Engaging Tampa Bay on Climate Change

Dear Tampa Bay: A Case Study

waterfront homes near Tampa Bay

For many of us, figuring out what to do about climate change can be overwhelming and lead to inaction. How do we help individuals and communities – especially those at high risk to climate impacts – feel empowered to take action to create a better future?



The National Wildlife Federation's Gulf Program explored climate change communication in the Gulf Coast region through innovative community engagement methods. Our project focused on the Tampa Bay area and analyzed how personal storytelling through film and expert-led field trips resonate and grow awareness of climate change risks and solutions. Our goal is for this work to enhance the understanding of how to effectively communicate to foster engagement on climate change issues. The project was funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


NWF worked with our partners across the Gulf to make a short storytelling film about climate risks and solutions called Dear Tampa Bay. We screened the film dozens of times across Tampa Bay and followed up the screenings with expert-led boat tours on Tampa Bay. Through surveys administered with film screenings and focus groups after boat tours, we assessed the effects of storytelling and experiential learning on climate risk and resilience beliefs, attitudes, understanding of risk, sense of ability to act, and support for available solutions. The findings of this work can be applied broadly.

Project findings confirm both personal storytelling and field tours are powerful tools to increase awareness of climate challenges and solutions as well as a sense of agency to further engage on climate resilience efforts.

Highlighted findings from pre and post- film surveys conducted at over 50 film screenings across Tampa Bay:
 * Significant increase in the participants sense of empowerment and capability to effect change to build resilience;

 * Significant increase of knowledge in important issues such as temperature rise, storm surge, and the important of living shorelines;

 * Shift away from reliance on state and federal government to be responsible for building resilience to climate change, and a shift toward reliance on self, community, local government, and the non-profit sector.

 * Increase in willingness to engage/participate in climate change related activities (see fig.1)

Graphic showing major increases in willingness to participate in various climate change related activities after watching Dear Tampa Bay film

Highlighted themes from boat tour surveys and focus groups:
 * Immersive learning fosters an understanding of climate challenges, while also fostering a generally positive, hopeful outlook if collective action is taken.

 * Recognition of the value of civic engagement, such as collective, community action and education and outreach to neighbors and community leaders.

 * Recognition of systemic inequity as a major climate challenge.

These types of engagement methods evoke a strong response that can enhance participation in efforts to build climate awareness and enact solutions.


person overlooking Tampa Bay


Tampa Bay, with 700 miles of gorgeous shoreline and nearly 4 million residents, is one of the areas in our nation most vulnerable to climate change. Referred to as an area with high risk and low readiness, the region has large populations and extensive development in flood-prone areas. The area has not faced a direct hit from a major storm in over a century and is increasingly experiencing other climate impacts. In order to foster broad support for climate resilience planning efforts and implementation, it’s critical to grow awareness about the challenges faced and solutions at hand.

We invite you to use the film, handouts, and discussion guide below to host your own screenings!

Subtítulos en español en Youtube

Official Selection in the 2023 Sunscreen Film FestOfficial Selection of the DC Environmental Film Fest graphic announcing film nomination at the Dunedin International 2024 Film Fest

Live Film Screenings

Dunedin International Film Fest - February 1, 6:30pm EST

About the Film

Our film, Dear Tampa Bay, shares personal stories from neighboring Gulf coast community leaders in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Dear Tampa Bay explores how communities across the Gulf have faced and are working to address the same climate impacts facing Tampa Bay, showcasing actions that could be applied to the Tampa Bay area.

Dear Tampa Bay, directed by Wildpath’s Katie Bryden, features community leaders across the Gulf who face serious threats from climate change impacts:
* Arthur Johnson, a non-protfit leader in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, who explores recovery after the community aced catastrophic devastation from Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge;
* Rosina Philippe, an elder of the Atakapa-Ishak/Chawasha Tribe in Louisiana, who shares her story about sea level rise and cultural preservation in Louisiana’s Grand Bayou Village;
* Bob Stokes, the leader of the Galveston Bay Foundation in Texas, who shares his work on water quantity issues and successful coastal restoration and protection efforts;
* Dr. David Perkes, a community leader and professor from Mississippi State’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, who shares his experience using nature to adapt to extreme rainfall impacts;
* Maya Burke, a leader of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, who shares the climate risks facing Tampa Bay as well as the importance of water quality to the region.

Meet Our Storytellers

Key Project Partners

NASEM Gulf Research Program
University of South Florida_St. Pete

Tampa Bay Watch
Tampa Bay Estuary Program

Research reported above was supported by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine under award number 200013200. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Gulf Research Program or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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