NOAA Highlights United States and Mexico Cross-Border Coordination at Novel Marine Debris Leadership Academy
JULY 24, 2023 — On July 13th, the Marine Debris Leadership Academy (MDLA) was launched at the Tijuana National Estuarine Research Reserve in San Diego, California. The MDLA was founded as an opportunity to empower leaders to continue to cultivate change in communities, systems, and themselves. This eight-week leadership training course is coordinated by Duos, a partnership of Southwest Interpretive Wetlands Association, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and California State Parks funded with the support of the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act.
The MDLA aims to bring together relevant stakeholders from the United States and Mexico who live and work in the Tijuana River Valley. This area is impacted by issues of land-based debris and solid waste management challenges. Over 40 participants from nongovernmental organizations, federal agencies, and private sector entities attended the first of eight sessions of the MDLA.
The MDLA has three overarching goals: to offer a place to understand watershed dynamics and existing solid waste management policies across levels of governance; to develop strategies for maintaining institutional knowledge and leadership on issues of solid waste management, particularly in situations with disrupted continuity across political transitions; and to transfer lessons learned from efforts on land-based sources of marine debris and discuss ways to improve. The meeting included presentations in both Spanish and English with translated services to foster inclusivity and community.
The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration Director, Scott Lundgren, provided remarks on how the MDLA underscores the critical themes, tools, and concepts of tackling debris and how the MDP carries this hard work forward. The Academy will promote adaptive leadership to address the complex problem of marine debris, and this, in turn, can drive innovation and change. MDP’s California Regional Coordinator, Christy Kehoe, presented on behalf of the program and highlighted NOAA’s work and partnerships in the Tijuana River Valley. The workshop also included Cross-Cultural Communication with the National Conflict Resolution Center, creativity between science and art with the Breathing Project, and a Solid Waste Management tour of the U.S. side of the Tijuana River. The courses will run weekly through August and include topics on binational response, challenges of solid waste management, and transboundary governance.
The MDLA will not only simply serve as professional development and knowledge building, but will also cultivate a meaningful binational cohort that sustains relationships and positive change beyond our program.