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First Science Pub Centers on ODU Collaboration With U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University's collaboration with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the basis for the first Science Pub of the academic year.

"Leaders for a Sustainable Future: Engaging Students in Tackling Wicked Real-World Problems" is scheduled for Sept. 18 at Elation Brewing, 5104 Colley Ave., Norfolk.Networking Begins at 6:30 p.m., and the program begins at 7.

Hans-Peter Plag, professor of Ocean, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences; Eddie Hill, associate professor of Human Movement Sciences; and Tatyana Lobova, master lecturer of Biological Sciences will lead the discussion examining case studies of ecosystems under climate change and human pressure in Florida and Puerto Rico.

The Fish & Wildlife Service approached ODU's Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute in 2014 about developing in a pilot project and educational program for conservation leaders.

"The FWS approached us because there was no other university in the U.S. that had a comparable research institute focusing more on adaptation than on understanding the hazards of global change," said Plag, who added that a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2015.

This led to the creation of ODU's graduate and undergraduate Conservation Leadership program, a transdisciplinary approach to case studies of wicked real-world problems.

"Initially, the focus was on conservation leadership under climate change and sea level rise," Plag said. "However, very soon it became clear that the perspective had to be extended to general sustainability under global change, including human pressure on ecosystems and the impacts of humanity on the Earth's life-support system."

Among projects students have worked on were issues surrounding the Chesapeake Bay and the long-term sustainability of National Wildlife Refuges and national and state parks in the region; beach ecosystems near Vero Beach, Fla., that are exposed to climate change, sea level rise and human pressure; the long-term prospects for the survival of the American crocodile in the southernmost part of the Everglades National Park; and meeting the water needs of the people in Puerto Rico while safeguarding freshwater ecosystems.

Plag said students say the experience has been life changing.

"The research of real-world problems that matter to people give the student a sense of purpose for their career," he said. "The contact with real stakeholders often helps them to clarify their plans for their professional life."

RSVPs by Sept. 16 are encouraged but not required. The first 20 to arrive receive a free beverage.

Science Pubs are an opportunity to have casual conversations with ODU researchers. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 15. Michael Nelson, a professor in the Computer Science Department, will discuss "We Can Archive All of Your Social Media, but Should We?"

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