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Our Mission: To convene stakeholders and faculty to further our understanding of the long-term challenge of global change, including climate change, the causes, and the impacts on the Earth's life support system; to characterize the vulnerability of human communities to these impacts; to develop foresight for the range of possible futures we might be exposed to; to create the practice-relevant and applicable knowledge that could inform societal decisions for mitigation and adaptation; and to develop options for the fundamental systemic changes that are needed to address the causes of global change and adapt to the long-term impacts. To achieve this mission, MARI facilitates the co-design of a research agenda that focuses on the fundamental causes, consequences, and adaptation options for global change, co-develops an education and training program that prepares the current and future workforce for coping with the challenges in all sectors of society, and moderates deliberations with stakeholder aiming at developing societally viable long-term sustainable adaptation option.


Climate change and sea level rise is increasingly on the agenda of the public, the media, and decision makers in the public, private and social sectors of society. Focus is almost solely on the hazards and the potential disasters we might be facing. However, other changes such as the rapid increase of the species extinction rate and the fundamental changes to the nitrogene and Phosphorous cycles pose equally important challenges to the sustainability of the global human society. MARI at Old Dominion University is therefore taking a comprehensive view on global change and is focusing on the solutions, the options we have to mitigate the impacts of global change, and to adapt to the changes.

To develop the practice-relevant solutions, MARI engages in research that produces the practice-relevant knowledge needed to cope with the impacts of global change, including climate change and sea level rise, with a focus on the coastal zone and the urban coast in particular. In doing so, MARI responds to the knowledge needs of a wide range of community stakeholders, including government, military, private sector, and citizens. The high rate of local sea level rise, the exposure to extreme weather events, and the complex socio-economic structure makes Hampton Roads a natural laboratory for climate change and sea level rise. MARI utilizes this laboratory and works with stakeholders within and outside the region to generate the knowledge that can enable them not only to reduce the negative impacts but also to utilize the opportunities in the changes to come. To ensure that the stakeholders get the knowledge they can apply, MARI works closely with them to ensure a co-creation of practice-relevant knowledge and to support them in the use of this knowledge.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”       James Baldwin.

See the quotes on climate change compiled at ...

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Getting the Picture: A Climate Education Resource ...

As part of the Sustainability Leadership class taught in Summer 2017, the students carried out three service learning projects for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the area of Vero Beach, Florida. The students researched the impact of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems, the considered the effects of climate change on ecosystems in several National Wildlife Refuges, and developed adaptation strategies for turtles and beach mice. The joint report of the three groups is available as pdf. This Service Learning Class is a mandatory course for the Minor in Conservation Leadership ODU offers in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


New course on Sustainability Leadership: The Sustainability Leadership Course was taught in the first of the Summer sessions. Creating a more sustainable society presents a serious challenge and at the same time an enormous opportunity. In this class, students discovered what makes a leader for sustainability. They considered a range of global and local crises from a leadership point of view in the context of sustainability science, which addresses the development of communities in a rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental system-of-systems environment. The course took a problem-motivated and solution-focused approach to the challenges considered. The course included service-learning projects, in which students worked in small groups on developing solutions for real-world problems from a leadership point of view. The projects included a mandatory one-week work period in Florida.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visited ODU to inform students about job and internship opportunities. More than 100 students participated in the event, documenting the broad interest among students in job opportunitys at the FWS and conservation-related education.

New interdisciplinary minor in Conservation Leadership: This interdisciplinary Minor focuses on conservation solutions in the context of our quickly changing planet. A goal of this new program is to develop the next generation of conservation leaders with the ability to critically review underlying paradigms and to initiate paradigm shifts where they are needed in conservation roles, such as in local, state and federal agency and non-profit sectors, to more suitably address the challenges of sea level rise and climate change. The core of this 15 credit minor is built around two courses on Adaptation Studies and Sustainability Leadership. The course on Sustainability Leadership is a service learning course. One additional course is an elective, which can be selected across disciplines to suit a wide-range of conservation interests. An internship is the capstone of this minor. For more information, see here.

Interdisciplinary Course on Mitigation and Adaptation Studies. The course is taught in Spring 2017 the second time. It gives an introduction to the science underpinning mitigation of human-induced changes in the Earth system, including but not limited to climate change and sea level rise, and adaptation to the impacts of these changes. The course covers the environmental hazards and the opportunities and limitations for conservation, mitigation and adaptation. The course is a core course for the new interdisciplinary minor in Conservation Leadership.

In the 2016 Summer term (June 27 — August 6, 2016), the graduate course “Decisions, Biases, and the Creation of Knowledge” studied how personal, community and cultural biases impact the creation of knowlegde and the use of it in decision making.


For meetings of the Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum, see the dedicated web page at

  • Faculty Conference to focus on advancing sustainability pedagogy and leadership: The first Sustainability Curriculum Consortium (SCC) Faculty Conference is scheduled for June 26-27 at the Penn State Center in Philadelphia. This conference focuses on Pedagogy, Content & Leadership for ESD with a mix of panels, workshops, roundtables and facilitated dialogue and an emphasis on peer-to-peer exchange. For details, see announcement ...
  • GEO Blue Planet Symposium in College Park, MD: The 3rd Symposium of the Blue Planet Initiative, Oceans and Society of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) will take place on May 31-June 2, 2017 at the NOAA Facilities in College Park, MD, USA.
  • Achieving Environmental Equity: A community roundtable organized by the Urban Sustainability and Equity Center in Richmond, Virgina on May 1, 2017, 6:00-8:00 PM, will discuss local heat island patterns in the City of Richmond. Registration is available at


  • Fifth GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholder workshop: The 5th GEOSS Science and Technology Stakeholder Workshop on “Linking the Sustainable Development Goals to Earth Observations, Models and Capacity Building” was held on December 9-10, 2016, Berkeley, California, USA. For more information, see
  • Annual Education Seminar of the Virginia Water Environment Association: The Seminar was held on May 12, 2016 in Richmond, Virgina, and it included an opening presentation on “Global and Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: Understanding and Meeting the Challenge from Local to Global Levels” by Hans-Peter Plag. The presentation is available as PDF.
  • For more past events, see here ...


[May 31, 2017] Flood Risk Management: Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide (application/pdf, 52.9 MB) May 24, 2017 The WWF published “Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide”, which introduces an integrated framework for flood management, drawing on policy, green infrastructure and conventional engineering to help communities adapt and better manage growing flood risk. Read the guide ...

[April 21, 2017] Achieving Environmental equity: A community roundtable organized by the Urban Sustainability and Equity Center in Richmond, Virgina on May 1, 2017, 6:00-8:00 PM, will discuss local heat island patterns in the City of Richmond. Registration is available at

[April 20, 2017] Trillions of plastic pieces are polluting the oceans: An article in the New York Times reports that trillions of plastic bits are swept up by currents and are littering Arctic waters. Most of this is coming from the North Atlantic. The consequences for marine ecosystem are likely to be severe.

[February 10, 2017] How to be successful under unfavorable conditions?: In a new column in ApogeoSpatial, Hans-Peter Plag finds that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations came in a world not prepared for them and he addresses the question how they can be successful under these umfavorable conditions.

[February 7, 2017] The crack in Larsen C is growing: A NYT article by Jugel Patel, an ODU student, illustrates the rapid development of the large crack in the Larsen C ice shelf. If the crack continues to grow at current speed, a large paret of the ice shelf will break of in the next few month.

[September 23, 2016] Greenland Ice Sheet is melting faster than previously thought: A study by Khan et al. (2016) published in Science Advances estimates that the mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet is significantly larger than previous estmates. The new estimate uses observations from a GPS network around the ice sheet to compensate for the crustal motion resulting from the mass changes.

[September 9, 2016] Rapid ocean warming may be the greatest hidden challenge of our generation: A new scientific report published by IUCN finds that oceans are taling 93% of the additional heat stored by the planet due to global warming and this is having a severe impact on the marine biosphere. Read the report or Executive Summary. An article in The Guardian comments on the report.

[August 20, 2016] Climate Change Mitigation Through Small Families: Travis Rieder, philospher at John Hopkins University in Baltimore argues for a moral need to have no children or at least small families in order to mitigate climate change and keep the number of people impacted smaller, reports Jennifer Ludden in an article for NPR.

[August 11, 2016] Sea Level Rise Acceleration Could Soon be Detectable: An article in The Guardian by John Abraham discusses a recent Nature paper by John Fasullo et al., which claims that accelerated sea level rise should be detectable in the coming decade.

[August 8, 2016] Wasting Resources May be the Biggest Threat: As reported in an article in The Guardian, The Scottish Environment Agency finds that wasting resources may be the biggest threat for the planet and requires that industry and farmers cut energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and resource use.

[August 8, 2016] Many Countries Need Help for Adaptation to Climate Change: An Op-Ed in the NYT makes that case that many of the poorer countries will need significant help adapting to climate change and points out that the more wealthy countries need to provide this help.

[August 5, 2016] Anthrax activated by unusually high temperatures: As reported in an article by Alec George in The Guardian, unusually high temeratures as high as 95F are the most likely cause of an Anthrax outbreak in northern Russia 75 years after the last outbreak. The outbreak is considered to be linked climate change, which has led to a larger than the global average warming in the Arctic.

[August 4, 2016] Significant Impact of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Real-Estate: George Dvorsky reports in a Gizmodo blog that a study done by the company Zillow using their real estate database shows that on the order of $1 Trillion of U.S. residential real-estate value is at risk of being innundated if sea level rises six feet. For this sea-level rise scenario, they find that 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost and another 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half of their residential real estate.

[July 29, 2016] Positive feedback between warming and Carbon Dioxide release from the biosphere and soils: In an article in The Guardian, Graham Readfearn summarizes the results reported in a new Nature Geoscience publication on the analysis of Antarctic ice cores, which indicate that there is a positive feedback between higher atmospheric temperatures and the amount of carbon dioxide released by the terrestrial biosphere: “for every 1C of warming, the Earth's plants and soils — the “terrestrial biosphere” — will add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere to the tune of about 20 parts per million.”

[July 28, 2016] With a focus on global temperature data: Greg Jericho, an author normally writing about economy, discusses the trends in global temperature and provides interesting graphs in an article in The Guardian ...

[July 27, 2016] “Climate models predict global warming accurately: In an article in The Guardian, John Abraham discusses the results of a recent paper authored by Kevin Trenberth, Lijing Cheng, John Abraham and other, which show that climate models give accurate estimates of the global warming rate, including the acceleration after 1992. The current warming rate is equivalent to 5,400 billion 60-Watt light bulbs running continously. Note: The current rate at which energy is stored in atmosphere and oceans is roughly twenty times the total global energy usage of humanity of 17.5 Terawatt.

[July 27, 2016] “Global Warming Leads to More Global Warming: The global environmental impact of air conditioning is already big and expected to get even bigger, an article in Quarz reports. The article refers to a paper published by L. W. Davis and P. J. Gertler in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

[July 22, 2016] “Cooler Antarctic doesn't mean less sea level rise: A recent paper by Turner et al. published in Nature finds that the air temperature over parts of the Antarctic Peninsula has been degreasing over recent years and that this is caused by variations in the mean wind field. However, the warming ocean could still lead to increased ice melt.

[July 21, 2016] “Costs of Climate Change are projected to rise a lot: As reported in an article published in Quarz, a new study projects that the cost of the rising heat for the global economy could reach $2 trillion by 2030. Most of the costs are associated with outside construction and farmwork not being possible, and the main impact would be felt by the poor and in the developing world.

[July 20, 2016] Rethinking how we live in the coastal zone: ODU professor and director of MARI, Hans-Peter Plag was quoted in an article by Paulette Perhach in the New York Times saying that “living in the coastal zone is extremely important for us. So we need to find a way to live in the coastal zone, but we cannot assume that sea level is stable.”

[July 20, 2016] June 2016 is the 14th months in a row setting a temperature record: Micheal Slezak in The Guardian comments on the June temperature data released by NASA and NOAA, which shows that June 2016 was the hotest June since records began in 1880 and the 14th months in a row of record-setting months. Read the article ...

[July 6, 2016] “Protecting and saving or preparing to leave?: An article by Jon Gertner published today in the New York Times discusses the future of Tangier Island and raises the question whether the United States should make an effort to save the island from sea level rise.

[July 5, 2016] “Guardian US readers express anger about election debate omitting climate change: Ed Pilkington and Mona Chalabi report in an article in the Guardian US on a poll which “revealed anger of voters as election year debate fails to deal with concerns over the gathering global disaster. Asked to identify the “one issue that affects your life you wish the presidential candidates were discussing more,” climate change was the most mentioned issue. However, the 1,385 respondents were strongly skewed towards the Democratic party and supporters of Bernie Sanders.

[July 5, 2016] “Growth of Antarctic sea ice likely to be caused by the IPO?: Chris Mooney discusses in an article a new study by Meehl et al. published in Nature Geosciencesthat finds evidence for the recent growth of the Antarctic sea ice to be caused by a teleconnection with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation.

[June 30, 2016] “Science Groups tell Congress that Climate Change is a Threat: ABC News reports that thirty one of US science organizations sent a letter to Congress emphasizing the threat climate change poses to society. See also the Eurekalert note. The letter is available as pdf. The letter states that “There is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is having broad negative impacts on society, including the global economy, natural resources, and human health. ... The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.

[June 29, 2016] “BREXIT, Climate Change, and the inter-generation theft: An article published yesterday in The Guardian draws a parallel concerning the generation divide in the BREXIT decision and the willingness to address climate change, and concludes that the young generation will have to carry the brunt of the poor decisions being made by today's older generation. A similar parallel may exist concerning the older generation's decisions of how to adapt to sea level rise.

[June 28, 2016] “Human extinction isn't that unlikely: An article published on April 29, 2016 in The Atlantic reports that a study by the Global Challenges Foundation and the Global Priorities Project finds that the risk of human extinction is relatively high. A human being is five times more like to die in an extinction event, such as nuclear war, pandemics, climate change, etc., than in a car crash. Model-based studies indicate that the probability of a large climate shift amounting to a global warming of six to ten degrees Celsius by 2100 excceds 3%, and such a shift would very likely lead to mass extinction including a large fraction of humanity.

[May 17, 2016] “Southern Hemisphere also crosses milestone of 440 ppm in atmospheric carbon dioxide: A communication in The Conversation reports that the atmospheric carbon dioxide content has finally crossed the mark of 400 ppm on the southern hemisphere including Antarctica. The communication projects a continuation of the recent rapid increase towards values that will lead to dangerous increase in global temperature.

[May 16, 2016] “Global temperature continues to rise: NASA just published the temperature data for April 2016, and - as discussed in an article in the Guardian, this April was the hottest April on record globally — and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records.

[May 14, 2016] “Knowlegde must turn into action: In the most recent contribution to the column “On the Edge” in ApoGeo Spatial, Hans-Peter Plag discusses the reasons why the knowledge on global change accummulated by humanity does not turn into action to safeguard the Earth's life-support system.

[May 12, 2016] “Climate change and sea level rise are symptoms, not the "sickness"”: In the opening presentation of the 2016 Educational Seminar of the Virginia Water Environment Association, Hans-Peter Plag of ODU discussed data and evidence that show that the rapid climate change observed in the recent few decades is the result of an economy that does not safeguard Earth's life-support system.

[May 3, 2016] “Vanishing Arctic Sea Ice Accelerates Melting of Greenland Ice Sheet: Recent studies show that the vanishing Arctic sea ice impacts atmospheric circulation and leads to a blocking that accelerates Greenland ice melt. The latest of these papers finds a significant increase of this effect in recent decades. See the article by Chelsea Harvey in the Washington Post for a discussion.

[May 2, 2016] “More evidence for a rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet: A recent study by Schild et al. accepted for publication in Annals of the international glaciological society finds that the processes in the submarine valleys under the Greenland ice sheet are likely going to accelerate the melting of this ice sheet. The study is discussed by Chris Mooney in an article in the Washington Post.

[April 21, 2016] “Sandia Reports provides framework for Resilience assessment: An Editorial in the Virginan Pilot refers to a recent Sandia Report that establishes a framework for resilience assessments using Norfolk as an example. For a limited range of sea level rise scenarios of 0, 1.5 and 3 feet, the report finds costs for the 100-year flood ranging from $354 million to more than $600 million.

[April 19, 2016] “Towards a new Dark Age: In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, William B. Gail explains why we are likely to enter a new dark age, where our knowledge of a changed planet is much less advanced than today. He finds this not a desirable legacy to leave for our children. See the Op-Ed ...