Anamaria Bukvic of the College of Natural Resources and Environment is the principal investigator for a project designed to understand the dynamics between human and natural systems to predict how communities and ecosystems in the mid-Atlantic coastal regions will adapt to the challenge of rising seas.

Bukvic is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and an associate director of the Center for Coastal Studies, supported by the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. Her research program is focused on the human dimensions of coastal issues and adaptation, resilience, security, population displacement, and relocation.

Funding source: The National Science Foundation’s Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems Program, which supports research that advances knowledge of interactions between social and environmental systems. The grant award is $592,027.

Merging geospatial data with human considerations

The future of coastal areas for habitation will depend on the ability of both the human and natural systems to co-migrate inland with sea-level increase. This project will combine geospatial information and survey data to investigate the potential for coordinated migration of social and ecological systems facing a “squeeze” between rising seas and urban development.

“Coastal areas represent one of the fastest-changing systems due to more severe storm surges, sea-level rise, and land loss due to erosion,” said Bukvic. “While many studies consider the impacts of rising seas on natural and human systems separately, what stands out about our work is a focus on the coupling of those two systems and how that coupling influences their shared mobility.”

The project has three goals:

  • Utilize geospatial modeling to determine the extent and type of coastal squeeze in the mid-Atlantic regions
  • Identify the local factors and policies affecting human mobility in flood-prone areas
  • Combine those findings using statistical approaches to identify the key drivers of mobility within natural and human systems and predict future scenarios of coastal squeeze

A report card to help communities

To engage communities and stakeholders in a conversation about the risks of sea-level rise and the possibilities of coastal relocation, the researchers will produce tangible outreach materials such as

  • Report cards with co-migration scenarios
  • Geographic information system story maps that use narratives and maps to communicate the relocation risk of coastal marshes and residents
  • 3D-printed models of coastal squeeze that illustrate the coordinated migration of wetlands and people further inland

“Storytelling and visuals are a tangible way to share scientific data with communities to help them understand the trade-offs of different adaptation pathways related to coastal squeeze,” said Bukvic. “These outreach efforts reflect our commitment to ensure our research will help communities understand their flood and relocation risks.”

Aaron Whittemore and Anamaria Bukvic face each other in conversation while standing outside a red brick building.
Assistant Professor Anamaria Bukvic (at right) and a graduate student confer while collecting field data in Hampton, Virginia. Photo courtesy of Allison Mitchell.

Co-principal investigators

  • Thomas Allen, professor, Old Dominion University
  • Patrick Biber, associate professor, University of Southern Mississippi

Bukvic receives Elevate the Discipline honors

Bukvic was recently selected by the American Association of Geographers as one of 15 geographers to take part in the first-ever cohort of the Elevate the Discipline program, which seeks to amplify the work of geography researchers in public and policy arenas.

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