Michael Beck, Ph.D.

Lead Marine Scientist
The Nature Conservancy
United States
Award Year


Michael Beck is the lead marine scientist for the Nature Conservancy and an adjunct professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Coastal development and climate change are major threats to marine ecosystems. These impacts also increase the vulnerability of people and property to current and future coastal hazards, including storm surge and sea level rise. Increasingly, climate adaptation funds are allocated for development of “gray” infrastructure, such as seawalls and jetties, to mitigate these effects. Unfortunately, these structures can harm coastal systems by direct destruction and indirect effects such as erosion and “coastal squeeze,” a situation where a coastal habitat is trapped between a fixed landward boundary, such as a sea wall, and rising sea levels, and therefore unable to adapt and expand appropriately. Beck’s Pew fellowship project aims to increase the links between disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation, and environmental restoration. He seeks to redirect climate-adaptation strategies and funding to support the restoration of wetlands and reefs (“green” infrastructure) in order to help reduce socioeconomic vulnerability to coastal hazards. Beck will encourage climate-resilient development planning and habitat restoration by presenting ecosystems as viable options for climate adaptation and hazard mitigation with comparative advantages over gray infrastructure solutions. He will work to better integrate social, environmental, and economic risk assessments and incorporate this new science into interactive and accessible tools for decision-makers. His research will hopefully ensure that funding for mitigating impacts of such hazards as storm surge, sea level rise, and climate adaptation can support the restoration of coastal ecosystems. This restoration is based on the premise that development and conservation can be compatible and that survival, livelihoods, and cultural identities of many coastal communities depend on the integrity of coastal marine ecosystems. To learn more about Beck, visit his bio online: https://www.nature.org/science-in-action/our-scientists/our-scientists-mike-beck.xml?redirect=https-301.

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