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Assessing the impact of new construction on local wetlands on flooding

Pensacola, Florida

Featured image for the project, Assessing the impact of new construction on local wetlands on flooding

This project will produce a visual and scientific report outlining the current infrastructure of the flood plain area and the potential environmental and economic impacts of additional construction within the historic and flood-risk community. The report will be used as an educational campaign for community member and as scientific evidence to protect the community being forced out due to excessive flood damage and insurance costs.


The Community and the Challenge

The Tanyard neighborhood is a historic, predominately African-American community situated west of downtown Pensacola, FL. The previously diverse community with a flourishing industry, creole cottages, and shotgun homes is now at high risk of gentrification and fill-and-build development. Public and private construction in and around the community has filled in existing flood plains and floodways that historically shuttled rain water, salt water, and sewage into the bay, but now deposit the water into the homes of Tanyard community members. Outdated drainage infrastructure allows heavy rain water to mix with sewage making the flooding not only damaging to the house’s infrastructure but to the health of the residents.

The city of Pensacola is currently accepting submittals for the redevelopment of local green spaces, 19-acre site that helps mitigate the frequent floodwaters. The new construction, called “the big build,” is a public/private development situated upon an old Emerald Coast Utilities Authority sewer treatment plant, nicknamed “Ol’ Stinky.” Previously, the Tanyard neighborhood association, founded in 2005 to address concerns related to the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood, industrial development, ongoing contamination, and flooding, has worked to bring awareness and concerns from the community to the local government. In recent months, the association has turned its back on the community members crumbling under the pressure of continuous flooding in support of the big build. The goal of this project is to determine and present to the local government the potential damage and increased flooding within the Tanyard community as a function of the new construction on and around the flood plain areas.


News articles on Tanyard community


Project Impacts

The community leaders seek to address two main objectives through the Thriving Earth Exchange project: 1) to assess the vulnerability and potential neighborhood impacts of the “big build” and 2) design and implement media campaign in order to bring awareness to this issue.

The hope of a scientific report generated by an expert community scientist would be to highlight the areas most effected by current flooding and the potential increased damage as a result of construction on existing greenery. The report could be used as scientific evidence to present ecological, economical, and human health arguments to the local government in opposition of the current construction plans.

A complimentary image-heavy media campaign has the potential to inform the local community members about the detrimental impacts of the construction on existing greenery. The use of photos and videos can provide tangible and physical weight to the findings presented in the community scientists generated report. The local government has pointed to a lack of attendance and input by the local community at open hearings. A media campaign would help bring power to a community whose voice is currently being overshadowed and underrepresented.


Project outputs:

  1. Flood Assessment Report on new construction within Pensacola and Tanyard area
  2. Video and photo campaign to inform community and local government officials
    1. Increase presence of community members at local discussions/townhalls
  3. Host townhall to present report findings and question local government officials about “big build” lasting effects


Timeline and Milestones

  • Throughout Project
    • Ongoing video and photo campaign to provide evidence of flooding in Tanyard community
  • Spring 2021
    • Define scope of project and find scientist to help write report on community
  • Summer 2021
    • Start assessment of community wetlands, drainage system and potential of new construction
  • Fall 2021
    • Team up with SEAS program and other UWF students to bring younger audience into the conversation
  • Spring 2022
    • Hold town hall with surrounding community to present findings of report to community and the local government

Project Team

Gloria G. Horning, Community Leader

Gloria G. Horning, Ph.D. is a social and environmental justice advocate based in Pensacola, Florida. She has nearly thirty-years’ experience in working with disenfranchised communities that continue to be plague by unregulated landfills in the historic African-American communities–Wedgewood, Rolling Hills and Olive Heights. Currently Dr. Horning is fighting for flood relief in the oldest neighborhood in Pensacola — The Tanyard. Dr. Horning holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University. Her dissertation focused on environmental issues facing small communities’ and the health impacts on the citizens.


Alexis Hidalgo, Anthropocene Alliance, partner

Alexis lives in Miami, so sea-level rise is especially meaningful to her. She’s a graduate of the University of California-Berkeley with degrees in Environmental Science and Environmental Politics. She has interned with the House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and was a SustainUS Delegation Member at the World Bank Meetings.


Chris Jernigan, Community Science Fellow

Chris is a fourth year Chemistry PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research focuses on the chemical interactions and cloud-forming properties of molecules in the air over oceans. Chris received a B.S. in chemistry and a certificate in Energy and the Environment from Duke University in Durham, NC. He facilitates his passion for science communication and outreach by serving as a Science Olympiad coach and as a volunteer at the Wisconsin Science Festival.

Scientist Wanted

This project is looking for at least one expert scientist/engineer who can accesses the environmental and economic risks of flooding as it pertains to new fill-and-build development in a coastal region. The community seeks a science partner to extract, collect, generate, analyze, and interpolate data on flooding in the Pensacola and Tanyard region with the intent of using the information gathered to generate a Flood Susceptibility Index (FSI) or similar report. The individual should be willing and open to combining and including images to support and contextualize the scientific findings of the report. While the project would welcome a single scientist/engineer, the team is also open to bringing in multiple experts and, potentially, students to help support the work. An expert from the Pensacola area or surrounding panhandle region is preferred, but the project is open to those beyond the region with the right background.


Sample skills and qualifications:

  • Hydrology or Environmental/Civil engineering background with interest in coastal construction and flooding
  • Experience dealing with local government and public/private development
  • Skills in a Geographic Information System (GIS) programing, hydrodynamic and morphodynamic modeling, or data science is highly valuable
  • Knowledge and respect for historic and disenfranchised communities
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Relaxed, adaptable, easy going individual with a good sense of humor
  • Experience and/or desire in communicating scientific findings to audiences of differing scientific backgrounds through social media and public speaking mediums
  • Welcoming of a community scientist who would engage students to assist in the project
  • A huge benefit but not a requirement to be local to the region


Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact to which they can contribute as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage.

Interested in volunteering as a scientist? Apply now!

Collaborating Organization(s)

Anthropocene Alliance is the nation’s largest coalition of frontline communities fighting for climate and environmental justice. AA leaders face myriad challenges: damaged property, homelessness, debt, and unaffordable insurance. Supported by outstanding partner organizations that contribute expertise, grassroots leaders have successfully halted developments in flood prone areas; planned and instituted green infrastructure; organized home buyouts; and promoted clean-ups in areas that flood.