Press releases


Climate change and sea level rise are 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 species extinction rates and the fundamental changes in the physiology of the Earth's life-support system (including, but not limited to changes in the flows in the global cycles of energy, nitrogen, phosphorous, carbon, water, and plastics) pose equally important challenges to the sustainability of the global human society and even the sustainability of the planetary life-support system. MARI at Old Dominion University is therefore taking a comprehensive view on the syndrome of modern global change and is focusing on the options we have to mitigate the impacts of modern global change, to adapt to the changes, and to prepare for possible futures. Read more ...

MARI Mission Statement

Our Mission: To convene societal agents and faculty to inform and facilitate transformations towards sustainability and in preparation of deep adaptation and to further our understanding of the challenges posed by recent rapid changes, including land use changes, biodiversity loss and extinction, climate change and sea level rise, and the impacts on the Earth's life support system; ... Read the full mission statement ...

The MARI Case Study Template

MARI has developed a template for case studies of wicked problems associated with aspects of the syndrome of modern global change and sustainability. This template takes a transdisciplinary approach to the system representing the wicked problem. Utilizing participatory modeling it aims for a common understanding of desirable futures and the development of a conceptual model that captures all aspects of the system's inherent vulnerabilities and the hazards and threats the system is exposed to. Using the conceptual model to develop different levels of stock-and-flow and agent-based models, the template utilizes simulation to explore the spectrum of possible futures of the system and to develop foresight. Analizing the decision space and social agents in this space, a set of viable options can be developed for interventions that would divert the system's trajectory towards desirable futures. This MARI template has been used in more than seventy case studies caried out in undergraduate and graduate research projects.

The MARI Case Study Template is used in a number of classes mandatory for the Conservation Leadership Minor or the graduate Certificate in Conservation Leadership. The draft video is documenting “Learning through Experience” based on the service learning time of the OEAS/BIOL/IDS 467 and OEAS/BIOL 567 "Sustainability Leadership" class in Puerto Rico in June 2019. Watch the video ...


In 2015, the United Nations agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims towards seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In most countries and internationally, stakeholders at governmental, non-governmental and business levels are actively participating in implementing the 2030 Agenda. MARI is engaged in activities that supports and facilitates such transdisciplinary efforts, with a focus on participatory modeling efforts. MARI also aims to increase the number of ODU faculty supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with collaborative research and there are opportunities for students to engage in activities. Interested faculty and students should contact hpplag at Read more ...

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Strategies to Sustainability

  1. To consume nature’s flows while conserving the stocks (that is, live off the ‘interest’ while conserving natural capital).
  2. To increase society’s stocks (human resources, civil institutions) and limit the flow of materials and energy.


It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”       — Upton Sinclair, in ”I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

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


Leaders for a sustainable future
Engaging Students in Tackling
Wicked Real-World Problems

September 18, 2019, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Elation Brewing, 5104 Colley Avenue, Norfolk, VA.

See the Inside ODU article ...

Right: Anthony DeSocio, a student in the 2019 cohort, talked with Hans-Peter Plag about the importance of meeting stakeholders in the real world. Eddie Hill and Tatyana Lobova are also on the stage.

Hans-Peter Plag, Eddie Hill, and Tatyana Lobova gave an overview of ODU's collaboration with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which has resulted in an undergraduate and graduate program in "Conservation Leadership." Among others, the service learning projects that include case studies of ecosystems under climate change and human pressure in Florida and Puerto Rico were discussed. Students also joined the faculty on stage and commented on the understanding they gained in the program of the grant challenges humanity is facing, the value the program has for their professional career, and the impacts the program had on their world view and plans for their own lives.

Most sustainability and conservation-related issues present wicked problems to society, with each problem being unique, involving many stakeholders with different perceptions of the problem, and with no set of solutions. Often time is running out, those who want to solve the problem are part of it, and the future is discounted. Utilizing a transdisciplinary approach to case studies of wicked real-world problems, the Conservation Leadership program provides a "learning by experience" for the students with major impacts on their world views and life plans.

The audience engaged in a dialog with the presenters about how this program can be broadened, and the presenters pointed out that they are inclusive and invite faculty from all disciplines to engaged in this transdisciplinary program that is complementary to the many important disciplinary programs at ODU.


[2020/01/11] Plag: Modern Climate Change: A Result and Determinat of Global Order. Invited presentation at the meeting of the World Affairs Council for Greater Hampton Roads, January 11, 2020, Virginia Beach (pptx).

[2019/07/17] Plag: Understanding and Adapting to Modern Climate Change and Sea Level Rise. Invited keynote, Mid Atlantic Biosolids Association 2019 Summer Symposium, July 17-18, 2019, Iselin, New Jersey (pptx)

[2019/01/17] Plag: Lecture at the Institute for Learning in Retirement, Virginia Beach on “The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (pptx).

[2018/11/2 ] Plag: Presentation at the workshop held in Brest, France, on November 26-27, 2018 on “Plastics: A rapidly growing global challenge for Earth's life-support system and humanity” (pdf).

[2018/11/08] Plag: Presentation at the workshop on “Grand Challenges in Geodesy”, East Lansing, November 8-9, 2018 on “Will the Global population Have Enough Water to Sustain Itself?” (pdf).

[2018/10/18] Plag: Lecture at the Institute for Learning in Retirement, Virginia Beach on “Modern Climate Change: A Symptom of Humanity's Evolution into a Growth-Addicted Industrialized Civilization” (pptx).

[2018/01/18] Plag: Presentation at the workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean” on “Gaps in Ocean-Related Knowledge, Products, and Observations” (pdf).


In his Summer 2018 column, the MARI Director asks “Can we change our priorities to reduce the mounting threats to the ocean?” Read the column ...

The Spring 2018 column identifies “Modern Climate Change — A Symptom of a Single-Species High-Energy Pulse.” Read the column ...

See all the contributions to the “On the Edge” ...


Resilence or Adaptation, that is the question: Kythreotis and Bristow (2016) find that in U.K. city-regions “the discourse of adaptation is giving way to resilience. This is explained by the value of resilience as a discursive construct in mobilizing and coordinating policy actions. Resilience has greater appeal as a framing device over adaptation to such actors given its potential to enable buy-in from a wider city-regional governance network.” As a result, cities fall into the 'Resilience Trap,' by “adopting short-term strategies, re-badging existing strategies and widening governance networks that obfuscate sub-national mobilization around adaptation.”

At the Opening of COP 24, David Attenborough warned of the collapse of civilization due to unprecedented climate change. Read the NPR and/or PRI stories about his remarkable speech.

Read Paul Krugman's Nov. 26, 2018 opinion piece on the depravity of climate-change denial published in the New York Times, where he reasons that those who deny the potentially civilization-threatening modern climate change and provide false information about it to the public are bad people.

Read the statement of 60 writers, politicians and academics on climate change conversations in The Guardian, who state that “We are no longer willing to lend our credibility to debates over whether or not climate change is real. It is real. We need to act now or the consequences will be catastrophic.”

August 1, 2018 was Earth Overhoot Day. Read more, for example, in the Huffington Post ...

See ten books about climate change that many should read here ...

Getting the Picture: A Climate Education Resource ...

See the quotes on climate change compiled at ...

August 2, 2017 was Earth Overshoot Day. Read more here ...


[2019/5/1] CURE Project "Research in Case Studies of Real-World Problems in Conservation Leadership": This CURE project will implement a web-based tool for the MARI Case Study Template guiding students in their research of real-world wicked problems through all steps. The resulting web-based tool will be used for the first time in the Summer 2019 class BIOL/IDS/OEAS 467 "Sustainable Leadership" for a case study of water management in Puerto Rico and the impacts of this on freshwater ecosystems. Read more ...

[2019/3/10] Impact Learning Community "Leaders for a Sustainable Future": The Fall 2019 466W class and the Spring 2020 467 class have been selected as an Impact Learning Community (ILC) under the title "Leaders for a Sustainable Future". More information is available on the ILC Communities page. Read more ...

[2019/2/21] New course on Modeling, Simulation and Visualization: The graduate course GRAD 658 on Participatory and Agent-Based Modeling, Simulation and Visualization will be taught the first time in the Fall term of 2019. It will be regularly taught in the Fall terms. Many societal challenges are "wicked problems," i.e., social or cultural problems that are difficult or impossible to solve. The class will introduce the students to the theory of wicked problems, engage them in transdisciplinary approaches to address such problems using collaborative strategies such as participatory modeling combined with conceptual and agent-based models. Scenario-based simulations and visualizations will be used to explore possible futures and to create foresight related to wicked problems.

New course on Sustainability Leadership: The IDS/BIOL/OEAS 467 Sustainability Leadership Course was taught in the first of the 2017 and 2018 Summer sessions. It will be regulary taught together with the graduate version BIOL/OEAS 567. From 2020 Spring, it will be taught in the Spring term. 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 takes a transdisciplinary problem-motivated and solution-focused approach to the wicked problems in sustainability science. The course includes service-learning projects, in which students worked in small groups on developing solutions for real-world wicked problems from a leadership point of view. The projects included mandatory one-week work periods in Florida. The course is a core course for the interdisciplinary minor in Conservation Leadership.

Interdisciplinary IDS/BIOL/OEAS 466 Course on Mitigation and Adaptation Studies. The course was taught in Fall 2016 and Springs 2017 and 2018. Since Spring 2018, it is a 'W' course. It is being taught together with a graduate version BIOL/OEAS 566. Beginning in 2019, it will be regularly taught in the Fall term. The course gives an introduction to the science underpinning mitigation of human-induced changes in the Earth system, including but not limited to climate change, sea level rise, and land use, and discusses 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 interdisciplinary minor in Conservation Leadership.

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.

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.


Toward Sustainability Literacy: MARI supports the efforts made by the Inititaive of the International Centre for Earth Simulation (ICES), which “is aimed at bringing Earth Sustainability Literacy elements of the Foundation’s program to the worldwide system of high schoolers and schools. In so doing, it hopes to encourage good planetary stewardship and improved public health, safety and wellbeing through student learning and engagement” There are opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to engage in activities supporting these efforts. Interested students should contact hpplag at for more information.

Orientation Workshop for Interns in Conservation Leadership: On June 28-29, 2018, an orientation workshop is held for the 2018 students, who will complete their Minor in Conservation Leadership with an internship at a facility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at the First Landing State Park or the Elizabeth River Project. The workshop covers a wide range of topics introducing work ethics and rules at federal and state agencies and NGOs to practical details on how to interact with stakeholders in the public and career perspectives.

Service Learning and Sustainability Leadership 2018: As part of the Sustainability Leadership class taught in Summer 2018, the students carried out three service learning projects for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Everglades National Park in the area of the Florida Bay near Key Largo. The students researched the impact of human pressure, sea level rise, and climate change on the American crocodile with main focus on Joe Bay and developed adaptation strategies to ensure a future of the American crocidile in a rapidly changing coastal environment. 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.

Supporting The British Virgin Island in Hurricane Recovery: During the workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the SDGs in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean”, which was organized as part of a NASA grant to ODU in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in January 2018, a workshop delegation was invited by Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to participate in the handing over of a first of 3,000 soursop trees the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is providing to the British Virgin Island in support of hurricane recovery. Read the Inside ODU article ...


  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in collaboration with other organizations is arganizing a "State of the Bay Panel Discussion" on September 4, 2019 at 6:30 PM at the Virginia Aquarium. For registration, see here ...
  • The Fall 2019 CCPO and ODU Resilience Collaborative Seminar Series on Mondays at 3:30 PM has a number of presentations of relevance to resilience and sustainability. Here is the program. For up-to-date information see the Seminar Program ...
  • For meetings of the Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum, see the dedicated web page at
  • Plastics and Ocean: MARI supports the development of an international inititative addressing the growing challenge of plastics and microplastics in the ocean. The next event is a Town Hall meeting at Oceans 2019 in Seattle on October 29, 2019. As a first step, MARI engaged in organzing a workshop on “Technologies for Observing and Monitoring Plastics in the Oceans,” which was held on Nov. 26-27, 2018 in Brest, France. The MARI director gave an overview of the challenge.
  • Role of the Ocean for SDGs: MARI is engaged in the development of a White Paper on the role of the ocean for the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) in Caribbean Small Island Developing States. A workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean” was organized under the lead of MARI and took place on January 17-19, 2018 in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


  • The documentary "The Anthropocene: The Human Epoch" is shown at the in Norfolk: "A stunning sensory experience and cinematic meditation on humanity’s massive reengineering of the planet, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is a years-in-the-making feature documentary from the award-winning team behind Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013) and narrated by Alicia Vikander. The film follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group who, after nearly 10 years of research, argue that the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth. (87 mins)"

  • James Balog on October 24, 2018 in Virginia Beach
  • Dr. Elizabeth Brake: Why Price Gouging is Immoral: Recovering from Disasters: The Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs at Old Dominion University organized a lecture by Dr. Elizabeth Brake on “Why Price Gouging is Immoral: Recovering from Disaster” on October 17th at 5:30 pm. The lecture took place in Batten Arts and Letters room number 1012.
    There seems to be something intuitively wrong with price gouging. Even its name, “price gouging,” suggests that there is something problematic about it. Defenders argue that price gouging benefits the vulnerable by increasing supply of scarce necessities; in response, it has been criticized as exploitative, inequitable, and vicious. Dr. Brake showed that price gouging is not defensible, but not for the reasons people typically think. She argued that price gouging violates a duty of easy rescue, and it would do so even were it equitable and not exploitative.
    This event was co-sponsored by ODU's Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute.
  • CoPe Scoping Workshop: The CoPe program organized three Workshops with the goal “to imagine Coastal Research Hubs, structured using a convergent science approach, at the nexus between coastal sustainability, human dimensions, and coastal processes to transform understanding of interactions among natural, human-built, and social systems in coastal populated environments.” The workshops took place in parallel on September 26-28, 2018 in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Diego.
  • 4th Blue Planet Symposium: The 4th Blue Planet Symposium organized be the GEO Blue Planet Initiative was held on July 4-6, 2018 in Toulouse, France. Find out more ...
  • The Role of the Ocean for SDG Implementation and Monitoring: A workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the SDGs in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean” was organized in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in January 2018. For more information, see the Workshop and Project Web Page. The workshop brought together 42 participants from seventeen countries represetning a broad range of stakeholders from governments, government agencies, regional and international NGOs and UN agencies, businesses and academica in an effort to identify and articulate knowledge needs for the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs in Caribbean Small Island States (SIDS) and matching those needs to knowledge, tools, and data. In collaboration with Hon. Minister Saboto Caesar, MARI is taking the lead in follow-up activities to fully develop and implement the geo-space for SDGs in SIDS. Read the Workshop report ...
  • Humboldt Foundation Fellow talked about Adaptation around the Baltic Sea On November 3, 2017, Prof. Dr. Gerald Schernewski (read more) talked at ODU about “Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Region: Consequences for coastal areas and adaptation examples.” The abstract is available here. The event was organized by the Alumni Council of the American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and MARI at Old Dominion University.
  • For more past events, see here ...