UNC Leading New Coastal Resilience Center

The University has been awarded $20 million over five years to lead a new Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence, which includes collaboration with more than a dozen partner universities to address the challenges facing communities across the U.S. that are vulnerable to coastal hazards.

The grant, announced this week, is being awarded by the Office of University Programs within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. The center, which will receive an initial $3 million grant for its first operating year, will conduct research and education that addresses challenges associated with growing coastal vulnerability. Examples include:

  • Developing more accurate storm surge models and timely delivery of accurate predictions of storm surge prior to storm landfall;
  • Assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states and local governments in developing better predictions of coastal hazards and pre-disaster plans;
  • Improving the understanding about why individuals choose to (or choose not to) implement risk-reduction measures at the household level and what risk-reduction measures they employ;
  • Improving the ability to communicate risk to multiple audiences and take action based on that understanding; and
  • Educating the next generation of students, who will become hazards-researchers and practitioners, emphasizing the development of certificate and degree programs in minority-serving educational institutions.

The new center expands on an existing DHS Coastal Hazards Center, co-led by UNC and Jackson State University beginning in 2008. The work done at that center has helped the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on operational decisions during recent hurricanes.

“We have partnerships that range from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes,” said Rick Luettich, the new center’s principal investigator and a marine sciences professor at UNC. “This is like a hub here in North Carolina, and the spokes go out from here to coastal locations across the U.S.”

Gavin Smith, the center’s director and a UNC professor in city and regional planning, said: “The research that we’re getting and some of the knowledge that we’re developing is translating itself into undergraduate and graduate courses. We are educating another generation of students and future scholars that come through the program, preparing them for various careers in the field.”


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