HRI News from Harte Research Institute Fall 2011
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   Gulf Report Card
 Gulf Report Card
   Determining our success or failure in protecting the Gulf

by Dr. Wes Tunnell, HRI Associate Director

So, how do we judge how we are doing in school, in life or in the Gulf of Mexico? Well, maybe not in life, but we might consider the age-old school-time grading system, or report card, as a metric to determine our success or failure in the current health of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as in future massive restoration efforts.

Over the last several years HRI Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney and I have had this parallel thinking about establishing a Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Report Card. However, we weren’t able to gain interest among our colleagues. Most of them said, ”Are you crazy? The Gulf is too large and besides no one can agree about how to do one of those things appropriately.” With the big oil spill last year and plans for huge restoration efforts, many others now see the need for a metric or measuring tool. Even President Obama acknowledged the need for a metric in his Executive Order establishing the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.

With this in mind and plans for the Gulf of Mexico Summit late in 2011, Larry and I established a world-class team to help us design a Prospectus for a Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Report Card. Starting in February, we met regularly via GoToMeeting webinars and one face-to-face meeting in the Atlanta airport with our team of six and by May 2011 we had a plan. Although we did not raise the funds to bring in a large group of Gulf experts to design the framework for the entire Gulf, we did receive enough funding from the Walton Foundation to develop a Prototype Report Card for roll-out at the Summit.

On December 7, after former first lady Laura Bush’s inspiring talk at the Summit about marine protected areas for the Gulf, we rolled out the Report Card concept and prototype

Gulf of Mexico Report Card Vision - click for PDF
Three-fold brochure that demonstrates the Report Card vision. (Click to open PDF 9MB)

with three presentations by our team, a panel discussion and questions from the audience.

Larry presented the concept for the Report Card first, then Mark Harwell (with Jack Gentile) of Harwell Gentile & Associates presented the comprehensive scientific framework, followed by Bill Dennison (with Heath Kelsey) of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Sciences, who explained the Prototype Report Card and its future directions and its usage across all scales (science, management, policy makers, public).

To demonstrate the Report Card concept and framework for the future, a three-fold brochure was presented to all Summit participants, demonstrating the utility of the Report Card by using Gulf-wide examples of Brown Pelicans and seagrass habitat.

The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is fully committed to the development of an ecosystem-wide Report Card and, depending on future funding, hopes to start that larger process of development during 2012.

Gulf Report Card vision (pdf 9 mb)

State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit

    © 2011 Harte Research Institute