Hurricanes’ pollution risks and conservation opportunities talk

Red flag on beach as hurricane approaches

ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and The Nature Conservancy Assistant Research Professor Danica Schaffer-Smith, will present a talk on Monday, September 14, 2020, titled “Repeated hurricanes reveal risks and opportunities for social-ecological resilience to flooding and water quality problems,” as part of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning Fall 2020 Colloquium Series.

The talk will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (MST) via Zoom. A conversation session with Schaffer-Smith will follow, from 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Access the virtual meeting through the following link: (meeting ID: 994 8741 2008).

Schaffer-Smith will be discussing her current research on nutrient pollution risks associated with intensified agriculture under environmental stressors, like hurricanes and floods.

About the talk:

Hurricanes that damage lives and property can also impact pollutant sources and trigger poor water quality. North Carolina has experienced four “500-yr” storms within three years.

Under these conditions, wastewater treatment plants and sanitary sewer overflows can occur far inland, as well as coal ash spills, breaches of conned animal feeding operation waste lagoons, and fish kills; yet, in-situ sensors can go offline and hazardous conditions preclude field sampling needed to monitor surface waters.

Publicly available satellite data enables delineation of flooding over broad areas, which can aid in quantifying the extent of flood exposure and potential water quality impacts.

In our recent study, we used satellite-based radar to map flooding from Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018), examined risks to water quality, and identified opportunities to improve resilience in light of social, ecological, and infrastructure vulnerabilities.

Our results suggest that current hazard mapping is inadequate for resilience planning; increased storm frequency and intensity necessitate modification of design standards, land-use policies, and infrastructure operation. Implementation of interventions can be guided by a greater understanding of socialecological vulnerabilities within hazard and exposure areas.

Our methods can support future disaster response and recovery efforts, as well as long-range planning to improve resilience in flood-prone regions.