Graduation Date

Spring 2022

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources: option Environmental Science and Management

Committee Chair Name

Laurie Richmond

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Yvonne Everett

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Jennifer Marlow

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Fourth Committee Member Name

Aldaron Laird

Fourth Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional

Subject Categories

Environmental Science and Management


Humboldt Bay is experiencing the fastest rate of relative sea level rise in California and is likely to experience severe sea level rise (SLR) flooding within the next two decades. The Humboldt Bay shoreline is owned and governed by a patchwork of entities with different missions and jurisdictions so coordination of SLR planning will be critical because flooding of hydrologic areas from tidal waters can cross political boundaries. The goal of this project was to conduct social science research that can inform and advance the development of regional coordination and collaboration related to SLR in Humboldt Bay. To do this, I utilized a mixed-methods social science research approach of semi structured interviews (n=46), a survey (n=107), and document review to gather information on people’s knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and expectations of SLR planning and adaptation.

The data indicated that coastal professionals on Humboldt Bay agreed that SLR is a near-term issue and acknowledged a need for regional coordination but did not have a clear direction for how to coordinate cross jurisdictional SLR issues. Respondents identified governance challenges to regional SLR planning and adaptation that included a lack of resources, institutional and philosophical differences, and competing priorities. Responses indicated that environmental regulation provided both challenges and opportunities. Behavioral-related challenges and opportunities noted by study participants included leadership, trust, and personal acceptance of SLR as a phenomenon. Responses also suggested that engagement of the public by coastal professionals has been minimal and will need improvement in order to achieve more equitable adaptation strategies. This study contributes to research on the social and policy dimensions of regional planning and coordination for SLR adaptation and helps to inform local, state, and federal government of the challenges faced by coastal California communities.


This publication was prepared by Kristen Orth-Gordinier under NOAA Grant #NA18OAR4170073, California Sea Grant College Program Project #130741187, through NOAA’S National Sea Grant College Program, U.S. Dept. of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do necessarily reflect the views of California Sea Grant, state agencies, NOAA or the U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

Citation Style


AppendixA_Summary-SLR-Documents-Sep2021.pdf (688 kB)
Appendix A: Compilation of SLR Documents and References for Humboldt Bay

AppendixD_Online SurveyInstrument.pdf (558 kB)
Appendix D: Survey Instrument

AppendixE_SLR-Survey-Results-Report.pdf (2493 kB)
Appendix E: Survey Results Report

2021 03-10 ltr_common rule_approval_exempt_19-130.pdf (226 kB)
IRB approval memo - Interview 1

2021 04-15 ltr_common rule_approval_exempt_19-163.pdf (226 kB)
IRB approval memo - Interview 2

2022 04-30 ltr_common rule_approval_exempt_20-148.pdf (401 kB)
IRB approval memo - Survey


Thesis/Project Location