Coastal Resilience Blog

News and perspectives from the DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence at UNC-Chapel Hill

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Science and Policy: Perspectives and Opportunities

The 2018 AMS Summer Policy Colloquium participants prepare to meet with Congressional staff members.

The 2018 AMS Summer Policy Colloquium participants prepare to meet with Congressional staff members.

By Jessamin Straub

Jessamin Straub is a graduate student in the Marine Sciences Department at UNC-Chapel Hill and part of a CRC education program led by CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith. Straub co-organized a Climate Change and Resilience Symposium last spring and was chosen as a participant in the American Meteorological Society’s Summer Policy Colloquium this summer. She is a CRC Science  and Engineering Workforce Development Grant recipient for the upcoming school year.

Portions of this post originally appeared on the UNdertheC blog.

Last fall semester I was excited to take CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith’s Survey of Natural Hazards and Disasters course. During the course, Dr. Smith brought in many great speakers that enriched our discussions in class and exposed us to new knowledge and opportunities. One of those speakers, Dr. Bill Hooke, spoke of the importance of learning from past natural disasters to improve policies and getting scientists involved in the policy process. When I spoke with Dr. Hooke after class, he encouraged me to apply to the American Meteorological Society’s Summer Policy Colloquium (AMS SPC), to expand on my interests in science policy.

This June I attended the AMS SPC, where I had the opportunity to immerse myself in science policy through discussions with working professionals and hands-on exercises. The goal of the program is to arm scientists with expertise in the policy-making process and to help the scientific community engage with decision-makers. I believe it’s important for scientists to have a seat at the table when policy decisions are made to ensure available scientific knowledge is used to inform policy.

During the colloquium, I had the opportunity to learn about policy basics and how decisions are made, talk with federal officials and congressional staff about the legislative process, and understand current science and policy issues. Daily topics included science diplomacy, public-private partnerships, perspectives on executive leadership, understanding science policy in the Arctic and science advocacy. Approximately 600 scientists have gone through this program in the past 18 years. The program provided me with the opportunity to not only engage with and understand the policy process but also to create unique professional connections, an important component of be involved in science policy.

Throughout this experience I learned the role that science plays in society and how important it is for science and scientists to be engaged in the policy process. Did you know fewer than 3 percent of members of Congress have any background in science or engineering? However, recently there has been growing interest by early career scientists to engage in the policy process, such as through the National Science Policy Network (NSPN). During the Climate Change and Resilience Symposium I co-organized last semester, students were eager to get involved in science policy and recommended future symposia incorporate more aspects of science policy. There is a growing understanding that scientific expertise, critical thinking skills and data-driven decision-making are vital skills for effective policy, as shown by the large number of scientists running for office in 2018.

Beyond being a politician, there are lots of ways for scientists to get involved with policy. As I learned through my time in D.C., scientists interested in policy usually take two different, but complementary, roles – the advocate and the analyst. Although scientists can be cautious and hesitant about how to engage with policy, there are many resources available to help. For anyone interested in getting involved with science policy, I highly recommend looking into various Science & Technology Policy Fellowships. During my time at the Colloquium, I learned the importance and value these Science and Technology Policy Fellowship provide for scientists.

What is a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship?

Jessamin Straub

Jessamin Straub

Science and Technology Policy Fellowship programs provide effective and up-to-date scientific knowledge in government while providing unique experiences to scientists interested in careers involving public use of scientific information. Fellows have the exciting opportunity to contribute to the policymaking process and gain experience with federal decision-making and policy development. The fellowships place scientists either in executive branch agencies, in the offices of an individual member of Congress, or on a committee for one year in Washington, D.C.

Fellows have the opportunity to provide substantial input to public policy, while expanding beyond their research and scientific skills. The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) is an initiative of more than 30 scientific and engineering societies. Each scientific society selects and supports (financially and professionally) scientists and engineers for a one-year fellowship in Washington, DC. These fellowships are typically a pipeline for scientists to gain understanding and skills in policy to either continue in the public policy field, and or use the skills and knowledge they gained, and return to previous professions with a different perspective.

Some examples include:

Why should graduate students be interested in a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship?

  • Check out this helpful video series with AAAS S&T Policy Fellows
  • Gain hands-on policy experience in a challenging and exciting environment
  • Develop a wealth of professional contacts while becoming a member of an influential network of fellows
  • Hone universally useful skills such as adaptability, effective communication, networking and leadership
  • Learn about the scientific funding process (important for securing those highly sought-after competitive grants!)
  • Expand on analytical skills in a different setting
  • Learn about career opportunities outside of academia

Tips/Resources:

 

Funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the primary objective of the Science and Engineering Workforce Development Grant is to ensure that U.S. citizens are trained in homeland security-related science and engineering disciplines in order to maintain U.S. leadership in science and technology, as required by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The grant program provides tuition assistance, stipends, and funding for travel to professional conferences and internships. Grant recipients are expected to actively participate in research projects under the mentorship of a faculty member in the student’s field of study.

CRC certificate students host resilience symposium

Naeema Muhammad, organizing co-director of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (third from right) speaks on the “Rural Disaster Recovery and Hurricane Matthew” panel at the Climate Change and Resilience Symposium on April 20, 2018. The panel also included (from left) Dr. Larry Engel, professor in the UNC Department of Epidemiology; Chuck Flink, professor in Landscape Architecture at NC State University; and Linda Joyner, Mayor Pro Tem of Princeville, N.C.

Naeema Muhammad, organizing co-director of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (third from right) speaks on the “Rural Disaster Recovery and Hurricane Matthew” panel at the Climate Change and Resilience Symposium on April 20, 2018. The panel also included (from left) Dr. Larry Engel, professor in the UNC Department of Epidemiology; Chuck Flink, professor in Landscape Architecture at NC State University; and Linda Joyner, Mayor Pro Tem of Princeville, N.C.

Graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill who are part of a Natural Hazards Resilience Certificate course taught as part of a Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) education project hosted a Climate Change and Resilience Symposium on April 20, 2018. The event included a keynote speaker; two plenary panels focusing on resilience issues; and a student poster contest highlighting local climate-related research.

The student group leading the event, Carolina Hazards and Resilience Planners (CHRP), was formed by students of CRC Director Dr. Gavin Smith who are part of the CRC education project. The event was co-organized by students Christian Kamrath, Margaret Keener and Jessie Straub.

The Symposium was the fusion of the 5th annual Climate Change Symposium (hosted by Carolina Climate Change Scientists) and the 2nd annual Resilience Symposium (hosted by Carolina Hazards & Resilience Planners (CHRP,) also supported by the CRC).

“The event served as a venue for students to present their research, facilitate discussions around climate change and resilience, and connect those across the university involved in Climate Change and Resilience work,” Straub said. “We are excited about the success of this year’s event and look forward to enhancing the event next year and fostering a Climate Change and Resilience Triangle community with collaboration from UNC, Duke and N.C. State.”

The keynote speaker was Dr. Susan White, Executive Director of North Carolina Sea Grant, North Carolina Space Grant and UNC Water Resources Research Institute, who spoke about building resiliency through bridging science and society. Two panels of experts discussed “Climate Change Communication” and “Rural Disaster Recovery and Hurricane Matthew.” The latter panel focused on communities impacted by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 that are the focus of the Hurricane Matthew Recovery & Resilience Initiative.

Susan White of the North Carolina Sea Grant was the keynote speaker at the Climate Change and Resilience Symposium.

Susan White of the North Carolina Sea Grant was the keynote speaker at the Climate Change and Resilience Symposium.

Sitting on the “Climate Change Communication” panel were Dr. John Bruno, professor of biology at UNC-Chapel Hill; Dr. Linda Rimer, Liaison for State & Community Resilience for the US EPA (and CRC advisory board member); Dr. David Salvesen, director of the Sustainable Triangle Field Site with the UNC Institute for the Environment; and Dr. Ashley Ward, Climate Integration and Outreach Associate for Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments and UNC Department of Geography.

Participants discussed how to best communicate climate sciences to different audiences through different methods, how to translate results to the public, and the role of scientists and professionals in climate communications.

On the “Rural Disaster Recovery and Hurricane Matthew” panel were Dr. Larry Engel, professor in the UNC Department of Epidemiology; Chuck Flink, professor in Landscape Architecture at NC State University; Linda Joyner, Mayor Pro Tem of Princeville, N.C.; and Naeema Muhammad, organizing co-director of North Carolina Environmental Justice Network.

Participants discussed the challenges faced by small towns and rural areas in recovering from Matthew, the exacerbation of rural areas’ challenges such as population loss from the hurricane, and differing experiences across the state with disaster recovery.

The Symposium was also a chance for undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs and faculty doing research on hazards, resilience and climate change to display and discuss their research through a student poster session. Winners were selected by a panel of judges, with Environmental Sciences & Engineering graduate student Omar Nawaz taking first place for his work on health benefits of decreases in PM2.5 and the ozone in the United States from 1990-2016. Marine Sciences graduate student Molly Bost took second place for her poster on the timescale of storm bed preservation in estuarine middle bay environments from Hurricane Matthew New River, N.C., and Bailey Thomasson won the award for best undergraduate poster for her poster on examining the interactive effects of ocean warming and acidification on the skeletal morphology of two Caribbean reef-building corals.

About the certificate program

The Natural Hazards Resilience Certificate Program, offered by the Coastal Resilience Center (CRC) in partnership with the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC (DCRP), is a graduate certificate program focused on the study of natural hazards resilience.

The classes include “Planning for Natural Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation” (fall), “Survey of Natural Hazards and Disasters” (spring) and a “Natural Hazards Resilience Speaker Series” (spring).

The Links: March 2018

CRC, RENCI and federal partners recently released a report, “Rethinking Floods Analytics,” from last fall’s Flood Analytics Colloquium. Read the report on the CRC website.

 

Website news/blog posts/publications:

CRC Researchers in the News:

Good reading:

The Links: February 2018

CRC staff, researchers, advisory board, federal reviewers and guests gathered for the 3rd PI meeting from Feb. 28-March 1, 2018.

CRC staff, researchers, advisory board, federal reviewers and guests gathered for the 3rd PI meeting from Feb. 28-March 1, 2018.

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

Website news/blog posts/publications:

CRC Researchers in the News:

Good reading:

Responding to community needs: Hurricane Matthew recovery and resilience in eastern North Carolina

By Jessica Southwell

This post originally appeared on the UNC Institute for the Environment blog.

Jessica Southwell is Project Manager for the Hurricane Matthew Disaster Recovery and Resilience Initiative, and coordinates work in six communities in eastern North Carolina impacted by Hurricane Matthew.

The Hurricane Matthew Recovery and Resilience Initiative is led by the Center for Natural Hazards Resilience at UNC-Chapel Hill, which also leads the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence. The Initiative was started in early 2017 to address recovery concerns in six North Carolina communities.

A few months ago, local partners in Hurricane Matthew recovery sat at a six-top table at a diner in Kinston, N.C. We had spent the morning walking through the logistics for hosting an AmeriCorps team that would soon be in town, meeting just a few weeks following the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Matthew.

Our discussion soon turned to what it was like those first few days after the storm. Many discussed watching the river rise from their various posts in town, even in the days following Matthew when the sky had turned blue after dumping inches upon inches of rain on already drenched soil.

Everyone around the table had been through this before. When Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina in 1999, residents believed the 500-year flood would be the only one they witnessed in a lifetime. Just 17 years later, in October 2016, the same residents were experiencing it again. Now, more than a year after Matthew, the topic of hurricane recovery in Kinston, and in communities across Eastern North Carolina, is still a regular, if not daily, part of the local conversation. Continue reading

The Links: January 2018

An ADCIRC mesh of the North Carolina and Virginia region is shown.

An ADCIRC mesh of the North Carolina and Virginia region is shown.

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

Website news/blog posts/publications:

2018 Natural Hazards Resilience Speakers Series

Event: ‘Rising’ exhibition opening

CRC Researchers in the News:

Good reading:

The Links: December 2017

CRC PI Dr. Ginis and his collaborators combine data from hurricanes that have had severe impacts on Rhode Island in the past with hypothetical worst-case scenarios to simulate Hurricane Rhody. See more in our story from December.

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

Website news/blog posts/publications:

CRC in the News:

Good reading:

The Links: November 2017

Image from the Princeville Community Design Workshop, held in August. More information from the event, including photos, is in the links below.

Image from the Princeville Community Design Workshop, held in August. More information from the event, including photos, is in the links below.

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

To read about Center experts discussing hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, visit our Hurricane Season 2017 Information page. To read additional Hurricane Matthew recovery news, visit our Hurricane Matthew page.

Website news/blog posts/publications:

CRC in the News:

Good reading:

The Links: October 2017

CRC PI Dr. Ismael Pagan-Trinidad took photos from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. More photos are at http://ow.ly/wdRr30gjzq6.

CRC PI Dr. Ismael Pagan-Trinidad took photos from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. More photos are at http://ow.ly/wdRr30gjzq6.

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

To read about Center experts discussing hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, visit our Hurricane Season 2017 Information page. To read additional Hurricane Matthew recovery news, visit our Hurricane Matthew page.

Website news/blog posts/publications:

CRC in the News:

The Links: September 2017

The Links is a monthly roundup of articles from the Center, good reading and job links that have been posted on our website and social media in the last month.

To read about Center experts discussing hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, visit our Hurricane Season 2017 Information page. To read additional Hurricane Matthew recovery news, visit our Hurricane Matthew page.

Matrix McDaniel, far right, is a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District Power Team currently working in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to aid recovery from Hurricane Irma. Photo submitted.

Matrix McDaniel, far right, is a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District Power Team currently working in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to aid recovery from Hurricane Irma. Photo submitted.

Website news/blog posts/publications:

CRC in the news:

Continue reading

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