Summer Research Team to build on collaborative summer project work

Two researchers from Norfolk State University (NSU) will continue a second summer of funded collaboration with Old Dominion University (ODU) as part of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) project.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Summer Research Team Program for Minority-Serving Institutions will support continuation of work by Dr. Camellia Okpodu and Dr. Bernadette Holmes, who will work with CRC’s ODU partners, led by Dr. Wie Yusuf this summer. Their original collaboration, from the summer of 2017, focused on the impacts of disasters on minority communities.

The project for this summer, “Advancing Preparedness for Coastal Resilience,” will be a continuation of their 2017 collaboration. The goal of the project is to support research and education initiatives centered on impacts from and opinions toward sea-level rise and other environmental factors by minority populations in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.

The 2017 project, 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,” included five students, three from NSU and two from ODU.

Norfolk State University students Mikel Johnson an Raisa Barrera participated in a summer research team project at Old Dominion University.
Norfolk State University students Mikel Johnson an Raisa Barrera participated in a summer research team project at Old Dominion University.

The Summer Research Team 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.

Dr. Okpodu, Professor of Biology at NSU, led biological and ecological aspects of the project and Dr. Holmes, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at NSU, led the sociological elements of the project of the project in 2017. Read more about the research in this Q&A.

“This summer, my team will participate in engaging in Citizen Science,” Dr. Okpodu said. “We will be supervising undergraduate research projects, and most importantly, canvassing for the continuation of the perception survey research we started as it relates to African Americans in Portsmouth, Va.”

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.

“The partnership in Summer 2017 allowed ODU graduate students to become mentors and experience being part of a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary team,” Dr. Covi said.

The ODU team continues to build on the work from last summer, and this summer Donta Council (a Ph.D. student in public administration and policy) will be doing fieldwork in low- to moderate-income communities in Portsmouth, Va., to study how and why residents in these communities undertake flood risk reduction activities. Council will be working under supervision of Dr. Covi and Dr. Yusuf.

In 2017, 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.

That same summer, 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.

Previous Summer Research Team pairings facilitated by the CRC included the pairing of Dr. Anton Bezuglov and student Reinaldo Santiago Benedict College with CRC PI Dr. Brian Blanton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The researchers studied how to apply neural networks to simulate storm surge.