Aquarium joins effort to battle sea rise

The once-thriving maritime forest at Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area is disappearing into the surf, leaving a “boneyard” of dead trees.

It’s all hands on deck to deal with sea rise and other Lowcountry impacts of climate warming. That’s why the South Carolina Aquarium is getting involved in what already is a multi-organization effort.

The aquarium on Thursday launches the Resilience Initiative for Coastal Education to get information and resources into the hands of the coastal population, acting as a go-between for researchers and the broader geoscience and environmental science communities.

Its planned role would be to:

Develop awareness of the importance of resilience, or mitigation planning through town hall-style meetings, lectures, aquarium exhibits and other programs.

Work with researchers to advance coastal storm and flooding computer models for public use.

Bring together municipal, corporate and government agency leaders to innovate long-range solutions to flooding and other problems.

Aquarium staff hope to work from the 450,000 visitors per year to the facility, as well as its outreach programs.

The initiative is scheduled to be launched at 10 a.m. in the aquarium’s Great Hall. Kevin Mills, the aquarium president, will be joined by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and Emory Campbell, director emeritus of the Penn Center, a freedmen historic site, conference center and community outreach organization on St. Helena Island near Beaufort.

“This is to my mind the most pressing environmental issue of our day. It really defines the future of every species we display. It affects people, wildlife and wild places indiscriminately. Our concern as a scientific data interpreter is that we reach all elements of society, particularly the most vulnerable. I think what we bring is a trusted and respected voice,” Mills said.

“Unfortunately this has been an elite scientific policy question,” said Al George, South Carolina Aquarium conservation director. The aquarium is seeking “more ways to reach more people, to get everyone impacted the most pertinent information, to make the most informed decisions to mitigate these risks.”

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