UNCW Associate Professor of Geography Narcisa Pricope Shares in $440,000 Coastal Resiliency Grant

Monday, April 20, 2020

Associate Professor of Geography Narcisa Pricope is collaborating with university researchers, cities, counties and regional planners in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to identify and evaluate solutions for cost-effective flood mitigation. The collaboration also includes the National Sea Grant College Program and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management. 
Pricope will partner with the planning departments of New Hanover County and the City of New Bern to develop green infrastructure – like natural conservation and restoration of coastal wetlands, oyster reefs and beach dunes – that may reduce the impact of flooding. “This is especially important in keeping roads and stormwater infrastructure from being washed out during hurricanes and heavy storms,” she said. 
Pricope will supervise a graduate student and undergraduate students, involving them in all stages of the work, which includes planned community focus groups and forums. 
“Collaborative research to benefit the community and the region is an important element in UNCW’s Strategic Plan and the university’s transition to a doctoral university with high research activity,” said Stuart Borrett, UNCW associate provost for research. “The project Dr. Pricope is involved in brings together experts from four states to work on potential solutions to a problem that is of great concern to coastal residents.” 
Funding for the collaborative project is through a two-year, $440,000 Karl Havens Memorial South Atlantic Regional Research on Coastal Community Resilience Grant.  As primary investigator for North Carolina, Pricope’s share of the grant will be $100,000, which includes a cost share match by UNCW. 
The research team, which represents a variety of academic and policy specialties, is led by Jason Evans, interim director of the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience at Stetson University in Deland, Florida.  
In addition to Pricope and Evans, project researchers include Chris de Bodisco, assistant professor of economics at Stetson; Shana Jones, planning and environmental services unit program manager at the University of Georgia; J. Scott Pippin, public service associate, UGA;  Jon Calabria, associate professor of environment and design, UGA; Daniel Hitchcock, associate professor of agricultural sciences at the Clemson University Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science; and Tara McCue and Luis Nieves-Ruiz of the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council. 
Partner communities include New Hanover County and New Bern in North Carolina; Cape Canaveral, Florida; Garden City, Georgia; and Georgetown County, South Carolina. The cities and counties will be working with the lead researcher in each state to identify sites for possible green infrastructure interventions and to develop cost-benefit analysis models for providing a range of estimates for long-term values, including flood protection, habitat creation and preservation, contaminant mitigation and the integration of green spaces within a built environment. 
Pricope’s interest in flood mitigation began after she moved to coastal North Carolina. In partnership with the City of Wilmington Planning Department, she and undergraduate students conducted a sea level rise assessment in a study funded by the UNCW Office of Community Engagement. 
Later came an assessment of residential vulnerability to flooding in the state’s 28 coastal counties, which determined that roughly 45 percent of all residential buildings in those counties fall below the base flood elevations for a 100-year storm. The research was conducted with Lauren Rosul ’18M and was presented at the annual meeting of the 2018 American Association of Geographers. It was published in the Journal of Environmental Management’s special issue on coastal resilience. 
This research builds upon my previous work to assess coastal vulnerability and is the next logical step as we seek solutions to flooding that is becoming more common along the North Carolina and southeast coasts,” Pricope said. 
-- Tricia Vance