Coming Down from the Hills to Study Sea Level Rise

David Imburgia from the City of Hampton speaks (and gestures!) to Virginia Tech students working to help on the City's resilience plan.

David Imburgia from the City of Hampton speaks (and gestures!) to Virginia Tech students working to help on the City's resilience plan.

Snapshot: University academic programs are starting to make a difference in adaptation work in Virginia through collaborative partnerships with local governments to solve pressing problems.

Backstory: A group of 28 Virginia Tech students (6 graduate and 22 senior undergrads) from a range of disciplines are working in the city of Hampton to help with their city-wide resilience planning. The effort is part of Wetlands Watch's collaborative resilience laboratory, or "Collaboratory," which seeks to partner Virginia's tidal communities with the State's academic institutions that offer community-based learning opportunities (practicums, capstone courses, place-based learning courses, etc.). The goal is to match need with opportunity to advance adaptation implementation in Virginia. Our major partner in this work is Virginia Sea Grant, which has seven university members in Virginia and is eager to help them find a role to play in addressing coastal Virginia's flooding problems.

The effort grew out of our successful work in the Chesterfield Heights neighborhood in Norfolk in which student teams from Old Dominion University (engineering) and Hampton University (architecture) joined forces using an award from Virginia Sea Grant to design an adaptation plan for that community. Subsequent work with the University of Virginia in the Ingleside neighborhood proved that this approach was useful for both the community and the university students. In both cases the student work resulted in significant implementation grants to the city of Norfolk and its partners.

The Virginia Tech team is led by Geography professor, Dr. Anamaria Bukvic, whose "Climate Change and Social Impact" class was looking for a location on which it could focus its efforts. Wetlands Watch knew of Hampton's work and the significant effort being expended to develop a resilience plan, so we contacted city staff and they quickly found a role for the students to play. Over the course of this semester they will assist in developing approaches for three different communities along Hampton's Chesapeake Bay shoreline.

Wetlands Watch and Virginia Sea Grant are seeking more of these collaborations over the next three years of funding for the Collaboratory. We are also seeking to export this model to other coastal regions.