Engaging the Community – Working Together to Make Positive Changes for the Bay!

The Galveston Bay Report Card provides a snapshot of Bay health, creating a baseline for action and future assessments of Galveston Bay.  The Report Card is based on a two-pronged approach which pairs the vast knowledge and analytical skills of research scientists at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) with the educational outreach and advocacy strengths of the Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF).  This partnership allows us to take an innovative approach to bridging the communication gap between science and the community.

Public input is essential to the success of the Galveston Bay Report Card and has been incorporated into every aspect of the project.  Instead of presenting indicators based solely on how scientists prioritize and address environmental issues (as we have in the past), we first consulted the public to find out what they were interested in.  This was an extensive process which began by gathering input from thousands of local residents through online surveys and more than 75 in-person presentations over the course of two years.  By involving members of our community early on, we gained valuable insight into the way the public interprets and understands the environmental data being collected around the Galveston Bay region. The citizen-driven approach allowed GBF and HARC to develop the Report Card to mirror the way the public thinks about Galveston Bay issues.

Engaging the community has been an ongoing process, even after the development and release of the first Galveston Bay Report Card in August 2015, because two-way communication with the public helps to inform scientists and funding entities about emerging issues, attitudes, and changes in public concern.  Cooperation and interest from public leaders and stakeholders including boaters, fishermen, educators, civic groups, and business associations make this possible.  In 2015, the Report Card directly engaged over 1,100 citizens in the Houston-Galveston area.  Since the release of the 2016 Report Card in August, we have met with more than 3,200 citizens this year alone and the Report Card website has hosted more than 14,000 visitors to date!  In addition, a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program recently provided three years of funding to translate the Report Card into Spanish to further engage the Spanish-speaking community.  It is exciting to see that the Report Card is gaining leverage and promoting awareness within the community, but we need your help to keep it going!

To request a presentation for your school, church, or social group, please contact Heather Schiappa at [email protected] or (281) 332-3381 ext. 223.  By getting the data into the hands of the people whose actions can make a difference, we look forward to a bright future for Galveston Bay, inspired by an informed and enthusiastic community.