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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Bridging the Gulfs

Posted by | December 17, 2014

Interdisciplinary Methods for Stakeholder Engagement and Collaborative Research

Lessons from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System


The orange bridge used as a symbol of boundary spanning through collaborative learning in the reserves.How can busy researchers work with even busier managers to facilitate effective application of science to the complex tasks of coastal management, from strategic planning to the design of best management practices and in day-to-day decision-making?

The NERR System is completing 5 years of research nationally around bridging the gulf (boundary spanning) between science and management. These workshops will review boundary spanning projects and work toward developing a primer of best practices for use in coastal management.

Workshop Goal

To build awareness, capacity, and skills to enable coastal management and research communities to use expert interdisciplinary practices to engage stakeholders in developing and implementing collaborative research projects that link science to coastal management and policy.

Project Period

  • September 22 & 23, 2014 in Maine
  • January 14 & 15, 2015 in Texas

Workshop Description

Collaborative research is one method for “bridging the gulf” between science and policy. For 5 years, the Wells and Mission-Aransas reserves have been applying collaborative learning to engage stakeholders in research that connects science to decision-making. The two reserves used different methods to understand and engage stakeholders and researchers in their projects.

Two Bridging the Gulfs workshops, intended for reserve staff members, coastal managers, and researchers, will transfer collaborative research methodologies between Texas and Maine and will engage other reserves and partners in a discussion of lessons learned about collaborative research that can be adopted across the reserve system and within the coastal management community.

Both the Wells and Mission-Aransas reserve projects have expanded upon the framework provided by collaborative learning to explicitly assess stakeholder understanding, foster the development of shared knowledge, and move diverse stakeholder groups toward mutually agreed improvements in management and policy. In addition to the Maine and Texas efforts, the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland) reserve has adapted collaborative learning to a project focusing on marsh and human community resilience to sea level rise.

Bridging the Gulfs workshops will build competencies in collaborative research methods including mediated modeling, mental modeling, and resilience practice. Through these workshops, the organizers will begin developing a "Bridging the Gulfs Best Practices Primer" for the reserve system and its partners.


  • Wells Reserve
  • Mission-Aransas Reserve


NERRS Science Collaborative

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