Training Students to Improve Coastal Resilience

Training Students to Improve Coastal Resilience

Carrie Ferraro (Rutgers University, USA), Rebecca Jordan (Michigan State University, USA), Robert E. Kopp (Rutgers University, USA), Sally L. Bond (The Program Evaluation Group, LLC, USA), Jie Gong (Rutgers University, USA), Clinton J. Andrews (Rutgers University, USA), Lisa M. Auermuller (Rutgers University, USA), Jeanne Herb (Rutgers University, USA) and Janice McDonnell (Rutgers University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2208-0.ch017


Addressing risks posed by changing climate conditions in coastal areas demands innovative strategies that intersect multiple disciplines including engineering, ecology, communication, climate science, and community planning. To be usable, it also requires engaging coastal stakeholders in the development of research questions, the assessment of implications of research for planning and policy, and the communication of research results. Yet traditional, disciplinary programs are poorly configured to train the workforce needed to assess coastal climate risk and to develop and deploy integrated strategies for increasing coastal climate resilience. This chapter discuss the successes and challenges to implementing the Coastal Climate Risk and Resilience (C2R2) Initiative, a transdisciplinary program, at a large university as well as the benefits for the student and faculty participants from evaluation and student learning outcome data.
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Community Engaged Research (CER) is a mechanism to transform scientific results into actionable science (Viswanathan et al., 2004). Actionable science is particularly necessary when dealing with the significant challenges of the 21st-century, including improving the resilience and sustainability of coastal communities in the face of climate change (Levac et al., 2018). Earth’s coasts are home to many valuable ecosystems, as well as much of the planet’s economy and population, with twenty-three million Americans (Strauss et al., 2012) or about 400 million people worldwide (Strauss et al., 2015) living within 6 meters of the high-tide line. Meanwhile, in many parts of the United States, sea-level rise between 1960 and 2010 (about 8 cm in the global mean) has already led to a 2-5-fold increase in the rate of ‘nuisance’ flooding. On top of rising seas, intensifying hurricanes and more frequent extremes of heat, humidity and precipitation pose additional risks to coastal societies, economies, and ecosystems (Emanuel, 2013; Melillo et al., 2014; Houser et al., 2015). Addressing these challenges requires innovations in education and research that expand our ability to navigate an interconnected web of social, economic, planning, and environmental issues through partnerships that enhance well‐being through research and action, including social change.

While there is a great deal of research from multiple disciplines around the impacts of climate change on the coast, for research to be usable, it also requires engaging coastal stakeholders (such as communities, governments at multiple levels, and businesses) in the development of research questions and the communication of research results. Therefore, more work is necessary to ensure that research initiatives cross disciplinary boundaries and integrate community engagement. Improved coordination among researchers, boundary workers (individuals or groups that facilitate dialogue between researchers and various stakeholders), and stakeholders is crucial to assessing future risk and improving coastal community resilience. These community engaged research initiatives, however, tend to be wrought with organizational turnover, poorly aligned priorities, and epistemic barriers (e.g Ahmed et al., 2004; Isreal et al., 2006). Thus, there is a need to develop a workforce with the skills necessary to identify and align priorities and discuss complex science/social science issues. This future workforce must be comprised of leaders in CER and team science who can integrate the interconnected elements of coastal systems, advance innovative, science-based approaches, and inform the thinking of decision-makers, stakeholders, single discipline professionals and others beyond the short-term problems and political discourse towards forward-looking, integrated solution-oriented frameworks.

Traditional, single-disciplinary academic programs centered around specific knowledge gains and methodological outcomes are poorly configured to train the future workforce (both inside and outside of academia) that will address the threat of climate change (NRC, 2009). Community-engaged, interdisciplinary research presents new challenges, however, and guidelines and best practices for how to best prepare graduate students for collaborative team science are currently not available. This lack of educational standards has led the National Research Council (NRC, 2015) to recommend “opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of collaborative research.”

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