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WSU helping build community resilience to tsunamis, rising seas

Ocean waves crashing against a rocky coastline.

Washington State University’s William D. Ruckelshaus Center will help coastal communities become resilient to tsunamis, rising sea levels, and other hazards as part of a new science hub funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Pacific Northwest coastline is at significant risk of earthquakes from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which stretches from California through Oregon and Washington to Vancouver Island. The region also faces chronic risks of coastal erosion, regional flooding and sea level rise due to climate change.

Led by Oregon State University Professor Peter Ruggiero and launching this fall, the Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research Hub, or Cascadia CoPes Hub, will coordinate research among academic and government organizations to improve understanding of the risks of Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquakes and other geological hazards. The project also aims to reduce risk through comprehensive assessment, mitigation, and adaptation planning and policymaking.

The Ruckelshaus Center is a joint effort of WSU and the University of Washington that supports collaborative public policy in the Pacific Northwest. The Center will co-lead the hub’s Community Engagement and Co-Production of Coastal Hazards Knowledge team. Integrating research with the needs of coastal communities, this team brings together scientists, residents, and partner institutions across the west coast.

The Center will help develop collaborative workshops, mentorships, leadership institutes, and research studios, building knowledge and connections while training the next generation of scientists and leaders.

“The Cascadia coast is an extraordinary confluence of cultures, unique ecosystems, and potent threats,” said Amanda Murphy, Ruckelshaus Center project leader. “It’s at the epicenter of potentially catastrophic impacts from earthquakes and tsunamis, and on the frontline for extreme weather, waves, and ocean changes.

“For years, communities, tribes, and forward-thinking groups have worked to sustain the environment and their ability to live in places they love,” she added. “Solutions are needed that connect the wisdom and experience of those living on the coast with the expertise of scientists and researchers. We at the Ruckelshaus Center are honored to be a part of this important effort, and excited to collaborate with an extraordinary group of scientists, researchers, and community partners in support of coastal community resilience.”

Cascadia CoPes Hub is part of the National Science Foundation’s Coastlines and People Program, which helps coastal communities across the country become more resilient in the face of mounting environmental pressure. Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in a coastal county.

The Cascadia award is one of two large-scale hub awards; the initial award is for $7.2 million and the total request over five years is about $18.9 million.

Partners include the University of Washington, University of Oregon, Oregon and Washington Sea Grant, Humboldt State University, the United States Geological Survey, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Georgia Tech, and Arizona State University.

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