Coastal Vulnerability in Rural Maine

Eileen Johnson, Environmental Studies, Bowdoin College


This case was developed as part of a year long independent study with students. It examines the vulnerability of coastal communities, specifically, small, rural communities and the challenge of institutional capacity. Maine is a home-rule state, so much of the policy around responses to storm surge is developed at the local level with guidance by state agencies.

Individuals with expertise/responsibilities in the following areas have helped create the case study:
Town planners, state agency staff (Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

Key teaching points:
Students learn about the scale of institutional capacity and the importance of connecting the science of storm surge analysis to policy. Students also learn about the challenges of adequate institutional capacity in rural communities.

How this example is used in the classroom:
Students read the attached article and view the video both to better understand their role in working with communities as well as gaining an understanding of the role of storm surge as an area of concern for Maine communities. Although there is an awareness of climate change and sea level rise, policy makers in coastal communities have identified storm surge and sudden flood events as an issue that of concern and that requires allocating resources for at risk infrastructure including culvert replacement and road crossing upgrades. Students then identify work on a project that involves conducting a network analysis of transportation impacts of storm surge along with mapping of vulnerable populations who are at risk of being impacted when roads are flooded.


Camill P, Hearn M, Bahm, K, Johnson E, Using a boundary organization approach to develop a sea level rise and storm surge impact analysis framework for coastal communities in Maine. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, (2012) Vol 2. No. 2, pp111-130.

Background on coastal communities concerns as regards storm events are explored through a University of Maine Sustainability Solutions Project Helping Communities Weather the Storms

Coastal Community Resilience:
Culvert Operations: