Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Affairs


Climate Adaptation and Resilience


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Austin Becker


Global climate change is expected to contribute to between 30 and 122 centimeters of sea-level rise by 2100, as well as increase the frequency and intensity storm surge, flooding, and erosion in coastal systems (IPCC 2014; Melillo, Richmond and Yohe 2014; Moser, Williams and Boesch 2012). Consequently, coastal cultural resources including archaeological sites, historic structures, and cultural landscapes will face increasing damages from salt water inundation, storm erosion, that comprise the frequency and intensity of the negative impacts of these coastal climate changes on cultural heritage resources, sites, and landscapes will also increase (Daly 2011b; WHC 2006; Cassar 2005). Current research on the climate change impacts on coastal heritage takes an ahistorical perspective, examining how these resources will be impacted by climate change moving forward. However, cultural resources hold both modern values and represent past uses of coastal landscapes. This research employs a historical perspective, examining long term relationship between people and climate or environment in a specific location, how past responses to environmental change, alteration of the environment, and other decision-making continue to affect current practices (Adamson, Hannaford, and Rohland 2018).

By examining three case studies in the central Gulf Coast of Florida and Mississippi, Tidewater Virginia, and the northeastern waterfront of San Francisco, California, this research explores how federal managers’ have perceived, created, and responded to environmental change from early European settlement through the present. Based on 20 key informant interviews as well as extensive archival and document research with 29 collections at 6 institutions, this research changes in the reciprocal relationship between the built and natural environment overtime. This study employed qualitative content analysis and document coding (Creswell 2014; Greene, Caracelli, and Graham 1989). As current managers address climate change, this historical perspective explores how local environmental relationships, traces key themes of landscape change and management responses through the American period of each site.

Since the early period of American management, modification and environmental engineering, rather than retreat, has been the dominant response to coastal erosion, storm surge, flooding, and sea level rise. Overtime, federal manager’s metrics of coastal threat and risk have changed as the use of the sites has transitioned. At each of the three sites, local climate patterns and responses that developed overtime continue to manifest in the environmental perceptions and decisions made by managers. And while the patterns at each site are location specific, the challenges faced by managers at Pensacola and the Mississippi Barrier Islands, San Francisco, and the Virginia Peninsula may have applications for transitional military, urban, and commemorative landscapes adapting to climate change, respectively.



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