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Gulf Coast Research Grant

National Academies’ Gulf Research Program Awards $8.6 Million to Promote Equity in Health and Community Resilience for At-Risk Communities

WASHINGTON — The Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced grant awards totaling $8.6 million for 11 new projects supporting health equity and community resilience. These awards are targeted to vulnerable communities in the Gulf of Mexico region at risk from the impacts of climate hazards and other threats.

Acute shocks — such as hurricanes or oil spills — have a disproportionate impact on communities already burdened by chronic stressors such as systemic or institutional racism, poverty, environmental degradation, and health disparities. The disruptive effects of climate hazards and other disasters have a compounding effect, weakening the ability of at-risk communities to prepare, respond to, or recover from future threats and disasters.

“These grants are focused on building capacity among professionals who serve communities and supporting the next generation of leaders in the Gulf,” said Dan Burger, senior program manager for the GRP’s Gulf Health and Resilience Board. “The funded projects all reflect our commitment to addressing complex issues and advancing health and resilience at the local level through science and partnerships.”

The 11 projects receiving awards are:

Three awards for Strengthening Partnerships and Engaging Networks — Leveraging Communities of Practice to Build Equity into Local Efforts, totaling $900,000.

Science Education Achievement — Watershed Environmental Justice (SEA-WEJ)
Project Director: Sarah Burkett, Sarasota County School
Award Amount: $128,733
This project will create a cohort of students from Sarasota County Schools that begins their high school science experience with a focus on how the environmental health of their city impacts the lives of their community beyond the static content written in textbooks. The curriculum will foster knowledge about the connection between students, the environment, and community through service-learning projects linked to environmental justice; develop student digital and English literacy through presentations and communication through digital platforms; and foster critical thinking/nature and practice of science through partner-led explorations.

Gulf of Mexico Leading with Equity in Adaptation Practice (LEAP) Program
Project Director: Gavin Dillingham, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC)
Award Amount: $299,994
This project seeks out the leaders doing adaptation work and builds a bridge to the American Society of Adaptation Professionals Communities of Practice, resulting in relationship building and peer learning. By engaging with local leaders and under-represented individuals, this project advances a model for adaptation work that starts with community ownership of projects and is based on local priorities, guided by lived experience of people in the community, and driven by a process owned by the community.

Building Small Town and Rural Resilience Through Equity-Informed Land-Use Planning and Policy
Project Director: Andrew Rumbach, Texas A&M University
Award Amount: $300,000
This project focuses on increasing the disaster and climate change planning capacity of small towns and rural communities in the Gulf Coast, and strengthening the capacity of the planning Community of Practice to address hazards and climate change in ways that also increase equity for communities of color and low-income communities in these places. This project will develop four disaster and climate change planning tool “packages,” covering Risk Analysis, Housing Vulnerability, Plan Integration for Resilience Scorecard for Small Towns, and Integrating Hazards into Comprehensive Plans.

JUST CoP: Joining to Understand and Strengthen Trust for Climate and Resilience Community of Practice
Project Director: Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Award Amount: $299,982
The project team will work to identify (12) experts and form an Advisory Committee on Equity to help the Community of Practice consider different points of views, recognize who is not at the table and why, and advise on how to approach inviting others to join. The project will also offer technical expertise and capacity for grant writing in communities — a challenge identified from a previous needs assessment.

Eight grants under Building the Next Generation of STEMM Leaders in the Field of Environmental Justice (totaling $8,000,000).

Ripples to Waves: Developing Standards for Place-Based, Justice-Centered Environmental Science Curriculum on the Gulf Coast
Project Director: Joshua Lewis, Tulane University
Award Amount: $1,133,150
This project undertakes the first local adaptation of OpenSciEd curriculum in the U.S., drawing on the expertise of local partners to provide students with multiple weeks of in-school instruction and field-based research to investigate locally relevant water issues that disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous residents of the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin region.

Providing Environmental Justice Education to Louisiana Youth
Project Director: Michael Orr, Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Award Amount: $1,209,126
Built on the extensive environmental justice history of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), this project will synthesize existing environmental justice historical archives and LEAN’s accrued educational programming to develop a curriculum and create adaptable educational modules that teachers everywhere can personalize to their communities and classrooms.

STEMMING THE TIDE: Empowering Youth to Meet Coastal Environmental Challenges
Project Director: Roald Hazelhoff, Birmingham-Southern College
Award Amount: $1,249,998
This project aims to develop and train teachers in Africatown on environmental justice and locally relevant curriculum that aligns directly with the Alabama State science and social studies standards. Specifically, students will learn how the quality of the local environment impacts human and community health and how current policies, climate change, and industrial pollution impact schools and neighborhoods. To contextualize in-class learning, students will partner with community leaders and organizations to develop and participate in service projects funded by this grant aimed at revitalizing and restoring their neighborhoods, parks, and ecosystems.

Environmental and Climate Justice Storytellers Collective (ECJS Collective)
Project Director: Beverly Wright, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
Award Amount: $1,250,000
This project allows youth to take on the role of a climate journalist to tell the stories of environmental and climate injustices occurring in their communities and to interview people and organizations working locally in their region on solving the climate crisis. The ECJS Collective will build youth capacity in science practices through engaging them in collaborative design of digital storytelling templates used to interview scientists, other youth, community members, business leaders, and others about an environmental or climate justice issues important to them.

Texas Gulf Coast STEMM Youth Environmental Leadership Program
Project Director: Elena Craft, Environmental Defense Fund Inc.
Award Amount: $1,243,858
Over the next five years, this program will develop an expanded, STEMM-focused leadership program that enriches the lives of a broad range of students living in at-risk communities along the Texas Gulf Coast. The components of this leadership program include: expansion of STEMM curriculum for students focused on environmental justice and health disparities; development of STEMM Environmental Leadership Toolkits for K-12 students accessible on and outside of campus, including summer camps and after-school programs; establishment of a Houston Mayor’s Select Council; and creation of programming for the “Climate and EJ Leadership in Medicine” summit.

Environmental Justice (EJ) Youth Expose to STEMM (YES) Program — EJ YES Program
Project Director: Calvin Avant, Unity in The Family Inc.
Award Amount: $529,290
Yearly, this project will engage four teachers and 25 at-risk, economically disadvantaged Black fourth and fifth graders in a six-week summer STEMM program. This program allows students to explore the environmental perils of their community; how people of color are disproportionately impacted by environmental justice, and what can be done to dismantle and/or counteract the damage. Teachers will receive 10 hours of EJL train-the-trainer instruction, enabling them to teach the EJL curriculum after the grant period has ended.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Environmental Justice STEMM Leadership Development Program
Project Director: Jonathan Green, Steps Coalition
Award Amount: $970,732
The Steps Coalition, University of Southern Mississippi, and Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Gulf Coast will partner to develop and implement an Environmental Justice (EJ) STEMM Leadership Development Program at four Boys and Girls Clubs along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This community-driven science education program will train sixth through 12th graders in scientific modes of inquiry and analysis, while also encouraging them to consider historical, cultural, and political dimensions of regional public policies that may be better informed by EJ-oriented scientific inquiry.


The National Academies’ Gulf Research Program is an independent, science-based program founded in 2013 as part of legal settlements with the companies involved in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It seeks to enhance offshore energy system safety and protect human health and the environment by catalyzing advances in science, practice, and capacity to generate long-term benefits for the Gulf of Mexico region and the nation. The program has $500 million for use over 30 years to fund grants, fellowships, and other activities in the areas of research and development, education and training, and monitoring and synthesis. Visit to learn more.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.


Pete Nelson, Director of Communications

Gulf Research Program

*The original release was shared by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.