Maryland Climate Resilience Indicators (MCRI): Participatory Indicators to Assess, Plan, and Evaluate Climate Adaptation Actions

Principal Investigator:

Melissa Kenney

Start/End Year:

2018 - 2020


University of Maryland, College Park

Co-Principal Investigator:

Michael Gerst, University of Maryland, College Park


Strategic focus area:

Resilient communities and economies


This research aims to aid communities in addressing the question, “are our climate adaptation investments increasing our community’s resilience?” The state of Maryland and its communities are acutely interested in this question because they are being, and will continue to be, impacted by a range of climate impacts. As a result, Maryland has been aggressively setting reduction targets to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions and developing adaptation strategies to increase its resilience to the human health, economic, and environmental impacts of climate change.

Maryland’s state government currently utilizes a wide array of decision support tools to address environmental and other issues of concern to the public interest. Among these are indicators, which track change over time for the purpose of advancing scientific understanding, communicating, informing decision-making, or denoting progress towards achieving objectives. Creating a consistent set of indicators for adaptation, however, is challenging because adaptation decisions occur at the state- and local-levels, where end-users might have different concerns, data needs, and resources available for assessment. 

To address this gap in evaluative metrics to assess, plan, and evaluate climate adaptation actions, we propose to develop a Maryland Climate Resilience Indicators (MCRI) system. The MCRI framing builds on lessons learned from the participatory indicator development and prototype process that this team led for the US Global Change Research Program. Over the two-year period, we propose a multiple phase process, conducted in collaboration with our project partners. The project activities include four major research thrusts: Task 1) development of a community relevant indicator framework for MCRI using participatory processes; Task 2) identification and assessment of existing indicators, data, and monitoring systems for relevance to MCRI; Task 3) development of MCRI prototype with associated metadata, and Task 4) iterative design of the MCRI with local communities. Outreach efforts are integrated with our research activities and goals. 

This process is designed to produce scalable indicators that are transparent, reproducible, and science-based. Specifically, it utilizes state-of-the-art conceptual modeling techniques and design-based production to root stakeholder needs at the core of the indicator products. The prototype deliverables will include a proposed visualization of indicators, text to support understanding, and full metadata documentation of the indicator production. Additionally, we expect to establish stronger partnerships between scientists on the proposal team and Maryland stakeholders. Long-term changes that we hope will result from our work, in part, include increased use of deliberate approaches to adaptation assessment, planning, and evaluation, sustained tracking of coastal resilience through MCRI, and increased understanding by Maryland citizens of resilience and how it is changing. 



Title: Refining Resilience: Assessing Indicators for Adapting to Climate Change

Recap: In an effort to help Chesapeake Bay communities respond to climate change, Maryland Sea Grant-supported researchers worked with stakeholders to develop a science-based framework for measuring resilience.

Relevance: The effects of climate change are already evident in Maryland. In coastal communities, so-called nuisance tides are common, and scientists have advised planners to prepare for sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay of more than two feet by 2050. Warming atmosphere and oceans are feeding more severe storms and hurricanes in the mid-Atlantic, with attendant wind and storm surge damage to communities and infrastructure. Maryland’s regulatory and planning agencies are developing adaptation strategies to increase resilience to human health, economic, and environmental impacts. Among these strategies is the use of indicators, which track changes over time to assess progress toward resilience objectives and help inform adaptation decisions. Creating a consistent set of indicators, however, is difficult, because adaption decisions happen within complex systems at levels ranging from state to local. For this reason, information and assessment resources are needed at different levels. Developing a scalable, transparent, and flexible science-based set of indicators would produce a framework to better assess whether specific adaptations at one level can also increase a community’s resilience at another level.

Response: Maryland Sea Grant-supported researchers set out to develop a science-based resilience conceptual framework, to engage with stakeholders, and to identify existing data and indicators that could be included in such a framework. Three meetings with stakeholders helped researchers better understand their needs, but also made clear that they preferred to use existing resilience indicator frameworks rather than create a new one. Thus, the researchers’ goals shifted to developing a shared understanding of resilience and identifying indicators that would help assess an adaptation’s usefulness community-wide, rather than in a single place or project. They reviewed 273 geographic-and topic-relevant documents to identify existing concepts and implementation of resilience research in Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Eastern Shore. This review aimed to navigate the diverse information landscape surrounding climate change adaption in Maryland to provide a data-based foundation for assessing resilience indicators and adaptations.

Results: The literature review, published in February 2021 in Current Climate Change Reports, found that while there is a diverse range of themes and information on resilience in Maryland, there are large information gaps for capacity and response indicators. The principal investigator is using lessons and techniques from this project to develop resilience indicators as part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Community Resilience Program

Related Publications:

Molino, GD; Kenney, MA; Sutton-Grier, AE. 2020. Stakeholder-defined scientific needs for coastal resilience decisions in the Northeast US Marine Policy118 . doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2020.103987. UM-SG-RS-2020-10.

Teodoro, JD; Nairn, B. 2020. Understanding the Knowledge and Data Landscape of Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in the Chesapeake Bay Region: A Systematic Review Climate8(4):1 -17. doi:10.3390/cli8040058. UM-SG-RS-2020-04.

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