Using Social Science To Solve Coastal Resource Challenges

By Dan Burger, Director, Coastal Services Division, DHEC

Last week, several hundred natural resource managers, researchers and social scientists from across the country descended on Charleston to attend the third biennial Social Coast Forum. Below are some of the highlights from S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management staff who were selected to present on social science tools and methods that are being used to address South Carolina’s coastal issues.

Jessica Boynton, shorelines specialist, presented the Hazard Vulnerability Assessment (HVA) tool. The goal of the HVA is to provide a geospatial tool that can be used by federal, state, and local coastal managers and scientists to improve comprehensive and hazard mitigation planning, post- disaster redevelopment, as well as determine areas best suited for restoration and mitigation. The HVA is an analysis tool that evaluates coastal hazard vulnerability from four hazards: storm surge, shoreline change rate (erosion or accretion), flooding, and social/economic vulnerability.

Liz Hartje, coastal project manager, provided a hands-on demonstration of the MyCoast: South Carolina web and mobile application. MyCoast allows DHEC to crowd-source photographs and qualitative information from users and then append quantitative data related to coastal storms, king tides and abandoned vessels. This tool is used to engage the public, visualize and analyze impacts and enhance awareness of coastal hazards.

Dan Burger, director of DHEC’s Coastal Services Division, provided an overview of coastal hazards that are affecting natural resources, infrastructure and social well-being in the Charleston region and the catalyzing events that led to the establishment of the Charleston Resilience Network (CRN). CRN is a new inter-governmental and cross-sector partnership that is working to align programs and foster a unified strategy that results in regional resilience to water-related hazards. With support from the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Infrastructure Protection, the CRN will hold a symposium later this month to examine the region’s resilience through the lens of the October flood events.

For more information about DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, visit

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