The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) awarded the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio $2,936,000 in research funds for their project, “Inland from the Coast: A Multi-Scalar Approach to Regional Climate Change Responses.”
Led by Associate Professor Jeff Carney in the LSU School of Architecture, the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio, or CSS, is a university-based research, design, and outreach organization that brings together disciplines that frequently work separately to intensively study and respond to issues of settlement, coastal restoration, flood protection, and the economy. Their NAS funded research seeks to improve understanding of inland-coastal environmental conditions and vulnerabilities, determine indicators of community health and wellbeing, and develop design and planning best practices for reducing risk and increasing adaptive capacity.
“Risks from sea level rise, land subsidence, and extreme weather are not limited to coastal areas but threaten entire regions from the coast inland,” Carney said. “Helping the Greater Baton Rouge region emerge more resilient from last year’s devastating floods will not only increase local health and wellbeing, but the resulting framework will be applicable to communities across the Gulf Coast and beyond.”
This project brings together faculty from 10 departments at Louisiana Sea Grant, University of New Orleans, and LSU, including CSS, the Center for Coastal Resiliency, the Life Course and Aging Center, and the Center for River Studies. Research findings will be put into practice through local partnerships with professional architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, policy-makers, and community members.
“The LSU Center for River Studies is an ideal spot to lead the modeling efforts on this important project. The combination of our modeling expertise and collaboration with the LSU Center for Coastal Resiliency to integrate coastal surge hydrodynamics in river flood modeling and our location on the Baton Rouge campus will ensure that our research and products are integrated into regional design and used to educate planners, engineers, decision-makers, and the general public,” said project collaborator Clint Willson, LSU Center for River Studies director and the Mike N. Dooley Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.
Gulf Coast communities face a variety of unique environmental stressors stemming from climate change and both natural- and human-caused disasters. In recent years, such events have included floods, droughts, hurricanes, sinking coastal areas, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While adverse events are a major challenge for any community, the degree to which communities effectively respond and recover can differ significantly.
“From previous research in the wake of 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we know that many people who live in coastal Louisiana are incredibly resilient and resourceful. However, resilience in the face of severe weather and its aftermath in the years after catastrophic environmental events is a complex phenomenon. We still have much to learn about the psychosocial variables within communities that have enabled generations to survive and thrive in this dynamic environment,” said project collaborator Katie Cherry, the director of the LSU Life Course and Aging Center and psychology professor.
“We are working with diverse Gulf communities to better understand their capacity to prepare for, withstand, and recover from acute and chronic adversity,” said Brian Quinn, associate vice president of Research-Evaluation-Learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “For too many of us, our prospects for good health are limited by where we live. Whether it is vulnerability to environmental disasters or chronic poverty, we know that the confluence of the diverse factors that impact resilience are closely tied to health equity. Ultimately, we hope to uncover what nurtures resilience in our communities, which is essential to building a Culture of Health. We all benefit when we all have a fair shot to live the healthiest lives possible.”
Visit css.lsu.edu for more information about the Coastal Sustainability Studio.