By Sarah Schechter
I entered UConn as a Natural Resources Major, knowing I wanted to focus on the environment, but unsure of the exact path I wanted to follow. When choosing classes during my orientation session in Summer 2017, it was recommended that I take ANTH 1010: Global Climate Change and Human Societies, taught by Eleanor Ouimet. This was the class that helped me focus on what I wanted to continue doing here at UConn. We spent the class learning about anthropogenic climate change and how that was impacting the world. This became my passion and by the end of the semester, I had declared myself an Anthropology and Environmental Studies double major student.
When picking classes for sophomore year, EVST 3100 was brought to my attention as a major elective. This class is titled: Climate Resilience and Adaptation: Municipal Policy and Planning, also known as the Climate Corps. This class was co-taught by Juliana Barrett and Bruce Hyde, both of whom further increased my knowledge of climate change. Throughout the class, we took some time to look at the concepts, but focused more on applying them to real-world-based problems. One project in particular was called the “Cost of Sea Level Rise” and was an exercise in which each group was given a coastal location and the scenario of four feet of sea level rise. My group was assigned Miami Beach-Central and we decided to shift the entire population of the area to another section of Florida that would not be flooded in the same scenario. We created an entirely new layout using “Tempohousing”, which is a company that converts storage containers into stackable apartments. We also accounted for green initiatives such as solar panels, bike stations, and rooftop gardens. By having free reign with regard to our choices, we were able to formulate a radical solution and discuss concepts that we had never approached before. This allowed us to gain a better understanding of how to deal with these big issues and provided us with the opportunity to implement our own solutions. Throughout this class I learned the skills based on theoretical issues that I would later apply to actual scenarios.
Cost of Sea Level Rise Project
EVST 3100 came with the option of working on an independent study in the Spring 2018, and I decided that I wanted to continue developing the skills I learned in the class. I continued my work with Barrett and Hyde, working on a project with Diane Ifkovic. Ifkovic is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) State Coordinator with CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). I completed the independent study with her guidance about the Community Rating System (CRS). CRS allows towns to gain points for completing acts such as implementing stormwater management and having higher regulatory standards. Completing these actions gains points that then lead to lower flood insurance premiums for community members. Throughout this independent study I learned how to correspond with state officials and gather research for a real environmental project.
After completing the independent study, I learned about an opportunity for an internship with UConn Extension and Connecticut Sea Grant. I applied and was chosen to work on the project with Juliana Barrett and Robert Ricard. I then spent the summer working on two major tasks. The first involved traveling to different locations around Connecticut and Rhode Island including: Davidson, Putnam, Stonington, Groton, and Westerly. I took pictures of flooding and areas that would be susceptible to flooding. I also visited historical societies and gathered images of historic flood events in Connecticut such as the “Flood of ‘55”. These photos were then put together in a photo bank for reference of flood conditions throughout the state. The second task was to create a video, similar to one from a Rhode Island series, about coastal and inland flooding in Connecticut. This assignment provided me with skills in communication with city officials and allowed me to interact with people from my field of interest. The video has been shown to many city officials and the governor of Connecticut; it has been well received. I was also able to attend a Sea Grant Conference and discuss my involvement with them, which was an amazing opportunity!
Sarah Schechter – Evacuation Route Sign in Stonington, CT
I went into Fall 2019 with the intention of working on a new video, but after talking with Barrett and Ricard, we were unsure of what the next film in the series would be. First, we were looking at making a video about legal aspects of resilience in Connecticut, but that proved to be more complicated than originally thought and has currently been put on the backburner. Instead I have been working on another video about Climate Change in Connecticut, which will be added to the series. Throughout the semester I have been creating an outline by looking at the Rhode Island version, researching climate change impacts in Connecticut, and sorting through a variety of sources. At this point I have a solid outline and will be able to move forward with the next film.
In the Spring of 2020, I plan to continue working with Barrett on the climate change script and finalize it by the end of the semester. I will then be able to create the climate change video during Summer 2020. This video will involve a similar process to that of the flooding video, as I will need to travel around Connecticut for pictures and to meet with city officials. I also plan to expand upon this project and base my thesis on my work with the Connecticut Sea Grant and UConn Extension. I am still in the planning process, but I know that I will be sending out a survey to city officials and community members to gather information regarding the content of the videos I’ve made. I will continue to develop this plan with Barrett over the course of the next semester.