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21-22 Coastal@VT Seed Grants

Coastal@VT News

Announcing the recipients of the 21-22 Coastal@VT Seed Grants!

June 22, 2021 To increase our institutional capacity in coastal-zone research, extension and engagement, and education, the Center for Coastal Studies  (Coastal@VT) is pleased to announce the projects funded by the Center’s 21-22 Seed Grants.  The goal of the seed grants is to form and foster interdisciplinary groups to address research, extension and engagement, and educational needs to better understand and find innovative solutions for complex contemporary and emerging environmental, societal, security, political, and economic issues in the coastal zone. The four projects funded this year both span a diverse range of coastal issues including community hazard and mitigation strategy messaging, marsh migration decision planning, interdisciplinary research inventory and endangered species tracking and promote interdisciplinary team-building to address these coastal issues. 

The first project is, “Informing Black Communities of Flooding hazards and Mitigation Strategies Using Wireless Alert Technology Policy and Community Networks.” During coastal disasters such as major flooding events, Black communities who live in low lying areas are at great risk to experience physical property damage, injury, or loss of life. This project will develop a better understanding of the experience of Black community members in at risk areas, policy challenges and opportunities in coastal communities, and infrastructure assets which can be leveraged. Leveraging previous partnerships with groups like the Virginia Center for Housing Research, FEMA, Virginia Housing (formally VHDA), and Virginia Organizing the proposal team will collect pilot data to develop proposals for external funding.

Beyond direct research impacts, this project will also strengthen partnerships between the Center of Coastal Studies and community organizations in the Coastal regions which support the development of equitable policies and educational resources for Black communities. The project team includes Coastal@VT affilate Professor Frederick Paige and Graduate Fellow Wendell Grinton from the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Brandy Faulkner, Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies in the Department of Political Science.

The second project is, “Tracking the Last White Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea.” White sharks are among the most widespread, charismatic, and studied ocean predators. However, their conservation status is poor in many ocean sectors. Of all populations, Mediterranean white sharks are the least known and possibly the most endangered. This project proposes an unprecedented expedition in the Mediterranean Sea, where, if successful, white sharks will be filmed and tagged for the first time and important biological and ecological data will be collected. Along with the seed grant funding, this expedition will be partially funded by The Explorers Club and Discovery Channel, which will exclusively film the expedition and produce a documentary. This expedition will start a permanent program for monitoring white sharks in the region with great potential to attract substantial funding for the years to come. For more information about the project please see the VTx story from June 15, 2021: "Virginia Tech professor and Discovery Channel team up on a great white shark research expedition in the Mediterranean." The project team includes Coastal@VT affiliates Assistant Professor Francesco Ferretti, Research Associate Simone Chesi and Graduate Student Jeremy Jenrette from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

The third project is, “Project to Create an Inventory of Interdisciplinary Research in Virginia’s Coastal Zone.” The proposed project involves developing an inventory of social science and interdisciplinary research that has been and is being conducted in Virginia’s Coastal Zone. This study relates first to the research and education pillars of the Center for Coastal Studies by: a) working with students to identify gaps in our understanding of key issues in the Coastal Zone from a social science perspective and b) using this information to ground our research agendas to examine relevant interdisciplinary Coastal Zone issues. The project will also support the third pillar of the Center’s work by engaging state-level stakeholders in discussions about our findings. This will provide insight into issues from multiple perspectives and to advance productive partnerships. The project's ultimate goal is to foster interdisciplinary collaborations that provide a foundation for research directed toward finding innovative solutions to contemporary and emerging issues within the region that are exacerbated by compounding crises such as the current global pandemic. The project team includes Coastal@VT affiliates Professor Liesel Ritchie from the Department of Sociology, and Assistant Professor Sweta Baniya from the Department of English.

The fourth project is, “Marsh Migration onto Virginia’s Eastern Shore Farmlands: Decision Planning for Farmers and Bird Habitat in the Face of Sea Level Rise.”  Virginia’s coastal marshes are being lost to sea level rise (SLR) while simultaneously migrating onto upland habitats, which presents both challenges and opportunities for human and wildlife communities. Coastal marshes provide critical habitat for many declining wildlife species (e.g., American Black Ducks and Saltmarsh Sparrows), and it is not clear whether migrating marshes will provide sufficient and suitable habitat for the persistence of viable populations. Agricultural land will transition to marsh habitat more readily than forests, but such transitions will depend on the actions of farmers who are experiencing saltwater inundation on their land. Thus, maintaining marsh habitat area for at-risk species and increasing the resilience of agricultural practices in the face of SLR is a linked social-ecological problem requiring an interdisciplinary approach by ecologists, social scientists, decision scientists, marsh migration researchers, and agricultural extension experts. 

The project team includes Coastal@VT affiliates Assistant Professor and Assistant Unit Leader Elizabeth Hunter from the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Assistant Professor Ashley Dayer from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, and Assistant Professor Julie Shortridge from the Department of Biological Systems Engineering Dr. Ashley Peele from the Conservation Management Institute and Coastal@VT affiliates Professor Sarah Karpanty from the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Associate Professor Mark Reiter from the Eastern Shore Agricultural Research and Extension Center and Associate Professor Sarah Stamps from the Department of Geosciences.

We are excited to see what interesting results these projects will bring!



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