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Dr. Jamie Shinn

SUNY ESF Flood Recovery Research Earns Nearly $800,000 in Funding through National Science Foundation’s Civic Innovation Challenge

SYRACUSE, NY – Dec. 4, 2023 – A research team led by Dr. Jamie Shinn at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) was awarded $787,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advanced to Stage 2 of the NSF’s Civic Innovation Challenge for its work to help drive climate-change adaptation in communities affected by flooding.

The Civic Innovation Challenge is a research and action competition focused on preparing communities for resilience to natural disasters. Fund recipients have 12 months to implement pilot projects that are scalable, sustainable, and transferable to other communities. Following a six-month planning phase in Stage 1, awards were given to the projects with potential for both lasting impact in the partnering community and to be scaled and implemented in other communities. Shinn is one of just 19 researchers across the country whose team received an award.

“The most exciting part of this project is getting to work with our team of community partners –academic researchers, non-profit organizations, and state government officials – because it ensures we are doing work that has been identified as important by communities and as policy-relevant by state-level non-profit and government representatives,” said Shinn. 

Principal Investigator Shinn is overseeing the development of an online resource – the West Virginia Flood Resilience Framework – that is poised to help residents in flood-prone areas of central Appalachia become better prepared to recover from flooding through accessible information on flood risk, floodplain management, and comprehensive disaster preparation.

“We are proud of Dr. Shinn's dedication to and leadership of impactful work that not only addresses immediate challenges but lays the foundation for a resilient future,” said John Stella, Vice President of Research at ESF. “One significant aspect of the work is her vision for a transferable framework model that can benefit any flood-prone community.”  

An assistant professor in ESF’s Department of Environmental Studies, Shinn started the project in 2017 while teaching at West Virginia University, where she began investigating response and recovery efforts from a disastrous 2016 flood that killed 23 people, destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and businesses, and caused $1 billion in damages across the state. Her research demonstrated how West Virginia communities affected by flood rely on a complex network of local, state, and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and volunteers for immediate response and long-term recovery, proving to be insufficient for making a complete recovery.

Now at ESF, Shinn continues the research in collaboration with partners in West Virginia, which has one of the highest risks of flooding nationally and is ranked at or near the top of the list in nearly every risk category including potential impacts of flooding on utilities, roads, fire and police stations, commercial properties, and schools. These risks are often compounded by aging infrastructure and high levels of socioeconomic vulnerability, and flood disasters are likely to increase in frequency and intensity because of climate change.

“While the tools we are developing are designed for the context of West Virginia, we expect it to have relevance for flood-prone communities across Appalachia, in New York state, and across the country by serving as a transferable model for creation of disaster response systems that can be tailored to unique geographic and socioeconomic contexts,” said Shinn.

About SUNY ESF

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.