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URI joins grant-funded group focused on coastal resilience

Posted on August 21, 2023

The University of Rhode Island will be a part of a group of 21 scientists from across six colleges that are looking to develop a coastal resilience hub in New England.

The schools participating in the research are Brown University, URI, Rhode Island College, the University of New Hampshire, Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems.

Grant funding begins in September. The project is being funded through a $6 million National Science Foundation Grant. It runs over the course of five years — with the fifth year acting as a no-cost extension.

The project’s Executive Director, Sarah Lummis, and Brown’s Emanuele Di Lorenzo, a professor of Department of Earth, Environment and Planetary Sciences, will lead the charge.

Lummis said the grant runs out of Brown, but URI acts as one of the official subcontractor and key collaborators.

URI also works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence Projects at the University of North Carolina.

The intention of the grant is to fund a solution that combats sea level rise, and work that is community driven. This includes speaking with affected communities and tailor research to their concerns.

“This grant feels timely,” Lummis said. “In Rhode Island, specifically, there are coastal communities that are experiencing impacts from climate change … It’s something that already feels necessary and something that’s impacting communities already. It’s something that we’re hoping to steer away from effects being too extreme.”

The project will center around the ports of Providence and Galilee, as well as ports out of state — in Rockland and Bath, Maine.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coastal communities across the country continue to frequently experience flooding fueled by high tide. This is forcing some residents to deal with flooded, shorelines and streets.

NOAA is concerned that regions such as the Northeast Atlantic could see increased flooding, moving forward.

The agency hypothesizes that high-tide flooding on a nation scale will occur between 45 and 70 days per year, by 2050.

The $6 million grant will fund expansion of the Coastal Hazards Analysis, Modeling, and Prediction (CHAMP) system. The CHAMP system connects high-resolution storm modeling with the impacts and consequences experienced on the ground. This helps users identify resilience challenges.

The grant will support team efforts with other institutions to develop and provide services to waterfronts and build up the coastal scientists and practitioners of the future.

Austin Becker, URI Associate Professor and Chair of Marine Affairs, said coastal resilience is a challenge — with primary threats being sea level rise, ocean storms, excessive heat, and extreme precipitation events. He added, URI’s involvement will be an opportunity to apply the work it has been doing for decades. Research will include a look into storm effects on critical infrastructure and human health impacts from climate change.

“URI is a leader certainly in the state and the region,” Becker said. “And I think this is a real opportunity for us to bring some of our strengths at the university together with the strength of these other fabulous institutions in New England.”


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