Not just facts, but impacts:
Learning the lesson of resilience

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Growing up in Virginia Beach, Makayla Brown knew firsthand the challenges of coastal flooding—the school delays, the backyard flooding, which streets to avoid after a rainstorm.

She wanted to become part of the solution, and connected with Michelle Covi, an assistant professor of practice at Old Dominion University and a Virginia Sea Grant extension agent. Brown studied geology within the Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, learning about the processes that shaped Earth’s history. Outside the classroom, she worked with Covi on resilience projects addressing the challenges of sea level rise in the Hampton Roads area.

“I was just beginning to see how flooding was impacting my life in general, and noticing that it’s bad in certain areas, but it’s worse in others,” Brown said.

She realized that people in these communities needed help and that she wanted to be involved.

Brown used her science background and experience with flooding impacts to teach resilience-themed lessons to local students in the Elizabeth River Project‘s Youth Leaders Resilience Program. She got involved with the program through her internship with Covi and taught elementary through high-school students about the impact of science and how it affects the students.

Some of the high schoolers learned about tools like solar panels and glimpsed into the world of climate and resilience research during a tour of ODU labs. Later, some of the students sold solar-powered phone chargers at a science expo to raise funds for sustainability at their school.

“That was really exciting because when [the students] were here for the field trip, that was one of their big takeaways,” Brown recalled. “They were like, ‘We love those solar panels, we wish we could just have them in our backpacks.’”

Brown also helped put on “flood resilience game nights” for Virginia Beach residents. At these community events, residents could point out specific areas of frequent flooding and learn about the city’s plans to address flooding and sea level rise.

As the public learned what the city could do about flooding, Brown encountered a part of the resilience community she hadn’t seen before—public officials and private businesses working together.

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Growing up in Virginia Beach, Makayla Brown knew firsthand the challenges of coastal flooding—the school delays, the backyard flooding, which streets to avoid after a rainstorm.

“There's this interaction and network of people who are really interested in making changes and helping everybody,” Brown said. “For me, that was really cool to learn about and really cool to see.”

Brown also came to the realization that there are many ways to contribute to resilience.

“I could also do research, or I could work from a different aspect,” Brown said. “Making policy is definitely super-important, but there are other ways to go about helping everyone.”

After gaining a new perspective on resilience through her internship at ODU with Covi, Brown will continue to gain new perspectives on ecological resilience as a policy intern with the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. While there, she will help assess sustainability goals for the Chesapeake Bay area in the Sustainable Fisheries Program.

“I've never really had that much experience with the ecology side,” Brown said. “I think that's going to be something really interesting—to be able to see and really understand what the impacts are on our fisheries and wildlife in that area.”

TAKEAWAYS

  • Through an internship with a Virginia Sea Grant extension agent at ODU, Brown learned more about professional opportunities in resilience planning.
  • Brown taught high schoolers and elementary students about resilience and assisted Covi with other community outreach projects.
  • After graduation, Brown will intern this summer with the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office in their Sustainable Fisheries Program.

    Written by Madeleine Jepsen | Virginia Sea Grant

    Video by Aileen Devlin | Virginia Sea Grant

    Contributed photo provided by Makayla Brown

    Published June 7, 2019.
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    Brown also helped put on “flood resilience game nights” for Virginia Beach residents. At these community events, residents could point out specific areas of frequent flooding and learn about the city’s plans to address flooding and sea level rise.