UNC-Chapel Hill launches Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence made possible through five-year grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate

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UNC-Chapel Hill launches Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence made possible through five-year grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate


$20 million grant, collaborative effort to address unique challenges facing coastal communities


(Chapel Hill, N.C.—June 23, 2015) – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officially launched today its new Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) that was made possible through a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate, Office of University Programs five-year, $20 million grant. The CRC initiative led by UNC-Chapel Hill will include collaboration with more than a dozen partner universities to address the unique challenges facing communities across the United States that are vulnerable to coastal hazards.


The CRC, which will receive an initial $3 million grant for its first operating year, is charged with helping to conduct research and education that directly addresses key challenges associated with growing coastal vulnerability. Specific examples include:

  • Developing more accurate storm surge models and timely delivery of accurate predictions of storm surge prior to storm land-fall.
  • Assisting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states, and local governments in the development of better predictions of coastal hazards and pre-disaster plans.
  • Improving the understanding about why individuals choose to (or not to) implement risk-reduction measures at the household level and what risk-reduction measures they employ.
  • Improving the ability to communicate risk to multiple audiences and take action based on that understanding.
  • Educating the next generation of students that will become hazards researchers and practitioners, emphasizing the development of certificate and degree programs in minority-serving educational institutions.

During a press conference announcing the launch of the initiative, Congressman David E. Price (NC-04) said, “The Coastal Resilience Center will improve our readiness through groundbreaking multi-disciplinary research, the development of best practices, and the education of the next generation of researchers and policy makers. I am thrilled to help celebrate this grant and the continued expertise UNC-Chapel Hill provides to the Department of Homeland Security. I look forward to following the center’s important work for many more years.”


“Our nation’s university system is a constant source of innovation and fresh ideas where many of the best and brightest minds reside,” said Dr. Robert Griffin, DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, who also spoke at the CRC launch press conference. “DHS Centers of Excellence are vital partners in our mission to develop solutions to some of the most complex and dangerous natural disasters that we face.”


The launch of the CRC expands on the existing UNC-Chapel Hill and Jackson State University co-led DHS Coastal Hazards Center work that started in 2008. The work done at the center has informed the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on operational decisions during recent hurricanes.


Critical to this effort is collaboration and partnership.


“We have partnerships that range from the West Coast to the East Coast, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes,” said Dr. Rick Luettich, CRC Principal Investigator, UNC-Chapel Hill. “This is like a hub here in North Carolina, and the spokes go out from here to coastal locations across the U.S.”


Another critical goal of the CRC is educating the next generation of scholars and professionals working on the constantly changing subject of coastal hazards.


“The research that we’re getting and some of the knowledge that we’re developing is translating itself into undergraduate and graduate courses,” said Dr. Gavin Smith, CRC Director, UNC-Chapel Hill. “We are educating another generation of students and future scholars that come through the program, preparing them for various careers in the field.”




About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 78 bachelor’s, 112 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty, staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in all 100 counties. Carolina’s 304,000-plus alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries, and more than 159,000 live in North Carolina.


UNC Chapel Hill Coastal Resilience Center for Excellence Director: Gavin Smith, Ph.D., (919) 606-5578, gpsmith@email.unc.edu


UNC Chapel Hill Coastal Resilience Center for Excellence Program Manager: Anna Schwab, (919) 962-0344, akschwab@email.unc.edu


UNC Chapel Hill Communications and Public Affairs contact: Michael John, (919) 445-8555, michael.john@unc.edu