An NSF-funded hub to improve resilience in under-represented communities

Destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 along the Gulf Coast.


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Researchers from Texas A&M University will lead a cluster of five institutions across the country to conduct fundamental research to support holistic decision-making for historically under-represented communities affected by coastal hazards.

Texas A&M’s Focused Coastline and People Research Hub, which will bring together communities, stakeholders and researchers, was created with a nearly $ 4.2 million five-year grant from the National Science Foundation. Along the northern Gulf Coast, communities from Texas to Florida are particularly exposed to coastal hazards, including hurricanes, tsunamis, coastal storm surges, flooding, sea level rise and erosion.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Coastlines and People (CoPe) program, an interdisciplinary research initiative supported by several divisions of the NSF, aims to study the complex interactions between coastal processes, human dynamics and the built environment. These studies require a targeted investment in new, multidisciplinary science that engages various local stakeholders. The CoPe program supports coastal research hubs, which aim to achieve the above objectives by incorporating a convergent scientific approach. The project was also endorsed by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

Maria Koliou, Assistant Professor in Zachry’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M, will be the Principal Investigator of the Focused Coastline and People Research Center.

“Thanks to an integrative research approach, this targeted pole will lead to the development of a framework that will quantify the interdependence between coastal risks, the built environment, geodemography and social and cultural factors, thus allowing decision to minimize the socio-economic impact of coastal hazards for historically under-represented communities, ”she said. “What sets this focused pole apart is that, through basic research, we will build a community digital twin that will enable decision-making for short and long-term resilience actions through a new holistic perspective on diverse communities based on cultural and social aspects. “

In addition to researching various tasks, Koliou will oversee the project schedule, community engagement, and ensure all milestones and deliverables are met.

Through community events, surveys, roundtables and discussion forums, this project will identify critical community needs, priorities and concerns, identify critical issues, collect data and solicit expertise, develop and refine research and will create evaluation metrics.

“This framework will be validated with data collected from tribal communities on the northern Gulf coast and cultural preservation sites through engaged research and experiential exercises to understand, assess, measure and improve resilience”, a- she declared.

There will be five other Texas A&M Co-Principal Investigators: Petros Sideris, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; Siyu Yu, lecturer in landscape architecture and town planning; Anand Puppala, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Jim Kaihatu, professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Michelle Meyer, associate professor of landscape architecture and urban planning and director of the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center.

There will also be four co-PIs from other institutions: Jayur Madhusudan Mehta, assistant professor of anthropology at Florida State University; Stuart Nolan, research assistant / emergency management analyst at the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute at Louisiana State University; Haizhong Wang, associate professor of civil and construction engineering at Oregon State University; and Andres Gonzalez, assistant professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.

“Carrying out scientific research on the resilience of communities is a complex and multidimensional undertaking which relies on the expertise of several disciplines, notably anthropology, archeology, urban planning and engineering principles via community research”, Koliou said.

The team will also work closely with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center, which is part of a federal network of nine centers that work with natural and cultural resource managers to gather scientific information and create the tools needed to help wildlife and ecosystems adapt. to the impacts of climate change.

As part of the grant, an engagement program will also be put in place to support a pipeline for high school students from these underrepresented communities in and through higher education.

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