$3M NSF grant to provide graduate students with training in developing, conducting research on coastal climate change risk, resilience

September 16, 2016

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker recently announced that a research team from Rutgers has been awarded $2,999,055 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop research into the risks of climate change on coastal communities and their resilience to such threats.

“As we approach the fourth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, it is absolutely critical that we do all we can to understand and respond to the real threat that climate change poses to the Jersey Shore and other low-lying communities throughout our state,” said Sen. Menendez.  “This grant will help Rutgers develop cutting edge methods to safeguard our families, fortify our coastal environment, and shelter our economy from the worst impacts of climate change.  I am proud that Rutgers is committed to remaining a leader in climate education and innovation to protect our coastal communities from sea level rise and more frequent and more powerful storms.”

“Given the urgent threat of climate change, federal investments like this are more important than ever in helping researchers find solutions and increase the resiliency of New Jersey’s coastline,” said Sen. Booker.  “This also marks an important step in ensuring Rutgers remains at the forefront of technology and innovation while immersing students deeper into critical STEM fields.  I’m proud to see such a great New Jersey institution as Rutgers serve a lead role in helping address one of the most pressing issues facing our state and our nation.”

The Institute of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences is administering the grant. Professor Robert Kopp in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is the principal investigator, and his co-investigators are Professors Rebecca Jordan in the Department of Human Ecology, Clinton Andrews from the Bloustein School, and Jie Gong in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; as well as Lisa Auermuller in the Jaques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve.

This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) will prepare the workforce that will build coastal resilience in the face of climate risks, by training individuals at the MS and PhD levels who conduct research that integrates all the elements of coastal systems, and that communicate effectively with coastal stakeholders in defining research problems, conducting research, and applying research to address real-world resilience challenges.  The project anticipates training approximately one hundred (100) MS and PhD students, including twenty (20) funded trainees, from the Earth system sciences, social sciences, and engineering.

The NRT Program is designed to encourage the development and implementation of bold, new potentially transformative models for STEM graduate education training.  The Traineeship Track is dedicated to effective training of STEM graduate students in high priority interdisciplinary research areas, through the comprehensive traineeship model that is innovative, evidence-based, and aligned with changing workforce and research needs.

About four million Americans currently live within one meter above the high tide line, and 23 million live within six meters.  In many parts of the country, sea-level rise between 1960 and 2010 (about 8 cm in the global mean) has already led to a two- to five-fold increase in the rate of “nuisance” flooding, and rising seas are making extreme floods more likely.  Further amplifying coastal flood risk, intense hurricanes may become more frequent in a warming world; while frequent heat, humidity and precipitation extremes provide additional stresses to societies, economies, and ecosystems.

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