Network Member of the Month: Ross Clark
Ross Clark is the director of the Central Coast Wetlands Group at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
“We only have so many resources that we can commit to the threats along our coastline and my hope is that we can use the science and groups of people that are working on policy to set up the most cost-effective and fair strategy forward because we’re all going to have to share in the costs and we’re all going to have to share in the impacts. That sharing is what I hope this network and the science are going to help us do better.” – Ross Clark
An interview with the Member of the Month:
Could you tell us about your work at Moss Landing?
Our group works on wetland restorations especially here on the coast of central California. With the threats of sea level rise, of course, it’s a huge risk to the natural environment that we’re working to restore and protect so it was very simple decision to move into climate adaptation planning as well. It was almost required of us to do that. So our group has been focused on sea level rise impacts to the coastline and the low-lying natural habitats of the Monterey Bay. We are working to enhance science and improve restoration techniques of wetlands along the California coastline. As a researcher at Moss Landing Marine Labs, we really focus on new techniques to collect data to understand the current condition of wetlands and then document the changes in those wetlands hopefully for the better.
What do you see as the end goal of this work?
Our goal is to restore wetland habitat and allow that habitat to be resilient to the changes that are occurring both in land use around them as well as sea level rise. Some of the tools that we’ve helped develop for California are being used to track that success right now.
How might your work be a model throughout the state?
A lot of the analysis we’re doing for impacts to sea level rise, the data we’re providing and the reports that we’re writing are going to the local cities and counties. It’s not good news and so that’s one of the challenges, to provide them the most accurate analysis possible. But then also identify the opportunities and some of the steps we could take to minimize those kind of impacts. And that’s the dialog we’re having now. And I have to give credit to the local city planners and local leaders that are willing to have this discussion because it threatens their communities and a lot of people are going to be very concerned and so, having leadership that’s willing to look at the real data and willing to not deny that these things are coming but actually request that information so that they can use it to make decisions. That’s something that’s inspiring and I’m glad to be part of it.
What’s your best recommendation for going forward?
We need to start talking and we need to think outside the box or at least within the box of 2100. If we can do that and if we can take our own personal needs and bias off the table, I think we can get to visioning what we’re going to be and how we want our communities to thrive in 100 years. That’s, I think, the goal. To set that as our target and not worry about what individual properties, or individual land uses, or habitats are right now, but envision what, 100 years from now, a resilient central coast would look like.
So, thinking about that, planning for it, accepting it, and then sharing the costs and the work among all the stake-holders I think is really important. We can’t just let homeowners on the coast pay the brunt. We can’t have the public lose their beaches. We can’t have low-lying agriculture just be inundated without helping them and their family businesses respond to it. So that’s going to have to be a dynamic that’s going to require everyone. Again. The regulators and the financiers and the state law makers and the neighbors. We’re all going to have to work together to come up to the challenge that’s facing us.
It’s daunting. When you extrapolate the slow increases in sea level rise over the next ninety years, you can see the cumulative effects that that’s going to cause. It’s really alarming. The best thing about doing that kind of analysis, is that we’re doing it so far ahead of the most critical threats facing us that hopefully we can get a lot of smart people together and make some good decisions that will make us resilient and adaptive to these threats opposed to being reactionary and costly in our decisions. We only have so many resources that we can commit to the threats along our coastline and my hope is that we can use the science and groups of people that are working on policy to set up the most cost-effective and fair strategy forward because we’re all going to have to share in the costs and we’re all going to have to share in the impacts. That sharing is what I hope this network and the science are going to help us do better.
Why are you a part of the California Coastal Resilience Network?
Well, it’s great to have a network of groups up and down the state talking about climate change because, at a local level, we’re kind of out here on our own and really don’t have the capacity to reach out to every organization up and down the state that’s working on this. Having a network where we all share ideas and come together periodically and talk about our challenges is really important. We learn from others but we also get a better understanding of the unique challenges we all face as well as common challenges that hopefully we can work together to solve problems and really be more efficient with the limited resources we have.