Coastal Resilience Blog

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

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HazNerds offers interdisciplinary gathering space for students

HazNerds logo

By Olivia Vilá, North Carolina State University

Once a week for the first semester of my PhD program, I would commute from Raleigh to Chapel Hill and back on the public bus, since I didn’t have a car, to be able to attend Dr. Gavin Smith’s Planning for Natural Hazards and Climate Change Adaptation course at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The return journeys were especially long and tiresome, since the express route had stopped running by the time class ended. Despite arriving home physically exhausted, often after 11 p.m., I always walked through the door feeling mentally energized and inspired. This was because I had spent the evening learning about natural hazards and disasters, not just from Dr. Smith, but from dozens of graduate students from diverse academic backgrounds, including planning, law, economics, anthropology and geography.  Class discussions were impossibly rich as a result of the many perspectives represented in the class, and often illuminated the complexity of the issues being discussed. Our dialogues were true interdisciplinary experiences that planted the seeds for HazNerds, a graduate student group at North Carolina State University (NCSU) for students interested in hazards and disasters.

Olivia Vila

Vilá

The need for a hazard student group was particularly prevalent at NCSU, where graduate students from across the university do hazards-related research but can be disconnected from those who shared similar interests and goals. I began to understand the broad spectrum of graduate students engaging in this type of research when I started working on an interdisciplinary disaster recovery research project after Hurricane Florence in 2018. Not only did I begin to realize there were other “hazard nerds” like me, I was suddenly working side by side with them. At this point, I began to acknowledge a support gap for students like myself.  Although my department, the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, has a great support system for their graduate students, the resources and opportunities they provide to graduate students are, understandably, not tailored to the needs of those engaging in hazard and disaster-related work. This same gap was felt by many other graduate students across many departments on campus. At the time, I relied on resources and opportunities relayed by The Natural Hazards Center (NHC) at the University of Colorado. While they are an excellent resource, my interactions with the NHC felt distant, considering they were nearly 2,000 away and only accessible digitally. Continue reading

CRC students engage with leaders at RISE conference

CRC funded five students to attend the 2019 RISE conference at the University of Albany. From left: Emily Gvino, Alex Halloway, UNC faculty member Dr. Shaleen Miller. Siri Nallaparaju, Keijing Zhou and Sarah Lipuma. Photo submitted.

CRC funded five students to attend the 2019 RISE conference at the University of Albany. From left: Emily Gvino, Alex Halloway, UNC faculty member Dr. Shaleen Miller, Siri Nallaparaju, Kejing Zhou and Sarah Lipuma. Photo submitted.

By Emily Gvino, Kejing Zhou, Siri Nallaparaju, Sarah Lipuma and Alex Halloway

 On Nov. 17-20, 2019, the Coastal Resilience Center sponsored five students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University to travel to New York for the University at Albany’s 2019 RISE conference. The conference’s theme centered on university engagement in pre- and post-disaster environments, specifically in the context of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico. Students attended panels and plenary talks on preparedness, response, and recovery, while networking with practitioners and researchers.

We were inspired by the words of Cecilio Ortiz Garcia, RISE Co-Chair, who said, “You don’t create resilience – resilience is already there in the community.” We have written our collective insights from this experience below.

Public health preparedness and recovery from natural disasters: Public health’s impact after hurricanes and natural disasters

By Emily Gvino (UNC-CH Master of Public Health and Master of City and Regional Planning Candidate, 2021)

The RISE Conference allowed opportunities to explore the research of various aspects of natural disasters, including public health perspectives. Miguel Cruz, the Senior Emergency Operations Officer (CDC/NCEH/EM), led the incident response team coordination through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Puerto Rico Department of Health. This team was deployed for hurricanes Irma and María, and was responsible for general public health, health communications, epidemiological assessments and restoration of services, including healthcare facility assessment following the CASPER model for immediate health concerns. One of the most stirring moments was when Cruz described the deficiencies in the response efforts from other locations and organizations seeking to help the island. This was one of many ways in which the panel identified improvements that need to be made to university-led response efforts.

“We asked for assets and resources,” Cruz said. “They sent us people who don’t speak Spanish.” Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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:

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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:

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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

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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:

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