Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Peter Groffman

Subject Categories

Climate | Communication | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Environmental Health | Environmental Sciences | Environmental Studies | Life Sciences | Marine Biology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology | Urban Studies and Planning


Resilience, Sustainability, Communities, Integrated Marsh Management, Restoration, Mastic-Shirley


Coastal resiliency is becoming significantly more critical to the livelihood of coastal communities as the frequency and intensity of storm events increases and is exacerbated by rising sea levels due to climate change. In October 2012 Superstorm Sandy impacted the New York-New Jersey area costing over $70 billion in storm damages and 147 lives lost, as storm surges surpassed record highs for the region. Protruding more than 100 miles into the Atlantic Ocean with over 1,000 miles of shoreline, Long Island is particularly vulnerable to the increasingly ferocious and numerous storms as well as the rising sea levels that climate change is generating. Suffolk County’s coastal communities need to be better prepared for future climate related scenarios and resiliency planning needs to include protection of public health and safety; reduced risk of structural and non-structural damage; and improved recovery and adaptation strategies. Salt marshes provide a critical line of defense for adjacent communities against more intense and frequent weather events due to their ability to provide natural resistance to flooding and protect shorelines from erosion. However, these ecosystems have historically been, and to a large extent remain, largely undervalued and misunderstood by the general public. This thesis explores how to best bring the scientific research and evidence of the value of, and the anthropogenic impacts to tidal wetlands to a practical level of understanding on the community level. By building connections between the community and the natural coastal landscape through enhanced participation in wetlands management and restoration, a sense of care for the local environment and a relationship to the value it has for coastal resiliency is more likely to develop among Suffolk County residents. Constructing better social-ecological systems and enhancing stewardship networks may significantly improve the success and sustainability of coastal wetland restoration and management initiatives.