Connecting Coastal Concerns: Engaging the local communities in long-term coastal challenges

Primary Investigator – Prof Paurav Shukla, University of Southampton

Co-investigators – Dr Vanessa Marr – University of Brighton, Dr Dhritiraj Sengupta – University of Southampton

Project Overview


Being an island nation, the UK faces substantial long-term coastal challenges including flooding and coastal erosion. Approximately 17% of the total UK population live in coastal communities. The coastal communities are at the frontier of the UK’s economic, social and environmental challenges. While marine setting provides a great many health aiding benefits as well for people, coastal communities face a number of unique macro environmental long-term challenges and are directly affected by them. For instance, marine pollution, coastal erosion, sea-level rise and extreme weather events affect this deeply marine embedded communities more than others.1 Further, these communities face exceptional socio-demographic challenges. For example, with highly transient and seasonal workforce, greater concentration of older people, and a large percentage of holiday or second homes create a fragile social structure and limited long-term employment opportunities for young people which is further pronounced by inadequate or unaffordable housing and weakening healthcare infrastructure. It is observed that, due to a variety of complex micro and macro-challenges outlined above, coastal communities demonstrate limited understanding and engagement with the range of long-term coastal concerns.2 Determining and building resilient coastal communities is utmost important and has been identified as a key challenge by the UK government and global leaders as well.3 The UN Sustainable Development Goals also highlight that resilient coastal communities are vital in appropriately responding to climate change and natural disasters (SDG15), sustainability managing marine ecosystem (SDG14). Research gap Research is replete with studies that demonstrate interlinking of human and ocean health and wellbeing. Studies document the impact of human activities on marine ecosystems.45 At the same time, studies also highlight the human health risks and benefits of marine and coastal environments and the positive and negative impacts of marine policy and management interventions on many different facets of human wellbeing.67 Research also shows the important trade-offs among coastal communities and their immediate environment wherein community livelihood and longevity is impacted by long-term coastal challenges coupled with environment sustainability interventions.8 The transient social structure of coastal communities creates a weak civic environment and poses a major challenge in terms of engaging them in long-term coastal concerns. For instance, most of the seasonal workers tend to have weak social ties. The older more established population tend to be more concerned about their health and other immediate infrastructure challenges. A recent study of UK’s coastal communities observed that, those who had experienced recent severe events such as storms or flooding showed knowledge and awareness of coastal challenges. However, others with no recent experience of such events had an extremely limited understanding of long-term coastal concerns and potential consequences for their communities.9 Further, the climate change communications lacked clarity on actions required on behalf of communities, exacerbated by the weak social structure, led to apathy among these communities.10 Hence, connecting local communities with policy makers and building a meaningful dialogue among these stakeholders relating to long-term coastal challenges is paramount. This multi-disciplinary and multi-institution project aims to comprehend and align the concerns of the local communities with those of policymakers and in turn identify opportunities for building resilient coastal communities that will actively engage in long-term coastal concerns.

Methodology and work packages

Working closely with partners, including local councillors of North Norfolk (e.g., Cllr Liz Whittington), other impactful local partners (e.g., Sophie Day – CTAP), local community leaders, locals and seasonal workers, we will employ both qualitative and quantitative research practices to simultaneously and uniquely present data that captures lived experience alongside scientific predictions. We will understand the challenges of coastal communities that are directly and indirectly affected and examine through their lived experiences: (a) what live in coastal community means?; (b) how is it meaningful to them?; and most importantly, (c) what would make them take any action as an individual and as a community towards the long-term coastal challenges? We also aim to uncover the gaps between the concerns of the community members with that of local councils and wider policy makers. By triangulating such data, we aim to build a community science website that will allow a meaningful dialogue between coastal communities and policy makers. We aim to study North Norfolk as a case study. Interactions with our partners revealed that different towns (e.g., Sheringham, Haisborough) within the region have varying coastal concerns. The project will be divided in five work packages (WP). WP1, lasting 3 months, will be led by an expert geographer (Uni of Southampton). It will focus on quantification of coastal land use and land cover with Earth Observation and machine learning approaches. This will be done by using high resolution Planet Scope Satellite (3.7m) to create an account of recent footprint of human expansion at the coast. Moreover, time series Landsat (30m) satellite images will be used to map long term (1990-2020) shoreline change (erosion and accretion) using CoastSat Python Package.11 This will be further supplemented by a concurrent systematic literature review led by the PI. This package will also lay the groundwork for WP2 by employing a research assistant to work alongside Councillor Liz Whittington in North Norfolk to identify and recruit community groups, including community leaders, locals and seasonal workers, in readiness for the ethnographic field work.WP2, lasting 5 months, will be led by an expert ethnographer from Uni of Brighton with substantial expertise in employing novel methodologies of narrative processing. WP2 will augment WP1 by inviting the identified groups to join the research team for walking interviews in locations most pertinent to their lived coastal experience. This will be captured using a 360 camera on a selfie stick and personal recording devices, as seen in the 2021 BBC series Walking With… The collection of qualitative data from participants whilst walking within the environment that is being studied, enables self-expressive and personal accounts to be gathered in connection with the sensory experience of their body in motion within the space itself.12 Data of this kind captures a bricolage of authentic experience as stories that connect with our human need to hear and tell our own truth as narrative, which crosses barriers of difference and othering, uniting the community in a common cause for concern. The recordings will then be edited to create short films for the website, accessible via location-based hotspots, and material for the podcast that will be used in WP4 and 5. WP3, lasting 3 months, will aim to add generalizability to the findings from WP1 and WP2 by conducting a survey of coastal communities across the UK (n = 600). The instrument will be developed based on earlier WP findings and the guidance from Councillors from North Norfolk (Ms. Liz Withington) and other community leaders. The survey will be hosted on Qualtrics and will be promoted using iPACT & CTAP network, local community networks and social media. WP4, will cut across the 3 work packages and culminate into a pilot community science project website that will focus on coastal community concerns and provide a unique platform for capturing, communicating and collaborating on long-term coastal concerns. It will offer policy makers a window into local communities views and at the same time proactively engage the community through leading and contributing to debates that represent the local coastal communities. The website will also act as a vehicle to host community debate through forums, podcasts and other engagement avenues highlighted in WP5. WP5 will be a month long dissemination exercise that will entail 2 community workshops in North Norfolk that will be co-led by the local Councillors and the research team and involve 20-30community members. The team will also promote the findings of their project through their local University media team and wider social media engagement through audio/visual content such as a podcast that will involve local community and policy makers. The findings of the project and the pilot coastal community science project website will pave way for a large-scale country-wide research project. The multi-disciplinary team aim to submit a large-scale grant toward the Cross Research Council Responsive Mode Scheme recently announced by UKRI.


  • 1 DeDepledge, M. H., Lovell, R., Wheeler, B. W., Morrissey, K. M., White, M., & Fleming, L. E. (2017). Future of the sea: health and wellbeing of coastal communities. Government Office for Science, UK.
  • 2 Zsamboky, M., Fernández-Bilbao, A., Smith, D., Knight, J., & Allan, J. (2011). Impacts of climate change on disadvantaged UK coastal communities. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1-63.
  • 3 DEFRA (2015). A green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment.
  • 4 Halpern, B. S., Walbridge, S., Selkoe, K. A., Kappel, C. V., Micheli, F., d’Agrosa, C., … & Watson, R. (2008). A global map of human impact on marine,319(5865), 948-952.
  • 5 Madin, E. M., Dill, L. M., Ridlon, A. D., Heithaus, M. R., & Warner, R. R. (2016). Human activities change marine ecosystems by altering predation risk.Global Change Biology,22(1), 44-60.
  • 6 White, M. P., Elliott, L. R., Gascon, M., Roberts, B., & Fleming, L. E. (2020). Blue space, health and well-being: A narrative overview and synthesis of potential benefits. Environmental Research,191, 110169.
  • 7 Eales, J., Turner, R., Simpson, S., Chaigneau, T., Fortnam, M., Witt, M., … & Evans, L. What is the evidence that reports on the interactions between human resilience, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability in marine and coastal areas around the UK? An evidence map protocol.
  • 8 Chaigneau, T., & Brown, K. (2016). Challenging the win-win discourse on conservation and development: analyzing support for marine protected areas.Ecology and Society, 21(1), 36-46.
  • 9 Zsamboky, M., Fernández-Bilbao, A., Smith, D., Knight, J., & Allan, J. (2011). Impacts of climate change on disadvantaged UK coastal communities. Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1-63.
  • 10 Ibid.
  • 11 Vos, K., Splinter, K. D., Harley, M. D., Simmons, J. A., & Turner, I. L. (2019). CoastSat: A Google Earth Engine-enabled Python toolkit to extract shorelines from publicly available satellite imagery. Environmental Modelling & Software, 122, 104528.
  • 12 Minkkinen, P. (2022). Ethnography in Motion, or Walking With WG Sebald. Social & Legal Studies, 31(3), 347–364.

Track record and publications

This multi-disciplinary (management, psychology, ethnography, design, and geography) team has a substantial track record of grant funding and publications.

PI Prof Paurav Shukla is a Professor of Marketing at the University of Southampton. He is one of the most cited academic scholars in the past 5 years in the luxury branding domain and is included in the top 2% of scientists globally according to the Stanford list. In the past 5 years, he has received more than £200,000 in funding from various bodies including ESRC, HEIF and AMS among others. He is also a co-I for the £11.7mn Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Hub funded by UKRI ( He has written widely (Google citations 4400 – in the areas of his research domain in top-tier journals and has contributed chapters to edited books, case studies and popular accounts of his work have appeared in the Sunday Times, the Guardian, BBC, the Conversation, the Independent, and LiveMint Wall Street Journal, among others. He has been involved as a guest editor for journals, conference chair, and serves on the editorial and review boards of several renowned journals.

Co-I Dr Vanessa Marr is Principal Lecturer in Visual Communication, Course Leader for Design for Digital Media, and a member of the Centre for Arts & Wellbeing and the Creative Research Methods Group at the University of Brighton. She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and sits on the School of Art & Media Equality and Diversity Committee. Her research engages communities in social change initiatives using creative methodologies. Marr also has 10+ years industry experience consulting, managing, and delivering creative projects for environmental not-for-profit and charitable organisations as co-owner of a successful design agency. Her research is practice-based, creative and autoethnographic, underpinned by visual theory and process. Marr has published widely, contributing to edited books and academic journals as well as popular editorials such The Conversation, whilst also creating practice-based research outputs as artefacts and exhibition.

Co-I Dr Sengupta is a physical geographer with more than 7+ years of experience in Earth Science research and the application of geoinformatics in urban planning and accounting land use changes. Currently he is a research fellow at the school of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton, UK. Sengupta’s research combines serval elements of coastal zone management into Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), especially using Earth Observation (EO) and integrated GIS tools. Sengupta is an SC member of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on Coastal Systems (, Fellow of Future Earth Coasts (, and a Board Member of the Asian Geographical Association ( He engages with people from various backgrounds to understand the critical position of our fragile coastal ecosystem. Sengupta believes much can be addressed if we communicate geoscience in an effective manner. His recent work have appeared in NASA (, The New Scientist ( -land-since-2000/)

Selected relevant publications:

  • Marr V (2022). The Domestic Academic Quilt: Collaborative creation as academic research in the global pandemic. Give and Take: Motherhood & Creative Practice. Demeter Press.
  • Marr V (2021) Disrupting Domesticity: Reclaiming Ourselves: The Power of Stitch and Story Upon a Duster.MAI Feminism: Feminism & Visual Culture.
  • Sengupta D, Choi YR, Tian B, Brown S, Li Y, Hackney C, Banerjee A, Chen R, Meadows ME, Zhou Y (2023). Mapping 21st century coastal land reclamation. Submitted AGU Earth’s Future.
  • Peng Y, Sengupta D, Duan Y, Chen CP, Tian B (2022). Accurate mapping of Chinese coastal aquaculture ponds using biophysical parameters based on Sentinel-2 time series images. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 181.
  • Sengupta D, Chen R, Meadows ME, Banerjee, A (2020). Gaining or losing ground? Tracking Asia’s hunger for ‘new’ coastal land in the era of sea level rise. Science of the Total Environment 732: 13920
  • Shukla P, Rosendo-Rios V, Trott S, Lyu J, Khalifa D (2022). Managing the Challenge of Luxury Democratization: A Multi-Country Analysis. Journal of International Marketing, 30 (4), 44–59.
  • Banerjee M, Shukla P, Ashill N (2021). Situational ethnicity and identity negotiation: “indifference” as an identity negotiation mechanism. International Marketing Review, 39 (1), 55-79.