Professors, key stake-holders, U.S. Embassy and Palau Government Representatives, military members and subject matter experts (SMEs) from around the Indo-Pacific region gathered to participate in the Coastal Resiliency Workshop in Koror, Republic of Palau, Sept. 12-14, 2023.
"We wanted to get subject matter experts together who best know research gaps to aid in future planning and preventative measures,” said Chris Sholes, the Environmental Security Program Manager for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. “The Department of Defense recognizes that natural barriers can assist in impeding storm surge and other severe weather in a very natural way. We want to take advantage of this and ensure that we can share this information with partner nations.”
The CRW successfully gathered SME’s on an international level to speak to specific topics such as: coral reef, seagrass, mangrove and salt marsh degradation challenges in throughout various represented islands.
“This workshop can equally apply to civilian communities and military bases,” said Sholes. “The Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program recognizes that research needs to be directed to better understand how to improve health of coastal ecosystems to sustain natural flooding prevention and other severe weather pitfalls.”
The CRW is unique in that it allows presentation, discussion and practical application for participants. This gives multiple, unique perspectives on the problems being discussed with the ability to brainstorm solutions as a unified front. Representatives from Australia, the United States, the Republic of Palau, Thailand, Tonga, Indonesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Federated States of Micronesia participated in the two-day workshop.
“By having INDOPACOM committing to host this workshop, we were able to bring together experts, scientists, government workers and SME’s in our area of operation,” said Mark Cruz, Joint-Region Marianas environmental coordinator. “This provides a bigger picture and allows the heavy exchange of information as well as making connections. I would have never met these people if it wasn’t for this conference.”
Collaborative forms of training such as the CRW not only assists in solving current environmental problems in an efficient way, but also supports regional cooperation and contributes to the development of advanced and streamlined practices.
“Environmental security means government security,” said Cruz. “We were reinventing the wheel in a much more efficient method this entire conference to further our unified goal of ensuring coastal resiliency in not only military bases, but also island communities.”