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ENV course examines climate change through Hurricane Sandy, Jersey Shore visits

While the University campus was shielded from the worst effects of Hurricane Sandy last fall, the other home of Katie Goepel ’15 was not as fortunate. The extensive damage to her family's beach house on the Jersey Shore prompted Goepel to register this semester forENV 343: Climate Change and Extreme Weather in the Garden State, a new course that situates Sandy in the wider context of climate change in New Jersey.

“I think [the course] is really applicable to students here,” Goepel said. “People seem to be very interested in the class and the environment, especially in something that happened so recently and could happen again.”


The course’s purpose is to examine potential links between climate change and extreme weather, according to course instructor and ecology and evolutionary biology lecturer Eileen Zerba.

“I think that’s really important in terms of teaching the students that because, obviously, given the current events, extreme weather holds the potential to change our lives in even a moment,” Zerba explained.

Princeton's relative proximity to the Jersey Shore allows students access to a convenient real-world example of the devastation extreme weather change can cause. The class will visit two areas affected last year by Hurricane Sandyand will work on developing strategies for preventing and countering the impact of extreme weather on communities, Zerba explained.

“[The students] are going to go and survey the damage there and look at rebuilding strategies.” Zerba said. “Their project is to really research that, in light of future sea level change and come up with ideas about green infrastructure strategies, the things in the natural environment that can lower impact of future storms.”

The course will consist of lectures, interactive discussion sessions and student projects in which students will study weather phenomena by looking at past storm data and design countermeasures for extreme weather, Zerba said.

The two locations that students will be visiting are Union Beach, one of the areas hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy last fall, and Sea Bright, an area located between the bay and the ocean where storm water affected many of the freshwater bodies in the area, Zerba explained. The trips are part of the University’s Community Based Learning Initiative, which aims to link students’ academic work with communities near the University. Through these trips and other projects, students will tackle the work of developing and designing countermeasures for extreme weather.


Given last year's storm, Goepel said she felt the course is extremely applicable to students.

She explained that she feels the overall format and projects of the course are very distinctive and interesting. The course currently has 10 students enrolled, according to the Registrar’s Course Offerings page.

“People seem to be very interested in the class and the environment, especially in something that happened so recently and could happen again,” she said.

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