By Jonah Grinkewitz


Communities across Virginia face unique challenges related to sea level rise and flooding, with varying resources to build resilience and reduce risks from climate change. 


A new partnership between Old Dominion University’s Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (ICAR) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) aims to fill in the gaps, turning scientific knowledge into action. 


This week, they launched the Resilient and Adaptable Communities Partnership, which will identify and support vulnerable communities, train workforce members across industries to take action and promote solutions that lead to a healthier Chesapeake Bay. 


ODU will hire four new research faculty positions and a program manager to carry out the collaboration’s goals. 


“This unique partnership furthers Old Dominion University’s commitment to building climate change resilience in Hampton Roads and beyond,” said ODU President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. “Our faculty are on the front line of sea level rise research, and together with CBF, we will help localities, nonprofits and businesses develop effective resilience solutions.”


“As flooding and more intense storms increasingly upend the lives of people across Virginia, many academic, nonprofit, and government organizations are working to make communities and the Chesapeake Bay more resilient to climate change,” said Jay Ford, CBF Virginia policy and grassroots advisor. “Complementing this work, our new partnership will help connect communities with resources and technical assistance to put resiliency projects on the ground that also support cleaner waterways.” 


Jessica Whitehead, the Joan P. Brock Endowed executive director for ICAR, said ODU’s goal is to go beyond the traditional role of a university merely providing useful information to communities. 


“We have to help people – organizations, localities and businesses throughout the state – actually use that information to make progress,” she said.


The new faculty positions will include experts in geospatial analysis and resilience planning, integration, engineering and design with a focus on nature-based features and natural resource economics. 


They will target localities that need more technical assistance, particularly to secure competitive grant funding needed for resilience projects, Whitehead said. The job postings can be found here

In addition, the partnership will determine the skills needed to carry out resilience projects now and in the future.


“I often like to remind folks that the professionals in 2050 who will be mid-career and in charge of managing these decisions are sitting in our elementary and middle school classrooms right now,” Whitehead said. 


“As we study what skills are needed, this analysis will help us understand what is missing from training programs, what needs are already being served by other universities and nonprofit organizations and how ODU and CBF can work together to fill those remaining gaps through credentialing for current professionals and with degree programs for our future professionals.”


The partnership formed during the 2022 General Assembly session when legislators established a collaboration between ODU and the CBF on resiliency issues for an initial two-year period. 


Del. Barry Knight, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Sen. George Barker, co-chair of the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, played leading roles in supporting the partnership.  


After a year of planning and speaking with state and local governments and other organizations that have made resilience progress, ICAR and the CBF established a plan that would maximize their efforts and support the Coastal Resilience Master Plan and Virginia Flood Protection Master Plan. That includes having a seat at the table at the Resilience Working Group under Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation.


“These engagements help us ensure that the University’s expertise is both useful to and streamlined with the merging structure that needs to happen in the state to make sure these resilience efforts are coordinated and not off in 20 different directions,” Whitehead said. 


ICAR is a national center focused on the science and practice of coastal resilience, leading research, education and community partnerships to develop practical solutions to challenges communities face. To learn more, visit its website