be there in fifty years. It’s really brought us together to think about how to be innovative about restoration. We can no longer restore to the past. We need to be thinking of what the future may bring.

What do you see as the biggest adaptation challenge facing the coast today?
“I think one of the biggest challenges facing our region as we adapt to climate change, is thinking about what the future brings, and thinking about [how] what we have experienced historically, is not necessarily an indicator of what we are going to experience in the future – really getting people to be comfortable with not just the idea of persistence, but the idea of transformation.”

What are the greatest achievements of your project to-date?
“What has been really successful about our project is we’ve brought stakeholders from all walks of life together -scientists, managers, planners, community members- to really think about how they can still be proactive and act in spite of uncertainty. We’ve really helped them to be comfortable with the fact that our habitats and our communities may transform over the next several years, but in reality this is an opportunity to be creative and innovative on the ground, and really make our communities better in the long term.”

Tell us about your unique stakeholder and community engagement efforts here.
“One of the things here at the reserve that is really unique is that we are on the US Mexico border. The majority of our watershed is in Baja; we engage with partners from Baja, we engage with the border patrol. We also have a large Naval facility here; the Navy is actively engaged. There are about eight different public agencies that have come together to really start to think about what the future may bring, and how we -as a community- can come together and be proactive about how we manage our natural habitats.

In order to help our local community better understand the types of changes that may occur on the ground here, we’ve partnered with a local artist to bring the science to life. She’s helping us to show how this habitat could be beautiful salt marsh long into the future, or we could experience a shift where we get healthier beach dune habitat, or more riparian lake habitat. All of these changes are possible. They will be influenced both by climate change and by how we manage the system. It’s up to us as a community to come together and decide what future we want, and what future we value.

In San Diego, we all love our beaches. We love to play on them. They’re an integral part of our life. There are going to be some tough choices that we have to make in terms of: do we protect the beach? or do we protect the properties that are behind the beach? We’re going to have to decide as community members, what our vision for the future is. What do we value? What do we want to persist into the future?

Why do you belong to the California Coastal Resilience Network?
As part of the California Coastal Resilience Network, we’re excited to share all of the lessons that we’re learning as we research and plan for climate change. Climate change is new, so we’re all learning. Being able to share lessons is important so that we don’t repeat mistakes, but we learn from each other and help each other push the boundaries of innovation and creativity.

We’re excited to help our partners within the California Coastal Resilience Network learn more about how you can act in spite of the unknown. There’s a lot of uncertainty around climate change, but we’re proving here that you can still make decisions, you can still act on the ground, and be proactive about how you address changes in our climate and changes in the environment.

What are your personal motivations for working on climate adaptation?
I, personally, find being in the climate adaptation field to be very exciting. You know, traditionally in natural resource management, we always look to the past to determine what to do in managing our habitats. This field is new. There is no indicator of what we should do. It inspires creativity, it inspires innovation, and it means that I get to work with people from all walks of life in the community… -researchers, artists, coastal community members- we all are coming together and bringing different perspectives to the table, really grappling with difficult questions: What do we value about our community? What’s our vision for the future? It provides a unique opportunity for us to really interact and come up with creative solutions for really difficult challenges.