Updating a Climate Vulnerability Assessment

Santa Cruz, California

Featured image for the project, Updating a Climate Vulnerability Assessment

Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz, California


The community of Santa Cruz, California is a beach town centered within the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary on the central coast of California. The community lies along 8 miles of coast and has a central river system subject to flooding. The community relies entirely on this local water supply and its reliability have been long term issues. Coastal sea level rise, flooding and cliff erosion are likely to be exacerbated by climate change as are non-coastal impacts such as drought and wildfires. A qualitative climate vulnerability assessment was completed in 2011 by University of California Santa Cruz researchers Drs. Gary Griggs and Brent Haddad. The City will be updating this vulnerability assessment in 2017 as part of its Local Hazard Mitigation Plan and Climate Adaptation Plan updates.


The City of Santa Cruz requires assistance from the scientific community to update the vulnerability assessment to be quantitative using recent data compiled via The Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience Mapping Tool (and/or other recently available datasets), assessing completeness and assumptions, and addressing the non-coastal impacts. The vulnerability assessment will be a key tool used to plan long term policy changes, infrastructure investments and budgeting.


The scientist(s) would work primarily with Dr. Tiffany Wise-West, Sustainability and Climate Action coordinator.  In 2017, Dr. Wise-West will be leading an internal Climate Adaptation Advisory Team to update the City’s vulnerability assessment and Climate Adaptation Plan


Dr. Wise-West will commit to do the following:

  1. Coordinate the framework and scope under which work will proceed with scientific partners.
  2. Collect and compile existing reports and data.
  3. Participate in progress meetings, document progress and adhere to timelines (project management)

Project Team

Community Lead

Tiffany Wise-West is Sustainability & Climate Action Coordinator for the City of Santa Cruz. Tiffany is a licensed professional civil engineer and LEED Associate Professional with 20 years of experience in municipal infrastructure planning, design and project management. Tiffany specializes in negotiating and managing public-private-academic partnerships aimed at advancing green infrastructure, policy and programming. She leads the City’s award-winning Climate Action Program and Santa Cruz GreenWharf initiative. Tiffany also advises the County Board of Supervisors on environmental matters as the District 2 Commissioner on the Santa Cruz County Commission on the Environment.


Scientific Partners

Juliano Calil is a PhD candidate in the Physical and Biological Sciences Division of the Ocean Sciences Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is a graduate student instructor for a course on “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Coastal Climate Adaptation”. 

Ben Preston is Director, Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program at RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA. He’s been working in the arena of environmental assessment and management for over a decade, in both academic and non-profit settings. Since 2000, his professional work has focused on the issue of climate change, particularly helping stakeholders understand the implications of climate change and appropriate approaches to managing risk.