Global to Community (G2C)

Photo by USGS

Researchers in the Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) have partnered with the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Data Science, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science on an initiative bridging global-scale climate dynamics with regional/local processes and systems to guide decision-making for equitable climate resilience and sustainability outcomes. This is a critical knowledge gap in creating actionable solutions to climate change, and one in which UVA is uniquely poised to become a preeminent leader. The initiative’s research objectives are organized around three overarching themes: utilizing downscaling and model-data fusion to make advances in climate science more actionable and equitable at the local scale; leveraging cyber-physical systems (CPS) to advance our ability to monitor energy and water flows within communities, reduce energy consumption at the building scale, and mitigate global climate change impacts to infrastructure systems; and exploring how engineering and nature-based approaches to decarbonization be realistically integrated at the regional scale to cut emissions in line with global climate goals.

Global climate change is the greatest challenge of the 21st century, and it affects all aspects of our society, including health, commerce, and democracy. Climate impacts are being felt across the United States and the world through extreme weather, changes to our coastal regions, and stress on our food, energy, and water systems, among other impacts. As an example, during the 1990s, the United States experienced 4-5 climate and weather disasters per year with >$1B in damages each; over the most recent decade, the average was closer to 16 per year (NOAA). This places people, infrastructure, and ecosystems at risk, and threatens the critical resources necessary to support a healthy and prosperous society, especially given that these climate impacts have a disproportionate effect on traditionally underserved populations.


A number of modeling and data tools are used across spatial and temporal scales to understand climate change, its drivers and impacts. This proposal seeks to fill critical gaps at UVA and will create the research capacity needed to bridge these scales by hiring postdoctoral fellows and faculty members who are interested in spanning two or more scales on this conceptual diagram and creating a data and model infrastructure to support their effort.

Our initiative, funded by the Prominence-to-Preeminence (P2PE) STEM Targeted Initiatives Fund, is designed specifically to recruit and support a highly qualified and diverse group of postdoctoral fellows, and through this pipeline, to recruit and retain three new diverse faculty members who will enhance UVA’s research capacity in three key areas: 1) cross-scale modeling through AI / Machine Learning and physics-based approaches; 2) decision science (e.g., agent-based modeling), and 3) geospatial science (e.g., data acquisition and integration).

The postdoctoral fellows will work as a cohort and will bring the technological skills needed to bridge global-scale modeling and regional/local-scale observations to address climate change solutions. We will support these postdoctoral fellows with interdisciplinary mentorship by the faculty involved in this effort, and research funds and data infrastructure/analysis. The data and model support infrastructure and personnel will ensure that our systems support integrated climate research and will be a draw for faculty recruits and graduate students. The post-doc research program will move us toward preeminence and segue effectively into the recruitment of outstanding new faculty to maintain our leadership in this arena.

UVA continues to explore our understandings of climate change at spatial and temporal scales that matter to communities, and in using data collected at these scales to inform regional and global assessments of climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. We work across the broad range of disciplines needed to answer crucial questions about societal futures related to climate change (e.g., environmental sciences, engineering, data science, economics, sociology, ethics, etc.). We are striving to enhance the diversity, equity, and inclusion at UVA by focusing on the recruitment of postdoctoral fellows from underrepresented groups in STEM, and by interactions with partners in communities throughout the State of Virginia, and in other targeted communities (e.g., indigenous Arctic).

G2C Leadership

karen mcglathery
ERI Director, AVP for Research, Sustainability & Environment and Professor, Department of Environmental Science
Donald Brown
Senior Associate Dean for Research and Quantitative Foundation Distinguished Professor in Data Science and the W.S. Calcott Professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Image of Howard Epstein
Professor of Environmental Sciences and Chair
Professor, Engineering Systems and Environment Associate Director, Link Lab
Will Evans
G2C Project Manager