Log Lunch with Paul Speer '78: Resilient Woods Hole: Climate Resiliency in a Coastal Cape Cod Community

An unexpectedly snowy Friday, April 5 brought the community together for Log Lunch, and spirits were high as the student cooks prepared a perfect meal for the day. Today’s menu consisted of carrot ginger soup with maple syrup from Hopkins Forest, a radish pomegranate salad, crispy Spanish patatas bravas, garlicky mayo, buckwheat crepes with gruyere cheese and tomatoes, and an apple strudel with custard(and a vegan apple dessert option). Along with this incredible food, the Log Lunch attendees heard Paul Speer, Williams Class of 1978 and current Chief Operating Officer of Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, speak about the current challenges being faced by the coastal scientific institutes at Woods Hole, and the various solutions that have been explored and implemented by MBL and the Woods Hole community. 

After graduating from Williams in 1978, Paul got his PhD in Oceanography from MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program, and worked as a scientist in the Navy after receiving his PhD. He eventually switched into working in applied research work adjacent to the Navy, becoming the president of the Center for Naval Analyses in 2009. He moved into his current role as the Chief Operating Officer of Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, in 2014. As the COO, he is tasked with overseeing the operations of the lab, from finances to infrastructure to coordinating projects with other laboratories and partners.

Resilient Woods Hole is one of the key projects that Paul finds himself working on, one which involves working with the NOAA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution labs at Woods Hole, as well as the town of Falmouth, the Massachusetts state government, and other public and business organizations to make Woods Hole, an iconic destination for marine biological sciences, more resilient to climate change. MBL and other scientific institutions each found that a collaborative approach to climate adaptation was necessary for Woods Hole, an approach that would bring in a wide range of stakeholders to facilitate the development and implementation of solutions to the present and future risks posed by sea level rise and other consequences of climate change. Paul explained that one of the goals of the project was to ensure that the large scientific institutions such as MBL and NOAA, despite being some of the main founders of the Resilient Woods Hole initiative, were not the driving force behind the project’s later stages; he hoped to make Woods Hole’s climate adaptation a more participatory process. This process includes assessment committees to define the problems associated with climate change, both for institutions and the village, then engaging the various stakeholders through community outreach to build consensus around the problems and solutions that are to be implemented in the various areas of Woods Hole. One such project was the MBL Stony Beach Dune Restoration Project, where a nature-based solution was used to prevent flooding into the village. 

More information about Paul’s work can be found at resilientwoodshole.org