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Mitigation and Adaptation Studies

Course: IDS/BIOL/OEAS 466 (three credits)
Course title: Introduction to Mitigation and Adaptation Studies
Instructors: Dr. Hans-Peter Plag and Dr. Tatyana Lobova
Term: Fall 2016


The projects should be addressed from an adaptation science point of view. Thus, it will be important to address the hazards and vulnerability, to discuss the foresight for future developments, describe the relevant decision making processes and stakeholders engaged in decision making, and to consider options to address the problems through adaptation and/or mitigation.

For more details on how to carry out the project, see the Student Project Page. Only one student can work on a specific topic. Please, select a topic and inform the instructors by e-mail. Topics are assigned based on who communicate the selection of a topic first to the instructors. You are invited to propose your own topic to the instructors.

Topics marked by (*) have already been taken by a student.

  1. Landfills and Sea Level rise: Future sea level rise may inundate the coastal zone over the next centuries. To what extent do the landfills in Hampton Roads (e.g., Mount Trashmore, Lambert's Point) pose a threat already today to the environment and people, and even more so to future generations and ecosystems, and what options should be considered to govern the risk? See as a starting point the Pilot article.
  2. (*) Limiting Energy Usage: A key issue in unsustainability is humanity's exceeding energy usage. It is not only the source of energy that is a problem but even more so the amount of energy used. What are the drivers of energy usage? Is there a need to reduce energy and what are the options for that? What can local stakeholders, such as ODU, do to reduce energy usage?
  3. (*) Preparing the Economy for Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: Climate change is expected to come with more extreme weather-related events are they are expected (and are already today) to interupt supply chains and impact businesses. How can a region like Hampton Roads, where sea level rise will exacerbate this impact, prepare for these trends and ensure the continuity of businesses?
  4. Tourism and Sea Level Rise: Virginia Beach and other communities in Hampton Roads depend economically on tourism. Is sea level rise an issue for this and how could the region prepare for a future with potentially significantly higher sea levels?
  5. (*) Extinction of Species: One of the global boundaries discussed in the course is the extinction rate, which has been crossed significantly. The decline of Eastern songbirds is one aspect of this challenge, which involves forest fragmentation, feral cats, nest parasites, and loss of winter habitat in the tropics as major causes. What could local communities do to address this problem?
  6. (*) Extinction and Food Security: A recent UN report (see e.g. article as a starting point) finds that extinction risk for pollinators is high (40% of food pollinators are at risk) and could threaten food security. Can we expect that the extinction risk is increasing under climate change? What could local communities do to address this problem?
  7. (*) Pollution: The amount of pollution that the Earth's life-support system can tollerate is one of the global boundaries that is hard to quantify. Therefore, it is important to keep pollution at as low a level as possible. Taking the example of the Elizabeth River, which is contaminated with industrial pollution that today is primarily confined to sediments, how is sea level rise and climate change impacting the long-term perspective? What restoration options (e.g., buffer zones, wetlands) should be considered, if any?
  8. Invasive species: Invasive species add to the stress ecosystems experience under climate change and sea level rise. Conservation projects will have to consider this challenge. Discuss the example of (a) purple loosestrife, (b) kudzu, (c) veined rapa whelk, and (d) mute swans.
  9. (*) Chesapeake Bay under climate change and sea level rise: The Chesapeake Bay is facing today a number of issues, for example, the “dead zone” (nutrient pollution); a decline of submerged aquatic vegetation/seagrass due to sedimentation, loss of water clarity (caused partly byoyster decline); changes in aquatic vegetation as important nursery habitat; and the status of of blue crabs (facing overharvesting and loss of quality habitat). How are these challenges developing under climate change and sea level rise and what adaptation is required to govern the risk?
  10. Industrial waste and sea level rise: At the Dominion Virginia Power’s coal-ash storage facility at the Chesapeake Energy Center, a now-closed coal-burning power plant in Chesapeake, Va., about 3 million tons of arsenic-laden coal ash have been deposited for about 60 years ending in late 2014 on a narrow, low-lying peninsula adjacent to the tidal Elizabeth River. The site is partly below sea level and with sea level rise the risk of inundation rapidly increases. What are the potential hazards for acquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and the population? Who are the stakeholders engaged in deciding the future of these deposits? What are the perspectives and what mitigation and adaptation would you propose to stakeholders?