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Our Mission: To convene stakeholders and faculty to further our understanding of the challenges posed by recent rapid changes, including land use changes, biodiversity loss and extinction, climate change and sea level rise, and the impacts on the Earth's life support system; to characterize the vulnerability of human communities to these impacts; to develop foresight for the range of possible futures we might be exposed to; to create the practice-relevant and applicable knowledge that could inform societal decisions for mitigation and adaptation; and to develop options for the fundamental systemic transformations that are needed to address thes challenges. To achieve this mission, MARI facilitates the co-design of a research agenda that focuses on the fundamental causes and consequences of the current system gtrajectory, and adaptation options for a range of possible futures, co-develops an education and training program that prepares the current and future workforce for coping with the challenges in all sectors of society, and moderates deliberations with stakeholder aiming at developing societally viable long-term sustainable adaptation option.

MARI and SDGs: In 2015, the United Nations agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims towards seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In most countries and internationally, stakeholders are strongly engaged in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Making progress to the SDGs poses wicked problems to society. Wicked problems are social or cultural problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden associated with progress towards a solution, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. All of this applies to making progress towards the SDGs: Knowledge on how to make progress towards the SDGs is incomplete and contradicting, reaching the SDGs even on a local level involves the whole of society, making progress requires a rethinking of economy (UNRISD, 2016), and the goals are strongly interconnected and there are many interactions between the individual goals that are variable across different economic, social, and cultural settings.

The governments cannot implement the SDGs without the people, and they cannot implement them for the people; they have to implement them with the people. This necessitates to bring the SDGs to the people in a way that demonstrates the benefits of the 2030 Agenda to the people.

Making progress towards the SDGs requires a transdiciplinary effort across all societal and disciplinary boundaries at all levels from local to global. MARI is engaged in activities that supports and facilitates such transdisciplinary efforts. Importantly, the A core principle for bringing the SDGs to the people and engaging them is to create and change consciousness through integrated information. An example is MARI's engagement in the efforts made by the government in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), which is establishing a “geo-space for SDGs” to create ownership for the SDGs in local communities. Earth observations, knowledge derived from Earth observations, and other data are fundamental in this effort. Most of the knowledge relevant to SDG implementation in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like SVG relates in one way or another to the surrounding ocean. MARI led the organization of a workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the SDGs in the Caribbean:The Role of the Ocean” and is taking the lead in follow-up activities to fully develop and implement the geo-space for SDGs in SIDS.

MARI aims to increase the number of ODU faculty supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with collaborative research and there are opportunities for students to engage in activities. Interested faculty and students should contact hpplag at


Climate change and sea level rise is increasingly on the agenda of the public, the media, and decision makers in the public, private and social sectors of society. Focus is almost solely on the hazards and the potential disasters we might be facing. However, other changes such as the rapid increase of the species extinction rate and the fundamental changes to the nitrogene and Phosphorous cycles pose equally important challenges to the sustainability of the global human society. MARI at Old Dominion University is therefore taking a comprehensive view on global change and is focusing on the solutions, the options we have to mitigate the impacts of global change, and to adapt to the changes.

To develop the practice-relevant solutions, MARI engages in research that produces the practice-relevant knowledge needed to cope with the impacts of recent rapid changes in the Earth's life-support system, including land use changes, biodiversity loss and extinction, climate change and sea level rise, with a focus on the coastal zone and the urban coast in particular. In doing so, MARI responds to the knowledge needs of a wide range of community stakeholders and citizens in all scoietal sectors. Loacally, the high rate of local sea level rise, the exposure to extreme weather events, and the complex socio-economic structure makes Hampton Roads a natural laboratory for climate change and sea level rise. MARI utilizes this laboratory and works with stakeholders within and outside the region to generate the knowledge that can enable them not only to reduce the negative impacts but also to utilize the opportunities in the changes to come. Conceptually, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims towards seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), provides the framework for MARI's research and societal engagement. To ensure that the stakeholders get the knowledge they can apply, MARI works closely with them to ensure a co-creation of practice-relevant knowledge and to support them in the use of this knowledge.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”       — Upton Sinclair, in ”I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”       James Baldwin.

See the quotes on climate change compiled at ...

August 2, 2017 was Earth Overshoot Day. Read more here ...

Ten books about climate change that many should read can be found here ...

Read the full story about MARI ...
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Supporting The British Virgin Island in Hurricane Recovery: During the workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the SDGs in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean”, which was organized as part of a NASA grant to ODU in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in January 2018, a workshop delegation was invited by Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to participate in the handing over of a first of 3,000 soursop trees the government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is providing to the British Virgin Island in support of hurricane recovery.

Toward Sustainability Literacy: MARI supports the efforts made by the Inititaive of the International Centre for Earth Simulation (ICES), which “is aimed at bringing Earth Sustainability Literacy elements of the Foundation’s program to the worldwide system of high schoolers and schools. In so doing, it hopes to encourage good planetary stewardship and improved public health, safety and wellbeing through student learning and engagement” There are opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to engage in activities supporting these efforts. Interested students should contact hpplag at for more information.

Presentation on “Climate Change in the Baltic Region: Consequences for Coastal Areas and Adaptation Examples”, Friday, November 3, 2017:

Virtual Student Foreign Service: The VSFS provides an unique oppportunity for students to engage in international projects during a virtual internship. Through the VSFS program, students can work on projects that advance the work of government on multiple fronts. Projects include helping counter violent extremism, strengthening human rights monitoring, developing virtual programs, engaging in digital communications, mapping, economic and political reporting, data analysis, graphic design, and app building. Students can choose projects from a wide variety of more than 32 federal agencies.The deadline for applications has been extended to August 2, 2017.

Getting the Picture: A Climate Education Resource ...

As part of the Sustainability Leadership class taught in Summer 2017, the students carried out three service learning projects for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the area of Vero Beach, Florida. The students researched the impact of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems, the considered the effects of climate change on ecosystems in several National Wildlife Refuges, and developed adaptation strategies for turtles and beach mice. The joint report of the three groups is available as pdf. This Service Learning Class is a mandatory course for the Minor in Conservation Leadership ODU offers in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


New course on Sustainability Leadership: The Sustainability Leadership Course was taught in the first of the 2017 Summer sessions. It will be regulary taught in this Summer session. Creating a more sustainable society presents a serious challenge and at the same time an enormous opportunity. In this class, students discovered what makes a leader for sustainability. They considered a range of global and local crises from a leadership point of view in the context of sustainability science, which addresses the development of communities in a rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental system-of-systems environment. The course took a problem-motivated and solution-focused approach to the challenges considered. The course included service-learning projects, in which students worked in small groups on developing solutions for real-world problems from a leadership point of view. The projects included a mandatory one-week work period in Florida.

Interdisciplinary Course on Mitigation and Adaptation Studies. The course was taught in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, and it is being taught in each Spring term. It gives an introduction to the science underpinning mitigation of human-induced changes in the Earth system, including but not limited to climate change, sea level rise, and land use, and discusses adaptation to the impacts of these changes. The course covers the environmental hazards and the opportunities and limitations for conservation, mitigation and adaptation. The course is a core course for the new interdisciplinary minor in Conservation Leadership.

New interdisciplinary minor in Conservation Leadership: This interdisciplinary Minor focuses on conservation solutions in the context of our quickly changing planet. A goal of this new program is to develop the next generation of conservation leaders with the ability to critically review underlying paradigms and to initiate paradigm shifts where they are needed in conservation roles, such as in local, state and federal agency and non-profit sectors, to more suitably address the challenges of sea level rise and climate change. The core of this 15 credit minor is built around two courses on Adaptation Studies and Sustainability Leadership. The course on Sustainability Leadership is a service learning course. One additional course is an elective, which can be selected across disciplines to suit a wide-range of conservation interests. An internship is the capstone of this minor. For more information, see here.

In the 2016 Summer term (June 27 — August 6, 2016), the graduate course “Decisions, Biases, and the Creation of Knowledge” studied how personal, community and cultural biases impact the creation of knowlegde and the use of it in decision making.


For meetings of the Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum, see the dedicated web page at

  • 4th Blue Planet Symposium: The 4th Blue Planet Symposium organized be the GEO Blue Planet Initiative will be held on July 4-6, 2018 in Toulouse, France. Find out more ...
  • Hampton Roads Adaptation Forum: The next HRAF will take place on February 23, 2018 at the Hampton Roads Sanitation District NS Training Facility, 2389 G Avenue, Newport New, VA 23602. It will focus on infrastructure resilience. Registration is required here. The agenda is available on the Forum website.
  • Role of the Ocean for SDGs: MARI is engaged in the development of a White Paper on the role of the ocean for the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs in Caribbean Small Island Developing States.


  • The Role of the Ocean for SDG Implementation and Monitoring: A workshop on “Implementing and Monitoring the SDGs in the Caribbean: The Role of the Ocean” was organized in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in January 2018. For more information, see the Workshop and Project Web Page. The workshop brought together 42 participants from seventeen countries represetning a broad range of stakeholders from governments, government agencies, regional and international NGOs and UN agencies, businesses and academica in an effort to identify and articulate knowledge needs for the implementation and monitoring of the SDGs in Caribbean Small Island States (SIDS) and matching those needs to knowledge, tools, and data. In collaboration with Hon. Minister Saboto Caesar, MARI is taking the lead in follow-up activities to fully develop and implement the geo-space for SDGs in SIDS. Read the Workshop report ...
  • Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/Flooding Adaptation Forum took place on October 13 at VMASC. The topic was “New and Updated Science and Project.” Local resilience projects were highlighted, as well as new sea level rise projections from the federal government, and subsidence research.
  • Humboldt Foundation Fellow to talk about Adaptation around the Baltic Sea On November 3, 2017, Prof. Dr. Gerald Schernewski (read more) will speak at ODU about “Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Region: Consequences for coastal areas and adaptation examples.” The time and location of the presentation is still to be determined. The abstract is available here. The event is organized by the Alumni Council of the American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and MARI at Old Dominion University.
  • For more past events, see here ...


[May 31, 2017] Flood Risk Management: The WWF published “Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide”, which introduces an integrated framework for flood management, drawing on policy, green infrastructure and conventional engineering to help communities adapt and better manage growing flood risk. Read the guide ...

[April 21, 2017] Achieving Environmental equity: A community roundtable organized by the Urban Sustainability and Equity Center in Richmond, Virgina on May 1, 2017, 6:00-8:00 PM, will discuss local heat island patterns in the City of Richmond. Registration is available at

[April 20, 2017] Trillions of plastic pieces are polluting the oceans: An article in the New York Times reports that trillions of plastic bits are swept up by currents and are littering Arctic waters. Most of this is coming from the North Atlantic. The consequences for marine ecosystem are likely to be severe.

[February 10, 2017] How to be successful under unfavorable conditions?: In a new column in ApogeoSpatial, Hans-Peter Plag finds that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations came in a world not prepared for them and he addresses the question how they can be successful under these umfavorable conditions.

[February 7, 2017] The crack in Larsen C is growing: A NYT article by Jugel Patel, an ODU student, illustrates the rapid development of the large crack in the Larsen C ice shelf. If the crack continues to grow at current speed, a large paret of the ice shelf will break of in the next few month.