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Date ArticleType
11/10/2020 Member News

Workshop to target vital role of technology in responding to local impacts of climate change

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2020) - For the sixth year, USF’s St. Petersburg campus Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (iCAR) is bringing together scientists, policymakers and the local community to focus on preparing and becoming more resilient to present and future climatic changes. 

 

The focus of iCAR has shifted over the years from highlighting the problems to now developing solutions. This year’s workshop, which takes place virtually on November 12-13, will drill down on how technology can better investigate climatic trends, enhance communication among those impacted and create the much-needed solutions to foster adaptation and resilience.

 

“From the discussions and work that came out of our previous workshops, focusing on technology seemed like the most logical extension when it comes to adapting to climate change in Tampa Bay - both in terms of further understanding the problem and solving it,” said Barnali Dixon, executive director of iCAR and professor of geosciences at the USF St. Petersburg campus.

 

Current examples of technologies that are being utilized to address the many facets of climate change include climate models that predict and plan for future impacts, social media utilized for disaster preparation and response, and data sensors and tools that track sea-level rise, flooding and local weather information.

 

Some of these technologies and the information that flows from them rely on input from local residents. A case in point is the Community Resilience Information System (CRIS) developed by iCAR, an interactive platform that allows citizens from across St. Petersburg to track and monitor the impacts of climate change in their neighborhoods.

 

Residents can input data related to issues such as flooding and power outages, which can then be used by policy makers and neighborhood leaders to make policy decisions or how best to allocate resources. The data, for example, will allow emergency managers to identify areas with concentrations of people who need transportation assistance or are reliant on power for medical needs.

 

“We recognize technology can be used as a tool and help with democratic participation and resilience building,” said Rebecca Johns, iCAR’s director of community outreach and education and associate professor of geography on USF’s St. Petersburg campus. “We also recognize that it has social equity limitations.”

 

Though technology is an essential part of any solution for responding to climate change, the benefits of technology are not universal. Certain marginalized communities may not be able to acquire or access such tools that could enhance their resilience in the face of environmental change, a topic that will be a large focus of the workshop.

 

Dixon explained that the workshop will purposefully focus on technologies that are already compatible on existing devices or platforms that many people readily access, such as smart phones and social media.

 

“We are using existing technologies to develop these new interfaces and platforms that will help us all better understand and adapt to the coming changes. What is needed now is connecting with local leaders who can organize their communities, understand these new technologies, learn how to access them and use data so they become useful,” said Dixon.

 

The annual workshop is expected to draw more than 160 participants this year, from such organizations as NASA, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Due to the virtual nature of the event, iCAR will be able to host international speakers from places as far as Turkey and Australia to hear about technologies that are enhancing climate resiliency and global lessons learned.

 

The two-day workshop is hosted by iCAR, the University of South Florida, Gamma Theta Upsilon, the University Climate Change Coalition and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

 

The University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.