A new project between the University of Rhode Island (URI) – with the URI Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant as partners – and Westerly High School of Westerly, R.I., is focused on encouraging students – and by extension, their families and school community – to assess how well prepared they are for weather emergencies, such as hurricanes, or the longer-term change that comes from sea level rise.
This month, ninth- and 10th-graders at Westerly High School will make use of a new online program so they can assess their readiness for themselves. The information will help URI researchers learn more about behavior change in terms of emergency preparedness and better gauge which tools best support this change.
“Students Creating Change: Reducing Our Risk from Natural Disaster,” is a voluntary project and engages students who receive parental or guardian permission. Students taking part in the program receive information about preparedness and readiness activities that can be applied by a family and carried out at home with little or no cost.
“In the past we have helped high school students reduce health risks, such as inadequate exercise and unhealthy eating,” said Dr. Prochaska, a URI psychology researcher and director of the university’s Cancer Prevention Research Center. “Now we are researching how such students can help their families reduce their risks by becoming better prepared for severe storms.”
“In light of so much severe weather across the country and in Rhode Island, Westerly school administrators, with unanimous support from our school committee, view this partnership with the University of Rhode Island as an excellent opportunity to further strengthen our commitment to enhancing both our students’ and their families’ health and wellbeing,” Westerly High School Principal Todd Grimes said. “This educational collaboration can benefit all students who participate since it addresses health standards and serves to enhance our health curriculum and our coastal community.”
The project is funded by the Rhode Island Research Alliance and is part of a larger URI research effort to engage in the DHS initiative to understand and gather the best approaches and tools for building emergency preparedness in coastal communities nationwide.
“Protecting ourselves from storms and sea level rise clearly starts at home, at school, and within the foundations of community,” Rubinoff said. “It’s thrilling to bring the science and research to bear in these truly useful, practical activities.”
This past summer, Old Dominion University (ODU) hosted a summer research team led by Norfolk State University (NSU) faculty Dr. Camellia Okpodu and Dr. Bernadette Holmes as part of an interdisciplinary, multi-institution collaborative summer research project.
The project was titled “A Systems Approach: Developing Cross-Site Multiple Drivers to Understand Climate Change, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding for an African American Community in Portsmouth, VA.” Dr. Okpodu, Professor of Biology, led biological and ecological aspects of the project and Dr. Holmes, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, led the sociological part of the project. Read more about the research in this Q&A.
Funding for the project came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Summer Research Team (SRT) Program. The program aims to increase and enhance the scientific leadership at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) in research areas that support the mission and goals of DHS.
The project included five students, three from NSU and two from ODU:
Raisa Barrera, Graduating Senior, Biology (NSU)
Mikel Johnson, Rising Senior, Sociology (NSU)
Bryan Clayborne, Rising Senior, Sociology (NSU)
Donta Council, Doctoral student, Public Administration and Policy (ODU)
The ODU team, most of whom are part of a DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project, included Principal Investigator Dr. Larry Atkinson, Dr. Wie Yusuf, Dr. Michelle Covi, Dr. Joshua Behr and Dr. Gail Nicula. The researchers are part of the ODU Resilience Collaborative. The ODU graduate students were sponsored by the DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence.
Dr. Okpodu developed a questionnaire for the Chesapeake Bay region’s minority populations, seeking to learn more about why those populations are considered to have a lower affinity for the environment and environmental resources than the general population.
Dr. Holmes developed a framework for studying the views of African-Americans about sea level rise and coastal flooding in the Hampton Roads area. Evidence shows that minority communities are disproportionately impacted by natural hazards, including coastal hazard threats. Both professors plan further work to explore their frameworks.
The ODU researchers provided guidance and feedback, served as a resource for engaging the local community, provided guidance on data management and supervised ODU graduate students participating in the multi-institutional project teams.
The summer research project builds on work done by other researchers at ODU on the disproportionate impact of flooding on low-resource communities, and their adaptation to flood events, Dr. Wie Yusuf of ODU said.
“The collaborative work with NSU was helpful in that it highlighted some key areas related to environmental justice and social justice, particularly as it relates to impacts of sea level rise on under-resourced communities such as the African-American community in Portsmouth,” Dr. Yusuf said.
Student participant Barrera said the new skills she gained during the summer will help her future educational and research efforts.
“This research experience afforded me a hands-on opportunity studying plant DNA and physiology and an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of how sea-level rise and coastal flooding effect the gene expression of native coastal plants,” Barrera said. “Our research provides data that will bring understanding to how Virginia native coastal plants – which protect our coastline and vulnerable communities and ecosystems – respond to sea-level rise and flash flooding induced by climate change. Millions of Americans live in coastal communities that have ecosystems that can be negatively affected by flash flooding and sea-level rise.”
The Hampton Roads region, which includes 17 jurisdictions, has varying vulnerabilities and responses to flooding and sea level rise, she said. Working with NSU will help to spread resources across universities in the region, and coincides with another ODU project to network with researchers at the region’s other universities and community organizations.
Millions of Americans live in coastal communities that have ecosystems that can be negatively affected by flash flooding and sea-level rise.
“In terms of future collaborations, I think we’ve just begun to scratch the surface,” Dr. Yusuf said. “In the short-term, I envision the ODU-NSU team to continue to collaborate on projects assessing the vulnerability of under-resourced communities such as those in Portsmouth. In the longer term, the connection to social justice and environmental justice is what really resonated with the ODU team, and I foresee us continuing to work in this area.”
This partnership is part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program managed by Oak Ridge Affiliated Universities (ORAU), which solicits competitive proposals from MSIs to perform summer research in residence at one of the DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs) under the mentorship of a COE researcher.
The student researchers presented outcomes of their summer work in late July. A recording of the complete presentation is available on the ODU website. Individual student presentations are also available:
For the second summer, undergraduate and graduate students in Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education programs were involved in a wide variety of academic exchange and professional internship programs, providing them the opportunity to gain important research skills and experience designed to aid their academic and future careers.
Eight students who are enrolled in CRC-supported courses at partner universities were hosted by principal investigators (PIs) of CRC research projects through the SUMmer Research Experience (SUMREX) Program. As part of the program, CRC Education & Workforce Development partners arrange for one or more students to visit the home institution of participating CRC researchers for a summer research internship lasting between six and 10 weeks. Key to the program’s success is making the best match between the student interns and the research PIs, so that the students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in a research project. Students come largely from Minority-Serving Institutions, part of the CRC’s work to increase diversity in research environments.
Sabrina Welch, a PhD candidate in Engineering at Jackson State University, and Diego Delgado, a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, were hosted first by Dr. Stephen Medeiros at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and later by Dr. Scott Hagen at Louisiana State University (LSU).
During the UCF portion of her summer experience, Welch said she learned the fundamentals of the ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) model. This included the completion of a mathematical methods pre-test in addition to the Surface-water Modeling System (SMS + ADCIRC) boot camp tutorial. Two field days were also included, the first covering the basics of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) surveying, while the second day focused on teaching methods of assessing land cover in order to determine Manning’s n Value for a site of interest.
The second half of Welch’s SUMREX experience was spent at LSU, where she applied the knowledge gained at UCF. At LSU, she learned about high-performance computing and the Linux command line, the generation of ADCIRC required input files, executed storm surge simulations and analyzed output data.
“The SUMREX research program was a great experience for me as a rising ADCIRC user,” Welch said. “My participation in this program has led to an improved understanding of the ADCIRC system, which is beneficial since ADCIRC will play a major role in my PhD dissertation topic, and the knowledge gained will aid in the development of my aspiring career as a coastal engineer.”
In other pairings, two students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Hector J. Colon and Peter Rivera, both undergraduate students in Engineering, were hosted by Dr. Dan Cox at Oregon State University, where they learned about extreme surge/wave forces during hurricanes.
The University of Rhode Island (URI) hosted three undergraduate students from Tougaloo College: Psychology major Courtney Hill and Biology majors Rosalie Cissé and Kierra Jones. As a participant in URI’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURFO) program, Hill worked with co-PI Pam Rubinoff on the CRC project “Overcoming Barriers to Motivate Community Action to Enhance Resilience.” The summer project examined how the 2010 floods of Rhode Island led to specific reforms, creating a timeline of events, gathering information from documents and press reports and creating a social network map to showcase the various roles involved when discussing the new policies.
Cissé worked on a project identifying species of toxic plankton bloom present in the Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound in 2016. Jones worked on a project analyzing the role of phytoplankton to temperature changes.
Summer activities also included a one-day exchange where students from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) in Charlotte, N.C., visited North Carolina State University (NCSU). Nine students enrolled in a summer research program led by Dr. Hang Chen visited the NCSU Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE), where CRC PI Dr. Casey Dietrich exposed the students to the concepts of computing-intensive and coastal resilience research.
The visiting students learned about the CCCE department, along with summer and graduate program opportunities. Dr. Dietrich arranged presentations and discussions with faculty members in their computing and system group. Ten faculty members presented their interdisciplinary research projects addressing problems throughout civil and environmental engineering using computational tools. The JCSU students also interacted with Dr. Dietrich’s graduate students and learned more about their individual research projects.
Imyer Majors, a computer engineering major at Johnson C. Smith University, said he learned “exactly what an engineering graduate student looks like and how much work and dedication is put into the students’ work.
“We had the opportunity to go around to each student’s work area and hear their stories on what they all created,” Majors said. “I love the honesty they gave on the difficulties they were faced with in certain areas of their projects, and how they were able to think of different ways to solve them.”
A graduate of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education program is part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) team aiding in Hurricane Irma recovery.
Matrix McDaniel, a spring 2016 graduate of Jackson State University who earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, is part of a 14-person USACE Memphis District team responding to impacts of Hurricane Irma in Puerto Rico. The team arrived in the island territory on Sept. 11 to provide technical expertise and “turn-key” installation of FEMA emergency generators at critical public facilities, such as hospitals and shelters.
McDaniel joined the Memphis District earlier in the summer and is pursuing his Master of Science degree in Engineering with a Coastal Engineering concentration. His graduate education has been supported by the Education and Workforce Development program of the Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs. One of the goals of the CRC’s education programs is to educate and place graduates in the workforce of the greater Homeland Security enterprise.
McDaniel’s role with the USACE Power Team is Action Officer, linking USACE, FEMA and other government institutions to fulfill requests. His background is in the technical elements of engineering, he said, and he has realized the value of project management skills in running on-the-ground projects. He said he credits his JSU education with providing a strong foundation in the engineering process.
“With project management experience, in addition to technical expertise, an engineer can venture into many more roles and gather many different experiences,” McDaniel said. “This is relevant because although the mission is to help repair infrastructure, the mission my team had was more about governing.”
The Power Team is part of more than 700 USACE employees in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, North Carolina AND Texas supporting the response to hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Hurricane Irma passed north of Puerto Rico as a Category 5 storm on Sept. 7, causing more than 1 million residents to lose power in the initial wake of the event.
Ashton Rohmer, a recent master’s graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was one of the first recipients of the Career Development Grants (CDG) from the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC). She reflected on her work with the CRC and other projects to bring together practitioners focusing on resilience.
Can you describe the work you did with the CRC during graduate school and how it shaped your career goals?
I worked on two major projects with CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith over the past two years. One examined the state’s role in disaster recovery, a project that was aided by the fact that Dr. Smith has been quite involved with various state recovery operations in his career. In particular, we looked at both Mississippi’s response to Hurricane Katrina and North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Floyd, specifically on recovery processes. Together with Lea Sabbag, the first CDG recipient, I helped with drafting the overview pieces for each state and also proofread and edited the final article that Dr. Smith authored and that we’re hoping to get published in an academic journal.
The other project that I worked on was the Resilient Design Education Study, which was requested by the White House under the Obama administration, as a way to learn about the state of resilient design education at colleges and universities across the U.S. There are different disciplines that relate to the topic of resilient design that we focused on for our study – engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, planning and building sciences. We wanted to get a sense of what these programs were offering to students, what innovative programs there might be, and potentially what gaps and challenges schools might face. We are hoping that this information could be helpful to catalog existing programs, identify best practices, and determine whether or not students are adequately prepared to go into this field and contribute to our nation’s homeland security efforts.
Describe your experience interning with the National Park Service in the summer of 2016 and how that applies to the sort of things you want to do in your career, regarding climate.
Through these interviews, I collected information about projects that made coastal park units more resilient to storm surge, sea-level rise, and other climate change impacts, and then created six fact sheets with detailed information that could potentially help other parks look at what their options are and determine how feasible different projects would be. I wrote a report on my activities and presented it to leadership within my group to highlight what we could do to better support parks’ work in the face of climate change. It was a very helpful experience working with the Park Service because I now have a better understanding of not only how climate change is affecting infrastructure and buildings, but also natural and cultural resources. That exposure and the folks I was able to talk with who expanded my knowledge of climate science and specific impacts that are happening on the ground will be useful going forward in whatever career I end up in.
You started the Carolina Hazards and Resilience Planners group – it’s a listserv, a newsletter and a website, and you planned a Triangle Resilience Student Research Symposium. Can you tell me about how that started and what you hope to do with it in the future?
In my first semester, I got a request to send a resource to “all of the hazards people” – I didn’t really know who those were, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to come up with a way to reach out in a centralized fashion. Lea and I began by collecting email addresses and sending the Triangle Resilience newsletter, which included job postings, events, and articles. The newsletter catalyzed the creation of the Triangle Resilience blog, which served as a repository for newsletter content. Now that I’ve graduated I hope to transfer that to another student – fortunately there are several students in the program who are passionate about hazards, so I’m hoping there will be interest to keep it going.
The newsletter and blog led to the creation of the Carolina Hazards and Resilience Planners (CHRP) group within the Department of City and Regional Planning [at UNC-CH], which serves to give the growing group of students interested in hazards a way to come together and create programming that is helpful to their academic or professional pursuits. We are open to people all across the Triangle, and indeed would love to collaborate with students from local universities or different schools and departments at UNC.
The CHRP group coalesced around an idea for a research symposium – which we held in April – that would provide students from UNC, Duke, and NC State an opportunity to present their research in a low-cost, low-pressure setting. We were also successful in bringing experts from different fields to the Symposium to share their insights on issues related to equity, communicating with local stakeholders on climate change issues in the current political atmosphere, and how to work across silos. These panels and discussions were a great complement to the student presentations.
Going forward, I am abdicating my duties, but have spoken with some current students about how best to move the group forward and ensure that student interests are well represented in our events. Either way, I am hoping that these efforts will continue to bring students, researchers, and practitioners from across the Triangle together and also recognize opportunities to co-host events and highlight resources across a broader audience than just our little student group at UNC.
The primary takeaway I have is an appreciation of just how complex recovery is. Specifically, recovery is a constant tug-of-war between speed and deliberation – it’s something we talked about it a lot in class, but being in it gives you a whole new perspective. We’re constantly having conversations about meeting unmet needs as soon as possible, but also doing so in a way that is responsible as there are broader issues that we need to keep in mind. Thankfully, though, I’ve also learned that there are a lot of passionate and smart people working on recovery issues. While it’s complex coordinating with all of those different partners, it’s also encouraging to know that there are so many people that are trying their best to help these communities in North Carolina.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve been so grateful to have received support from the Department of Homeland Security to pursue my passion for resilience, and look forward to finding a job contributing to the field. Throughout the past two years as a fellow, student and conference participant, I have been amazed by how broad the field is, how interesting and dynamic it is, and how many opportunities exist. Because there are so many areas involved in resilience and hazards, my experiences thus far have taught me that once I find a niche, it will be really important for me to keep that in mind – the idea that, while I might be focused on a specific aspect of resilience, there are hundreds and thousands of people who are working on a wide variety of issues that will have a lot of overlap with what I’m doing, and to not shy away from trying to make those connections and see how we can all work together to make more resilient communities. Lastly, I’ve learned how critically important it is to look at resilience through an equity lens, so I hope to work in a place that values tackling the social justice issues that increase vulnerability.
A former student who was part of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education program has been awarded a prestigious fellowship from the National Sea Grant College Program.
Devon McGhee, a recent master’s degree graduate in environmental management at Duke University, was named one of five North Carolina finalists for the 2018 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. Finalists will head to Washington, D.C., this fall to meet with potential host offices in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. The fellowships are expected to begin in February 2018.
McGhee received a certificate in natural hazards resilience from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is part of a CRC education project led by CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith. She also worked on a CRC-led Hurricane Matthew recovery project, the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative. McGhee’s master’s project focused on effectiveness of buyouts on Staten Island after Superstorm Sandy.
“I was ecstatic to find out I had been selected as a finalist,” McGhee said. “I am looking forward to working on the Hill and learning more about how federal agencies and legislative bodies are, or could be, encouraging coastal resilience.”
Knauss finalists are chosen through a competitive process that includes several rounds of review. Students finishing Masters, Juris Doctor (J.D.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs with a focus and/or interest in marine science, policy or management apply to one of 33 Sea Grant programs.
For more information, see a release from the North Carolina Sea Grant.
For the second year, the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) will facilitate exchanges between students, faculty and research projects as part of its summer programs.
Eight students from the CRC’s education projects will be hosted by principal investigators (PIs) of research projects as part of the SUMmer Research Experience (SUMREX) Program. As part of the program, CRC Education & Workforce Development partners arrange for one or more students to visit the home institution of participating CRC Research PIs for a summer research internship lasting between six and 10 weeks. Key to the program’s success is making the best match between the student interns and the research PIs, so that the students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in a research project.
The program is already showing success: Felix Santiago, a graduate student in Civil Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, was hosted by Dr. Stephen Medeiros at the University of Central Florida and by Dr. Scott Hagen at Louisiana State University in a cooperative effort. He was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and will continue to work with Dr. Hagen at LSU in 2018.
This year’s pairings are:
Sabrina Welch, a PhD candidate in Engineering at Jackson State University, and Diego Delgado, a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, will be hosted first by Dr. Medeiros at the University of Central Florida and later by Dr. Hagen at Louisiana State University.
Two students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Hector J. Colon and Peter Rivera, both undergraduate students in Engineering, will be hosted by Dr. Dan Cox at Oregon State University.
Stephen Kreller, a graduate student in Geography at Louisiana State University, will be hosted by Dr. Brian Blanton at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Three undergraduate students from Tougaloo College will be hosted at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center: Psychology major Courtney Hill (advised by Pam Rubinoff and Donald Robadue), Biology major Rosalie Cisse (advised by Jan Rines and Lucie Maranda) and Biology major Kierra Jones (advised by Tatiana Rynearson and Stephanie Anderson).
Students from three central North Carolina universities – the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), North Carolina State University (NCSU) and Duke University – met last month at a student-organized event to present and discuss issues tied to resilience, particularly in coastal areas.
The Triangle Resilience Student Research Symposium, organized by a student group called the Carolina Hazards and Resilience Planners (CHRP), also brought together researchers from UNC-CH and NCSU, as well as employees from federal agencies. CHRP is a student group started by recent UNC-CH Department of City and Regional Planning graduate Ashton Rohmer, one of three Department of Homeland Security Science & Engineering Workforce Development Grant (WDG) recipients hosted by the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC).
“I was thoroughly impressed with the breadth and quality of the student research projects, and am truly grateful for the valuable insights offered by our panelists,” Rohmer said. “I was especially inspired to see that so many of the presentations and discussions focused on crucial issues related to equity, social vulnerability, and public engagement.
“I hope the event continues in future years as a way to bring researchers and practitioners from the physical and social sciences together – as a way to build Triangle university relationships, highlight student work and address the complexities of professional work in this field, especially given the increasingly challenging political environment and the multitude of climate change impacts we’re seeing.” Read more
Students at Texas A&M University have won awards for their proposed flood protection measures for vulnerable communities identified through a tool developed by a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project.
Graduate student Zixu Qiao and an undergraduate team – Alaina Parker, Molly Morkovsky, Phillip Hammond, Maritza Sanchez and Claudia Pool – were winners of their respective categories for awards determined by the American Society of Landscape Architects – Texas Chapter. The TX-ASLA Honor Awards were announced on April 28, at the group’s annual conference.
The landscape architecture students are advised with Dr. Galen Newman, a co-Principal Investigator on a CRC project led by Dr. Phil Berke. The students used a resilience scorecard that is the focus of Dr. Berke’s project to envision changes to vulnerable League City, Tex. The scorecard, which is under development, is used to help local planners and emergency managers integrate disaster risk into every element of urban development, so that all plans work together.
Dr. Sierra Woodruff, who will graduate this spring from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was recognized for her outstanding PhD work on climate change adaptation planning.
Woodruff received the 2017 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award in Social Sciences from the Graduate School at UNC-CH. Her dissertation was titled “Climate Change Adaptation in the United States.”
While pursuing her Ph.D., Woodruff was a student in a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education program at UNC, agraduate certificate in natural hazards resilience. She served as a Department of Homeland Security Office of University Programs Graduate Student Climate Preparedness Intern in Washington, D.C., in 2014, working with the White House on the President’s national climate change policy. CRC Principal Investigator Dr. Phil Berke and Center Director Dr. Gavin Smith served on her PhD committee. Read more