From Past to Present: Ecosystem Services and People of the Guana Peninsula

  • Volunteer citizen scientists are key to the HMS Florida monitoring program. Scouts are trained to help collect data on archeological sites across the Peninsula. This data plays a crucial role in methodizing which sites may need further research or protection. Photo credit: Emily Jane Murray

    Volunteer citizen scientists are key to the HMS Florida monitoring program. Scouts are trained to help collect data on archeological sites across the Peninsula. This data plays a crucial role in methodizing which sites may need further research or protection. Photo credit: Emily Jane Murray

  • The first public meeting was held in December 2021 and featured a hike out to several project sites. Photo credit: GTM Research Reserve

    The first public meeting was held in December 2021 and featured a hike out to several project sites. Photo credit: GTM Research Reserve

  • Volunteers using an Arrow GNSS receiver and tablet to collect data on the erosional edge of the shore line. This project uses shoreline mapping, terrestrial laser scanning, and photogrammetry to help document and understand shoreline changes. Photo credit: Emily Jane Murray

    Volunteers using an Arrow GNSS receiver and tablet to collect data on the erosional edge of the shore line. This project uses shoreline mapping, terrestrial laser scanning, and photogrammetry to help document and understand shoreline changes. Photo credit: Emily Jane Murray

  • This site, like many other historic Reserve sites, has been experiencing erosion for many years that is worsening due to the climate crisis. The 2016 images show Hurricane Matthew impacts, while the others reflect ongoing erosion from tidal and wave action. Photo credit: Emily Jane Murray

    This site, like many other historic Reserve sites, has been experiencing erosion for many years that is worsening due to the climate crisis. The 2016 images show Hurricane Matthew impacts, while the others reflect ongoing erosion from tidal and wave action. Photo credit: Emily Jane Murray

  • Surveys, interviews, and focus groups help improve understanding of how communities connect to the Peninsula, how they utilize the resources today, and the aspirations for the area given the climate crisis. The team connects with important but traditionally underserved communities, including fishermen and descendant populations. Photo credit: GTM Research Reserve

    Surveys, interviews, and focus groups help improve understanding of how communities connect to the Peninsula, how they utilize the resources today, and the aspirations for the area given the climate crisis. The team connects with important but traditionally underserved communities, including fishermen and descendant populations. Photo credit: GTM Research Reserve

For over 6,000 years, people have called the Guana Peninsula home, largely due to the bountiful natural resources of the estuary. Now, these natural and cultural resources are at risk of climate change and development impacts, just some of the estimated 11,109 known cultural heritage sites in the southeast alone facing damage or destruction due to elevated sea level rise rates on the Atlantic coast. The GTM Research Reserve directly manages the southern portion of the Guana Peninsula, providing stewardship, visitor access, and, along with the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission and the National Park Service’s Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, education and interpretive programming. These end users have identified the need to gain a better sense of how resources were used in the past and how they currently are being used by communities to ensure responsive resource management and relationship building with visitors, descendants, and other community stakeholders and for program development to expand the narrative of the Gullah/Geechee in northeast Florida.

By combining archaeological investigations and applied anthropological methods, this project aims to capture how people have expressed value for ecosystem services historically, how they continue to use them today, and how they can respond to the threats these resources are facing through 2100. Following the North American Heritage at Risk (NAHAR) research pipeline for assessing climate change risk of sites, the team will utilize predictive modeling, citizen science monitoring, shoreline mapping, and 3D technology to better understand threats to resources and document current site conditions. They will pair this data with contemporary surveys, interviews, and focus groups on community connection and use of the site to help guide decisions on archaeological investigations and suggestions for resource management. Outputs and outcomes include predictive models of cultural heritage sites most likely to be impacted by local sea level rise; technical reports and data to guide management strategies for cultural and environmental resources; a framework for investigating ecosystem services use and coastal heritage on public lands with sample visitor surveys and interview questions; and a traveling exhibit and interactive Storymap to help interpret the story of the people of the Guana Peninsula from past resource use through today’s concern with climate change impacts.

Collaborative Lead Emily Jane Murray gives a short introduction to "From Past to Present: Ecosystem Services and People of the Guana Peninsula," a collaborative research project funded in 2021 by the NERRS Science Collaborative