USF Weather Center

University of South Florida
School of Geosciences
4202 E Fowler Ave, STOP NES107
Tampa, Florida 33620-5550

Office: NES 201
Fax: (813) 974-4808

Weather, Climate, and Society
Research Experience for Undergraduates

Important Information:
When: 9 weeks over Summer 2018 (likely May 21 to July 27, but TBD)
Where: University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Housing expenses and stipend provided
Application Deadline: February 1, 2018

REU participants must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States.

This Weather, Climate, and Society (WCS) REU will be hosted by the University of South Florida (USF). We have an exciting interdisciplinary program that will focus on rising sophomores pairing each participant in a team with other WCS REU students and with research mentors in the physical and social sciences. The teams will conduct research on one of a range of topics from the social and physical factors which affect hurricane evacuation decision-making, to assessing the social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities of coastal regions to sea level rise, and developing strategies to adapt and mitigate sea level rise impacts.

In addition to an intensive 9-week mentored research experience, the program provides experiential learning, professional development workshops, remote seminars that offer interaction with national and international scientists, trainings in social and physical research techniques and interdisciplinary perspectives on social and physical aspects ,and impacts of severe weather and climate related disasters.

Students are paid a $500/week stipend along with free housing, food stipend, travel allowance to/from Tampa, FL, and a travel allowance to present their research at a national conference.

Apply Here!       (Application Instructions)

Three projects:

1. Understanding hurricane evacuation behavior using social connections during Hurricane Matthew

This study will use statistical analyses to examine the relationship between an individual’s social connections and their decision to evacuate during a hurricane warning. Using Hurricane Matthew in 2016 as a case study, a survey will be conducted on residents of some communities on Florida’s east coast assessing one’s social connections (considering three dimensions: dependability, density, and diversity) and their decision to evacuate or not. These factors, in addition to socioeconomic variables (e.g. age, race, education), will be used to better define a picture for what influences evacuation decision-making. This study has important implications for adding to the knowledge base on community-based sustainable disaster preparedness and resilience.

Faculty mentors: Jennifer Collins and Robin Ersing

2. Impacts from sea level rise from an Urban/Environmental perspective

Students will research physical and social aspects of weather/climate with the overarching question focused on the impacts from climate change and how individuals, communities, and institutions prepare for, experience and recover from extreme weather/climate. Projects will include aspects of natural and social sciences emphasizing the interplay between the two sciences and the application of mixed method approaches demonstrated in activity 2. One proposed project will allow the students to obtain an understanding of the science behind sea level curves and what this new knowledge means for coastal planning. One impact of climate change affecting coastal communities is variations in sea level. The current trend of global warming is causing sea levels to rise, which will affect both human and natural coastal systems. This trend can be modified at the local level by other factors. In order to understand how coastal cities must respond to and plan for sea level rise impacts, students will investigate the complex interaction of drivers that affect local sea level change within the context of global trends, such as sedimentation, subsidence, tectonics, and heat distribution. Then, using examples from Florida, students will examine and compare historic sea level trends from tide gauge records. They will investigate how major planning agencies, such as the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), use historical records and predicted trends to forecast future sea level rise for a given location. Using local factors, students will utilize the NOAA and ACE quadratic models to generate predicted sea level curves based on variations in inputs (greenhouse gas emissions, land subsidence rates). They will then take on the roles of urban and environmental planners and apply the results of their sea level curves to scenarios at standard temporal planning horizons. Projects such as infrastructure, residential and commercial building, and environmental lands will be classified by their vulnerability and risk tolerance within the context of future sea level rise. Students will then develop planning strategies for adaptation, mitigation, and resilience to accommodate built and natural systems for future planning horizons. Upon completion of this project, students will be able to: 1) identify major drivers of sea level change that influence projections; 2) assess the social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities of coastal regions to sea level rise; and 3) develop strategies to adapt and mitigate sea level rise impacts.

Faculty mentors: Mark Luther and Mark Hafen

Post article about mentors' research: Tampa Bay Climate Change

3. Changing the Conversation about Climate Change in the Tampa Bay Region

Building on a previously funded NSF project at USF and collaboration with UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension, this research focuses on the regional human impacts of climate change, how local leaders and neighborhood residents perceive risks from a changing climate and what they would like to do to address these concerns in their communities. Climate scientists, policy makers, environmental organizations, and other stakeholders will be interviewed about the likely local and regional impacts of climate change, current models of sea level rise and other impacts, as well as how to best communicate this information to the public. REU students will be involved with this research as they participate in interviews with residents in the most vulnerable communities about their perceptions of climate change and their concerns about potential risks from climate change impacts such as increased frequency of severe flooding, damage to city infrastructure or the effects of severe storms. REU students will also develop materials for a public workshop series designed to explore novel ways to communicate climate change science through visual formats and deliberative discussion. Students will assist with documentation and data collection at public workshops. In addition, students would create short films about residents’ experiences with severe storms and recovery, and their concerns about the ways climate change may be affecting their community today and in the future. Students will utilize geographic information systems tools as part of the development of workshop materials and as a geospatial approach to locate neighborhoods for resident interviews.

Upon completion of this project, students will be able to: 1) conduct interviews for the purpose of identifying perception of risk to climate change within vulnerable communities; 2) identify gaps between climate science and residents’ knowledge of or concerns about climate change impacts; and 3) develop public communication resources such as short videos that bridge the gap between climate science and the public for use in public outreach and to inform regional planning and policy.

Faculty mentors: Rebecca Zarger and Shawn Landry