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REU Site: An Interdisciplinary Program for Climate Change Science in Metropolitan Coastal Communities at Old Dominion University


This project will establish an NSF REU site with a focus on climate change science in large coastal communities within the Department of Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Science (OEAS) at Old Dominion University (ODU). ODU is a public research university (24,600 students) in urban Norfolk, Virginia with vigorous undergraduate and graduate programs in the Ocean and Earth Sciences leading to B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. The OEAS department has 23 regular tenured or tenure-track faculties with strong research and mentoring capabilities across the ocean sciences, climate change and coastal geology. There are at present 52 graduate students in OEAS with typically half in the doctoral track. Over 50% are female and 3 students annually enter the department through the Hall-Bonner Program for Minority Doctoral Scholars. In recognition of the faculty expertise in climate sciences and the campus’s unique geography as a major research university in an urban coastal environment, in 2010 ODU began a Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Initiative (CCSLRI) with an interdisciplinary focus to address the range of challenges to coastal environments across interdisciplinary boundaries. As this initiative has matured, it is an opportune time to build upon departmental research expertise, the interdisciplinary linkages built across the campus for climate sciences, and ongoing regional forums for communication with partners to provide a unique research experience for undergraduate students during an intensive 10 week summer program.

Nature of Student Activities

A comprehensive program of student engagement during the summer has been designed with three major elements. The primary element is to provide undergraduate students with a research experience mentored by research-active faculty scholars. This will allow undergraduate students a range of opportunities across several sub-disciplines in the ocean sciences, climate modeling and (other impact of localized climate change?). The second element is the development of an interdisciplinary educational framework to link their individual projects across the multiple sub-disciplines to the broader issues of climate change and sea level rise that are specific to our urban environment and other coastal metropolitan areas. This will be accomplished by a weekly series of lectures by faculty across the ODU campus who are members of our University-wide climate change and sea level rise initiative. The third element is the need for undergraduates to receive exposure and training in science communication to the public on climate change science and broader community issues. That will be accomplished through a partnership with the Virginia Sea Grant, who has a dedicated staff with expertise in science communication and will organize panel discussions, online training resources, and individualized communication projects for REU fellows to take their experience and translate it to a variety of non-technical audiences