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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Sea Level Rise Forum Brings Together Scientists and Stakeholders

City planners, engineers and community activists from across Hampton Roads engaged recently in Norfolk with Old Dominion University scientists and others from around the country to discuss needs when planning for sea level rise and long-term flooding.

The Slover Library event was co-sponsored by ODU, the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency (a partnership between ODU, The College of William and Mary and Virginia Institute for Marine Science) and NASA.

It served as the public kickoff for the three-day NASA Sea Level Change Team annual meeting that brings together scientists from around the country to discuss sea level rise.

Last year's meeting was held in California, but participants wanted to hold the meeting in a city being affected by sea level rise - making Norfolk the perfect place to meet, said Ben Hamlington, an ODU assistant professor in Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and one of the event's coordinators.

The event was planned to foster discussion between decision-makers and the scientific community, Hamlington said.

With about 50 people in attendance, discussion and questions followed presentations from planners representing the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, engineers, nonprofits and NASA scientists.

"From my perspective on the scientific side, we know what we need to do to help planners and engineers get the information they need," Hamlington, a member of N-SLCT, said. "There's often not enough cross-talk between scientists and decision-makers."

Emily Steinhilber, an Old Dominion research assistant professor and coordinator of the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency added that the University often facilitates collaboration between scientists and stakeholders, "but this was a unique opportunity for our local partners to engage with leading scientists from around the country as a part of the NASA SLCT."

Hampton Roads-based initiatives, including data and flood mapping of Norfolk were also included in the presentations.

"Actual data is what we're after," said Skip Stiles, executive director of Wetlands Watch, a Norfolk-based nonprofit.

During an open discussion that followed the formal presentations, participants voiced ideas, asked for input and discussed long-term planning needs for information.

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