Many areas in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region are at risk of tidal flooding, extreme rain events, tropical storms,  hurricanes, nor’easters, and sea-level rise.

“The whole area is highly susceptible to coastal flooding due to higher rates of sea-level rise and land subsidence, as well as frequent storms,” said Anamaria Bukvic, research assistant professor in the Department of Geography.

Bukvic developed a new course in fall 2017 that takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of multidimensional aspects of climate change and adaptation. She obtained funding to enable the course’s students, which include both graduate and undergraduate students, to apply classroom knowledge to real-world case studies in the city of Hampton.

In October, Bukvic and the six of her graduate students visited Hampton, where they learned about the historic context, emerging issues related to accelerating coastal flooding, and existing partnerships and efforts to solve the problem.

After meeting with local officials, they visited three communities to learn about specific flood-related challenges facing residents and the importance of scale and context in the efforts to increase resilience and successfully adapt.

Back on campus, graduate student Aaron Updike led the group of undergraduate students who looked specifically at the Fox Hill and Grandview neighborhoods, where many homes have been passed down from generaiton to generation.

“This is the lowest lying community we visited, and people here have been dealing with this for a long time,” Updike explained. “They don’t complain about a couple inches of flooding, but they have problems with main roads flooding and the power substation that’s close to the creek getting flooded and shut down.

Graduate student Zoe Schmitt led the group of students working on the Buckroe Beach and Salt Ponds neighborhoods, which are closer to the coast and include a popular public beach and fishing pier.

"We want to provide solutions that can be implemented on different levels, from individual households all the way to regional strategies,” Schmitt said.

The student groups worked throughout the semester to developed recommendations to promote resiliency and mitigate the negative effects of flooding in each community. The graduate students retured to Hampton in December to present their recommendations to city officials and other stakeholders.

Examples included the implementation of a flag system to warn drivers when roads are fully or partially submerged and adding solar panels to nearby playgrounds and recreational facilities to help residents deal with power shortages.

“The officials seemed to appreciate the fresh perspective. They liked the level of optimism the students brought to their resilience strategies, and the fact that they connected them to other community development goals” Bukvic said.

“The students were energized by the whole experience, as they got an opportunity to collaborate with the real decision-makers and observe the complexity of how localities deal with the emerging coastal challenges.”

Read the full press release.