Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience Traineeship

I am the director of Rutgers’ NSF-funded Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience Traineeship (C2R2), an innovative, new, transdisciplinary initiative that is preparing graduate students to meet the challenge of coastal climate change. C2R2 integrates expertise from many fields, ranging from urban planning to climate science and oceanography, from engineering to sociology and economics. It offers research-based Masters’ and Ph.D. students in Rutgers graduate programs the opportunity to conduct research that integrates natural, socio-economic, and engineered elements of coastal systems and to practice effective communication techniques with coastal stakeholders. For more information, see the C2R2 web site.

Current Courses

01:460:203 Building and Maintaining a Habitable Planet (premiered Fall 2013)


Humanity has become a geological force, reshaping Earth’s land, atmosphere, oceans and climate through our activities. Some geologists have proposed that this era of human influence be recognized as a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. “We are as gods and we HAVE to get good at it,” the writer Stewart Brand says, yet “civilization’s shortening attention span is mismatched with the pace of environmental problems.” How do we reconcile the time scale of news cycles, quarterly reports, and elections with the timescale of our impacts, which will last for tens of thousands if not millions of years?

This course will prepare students to become informed citizens of our empowered global civilization, able to step outside the realm of short-termism and interpret the environmental changes humanity is effecting today in in the context of our planet’s 4.6 billion year history. We will address questions such as: Why is the Earth so habitable, while Mars is at best marginally so and Venus totally uninhabitable? How did life evolve to regulate the planet’s chemical and energy flows before we arrived on the scene? How does human civilization fit into this long history, and what are the implications of the planetary and human experience for the frequency of intelligent life in the Universe?

01:460:571 Climate Change Risk Analysis (premiered as graduate seminar Spring 2014)


From Superstorm Sandy to the most extensive drought since the 1930s: in 2012, the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States, weather- and climate-related disasters cost Americans more than $110 billion. As climate change intensifies over the course of the century, climate models project that heat waves will become more frequent and intense and that intense downpours will become more common. Sea level rise will increase the flooding associated with storm events. If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated through the end of the 22nd cenutry, significant parts of the eastern United States may become physiologically uninhabitable during the hottest days of the summer. This graduate course will examine the natural science, impact science and economic literature on the uncertainties and risks associated with climate change, and the challenges of linking together research in these disciplines.

Past Courses

Graduate Seminar: Assessing and Governing Long-Term Risks (Spring 2015)


Long-term risks can be thought of as risks where the probability and/or magnitude of harm increases on a multi-decadal timescale. Long-term risks can arise from purely social causes (e.g., those associated with political or economic institutions, violence, and technology), but often arise from the interaction of humans with the Earth system (e.g., climate change; ozone depletion; resource depletion; pandemics; flood and seismic risk in areas subject to increasing development). In the past, many such risks – such as pandemics and earthquakes in the pre-scientific world – arose without the potential for foresight and were blamed on supernatural causes. Today, there are many that are within human knowledge. Nonetheless, long-term risk governance remains challenging for multiple reasons, including that uncertainty in projected hazards often increase the further we project into the future.

Risk governance “includes the totality of actors, rules, conventions, processes, and mechanisms concerned with how relevant risk information is collected, analyzed, and communicated and management decisions are taken,” (Renn and Roco, 2006: 157). Risk governance can be broken into two spheres of assessment and risk management. The assessment sphere is concerned with generating knowledge or “analyzing and understanding” the risk. The risk management sphere uses this knowledge to make decisions and implement actions. This class will focus on specific ways to assess and manage longer-term risks by learning about case studies where long term risks have been identified and specific tools (such as the info-gap and robust decision-making method) that have been developed to govern long-term risks.

16:460:611 Joint Rutgers-Princeton Graduate Seminar: Geological Constraints on Climate Sensitivity (Spring 2013)


Climate sensitivity and Earth system sensitivity relate changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and other radiative forcers to changes in temperature, both in Earth’s past and in the future. The Cenozoic record provided by paleo-temperature and paleo-carbon dioxide proxies can constrain these parameters and thus also the projected response of the planet to human-induced changes in greenhouse gas concentrations. This seminar will explore the concepts of climate and Earth system sensitivity, the methods and records of paleo-temperature and paleo-carbon dioxide proxies in the Cenozoic, and the statistical challenges of inferring sensitivities from these proxies.

01:090:252 Rutgers SAS Honors Seminar: Energy in Nature and Society: From Earth’s Deep Past to Civilization’s Future (Fall 2012)


The flow of energy drives natural and human systems. The balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing thermal energy is the fundamental driver of Earth’s climate. The photosynthetic transformation of solar energy to chemical energy, and the respiratory transformation of chemical energy to other forms of chemical energy, to useful work, and to heat drive almost all of Earth’s biosphere. The development of human civilization has been closely tied to the ability to capture an ever-increasing fraction of the Earth’s energy budget, first primarily through agriculture and later primarily through combustion of fossil fuels. As a side effect, humanity is effecting major changes to both the climate and the biosphere in which it evolved. Concerns about these changes and about the security of energy supplies are major drivers of modern economic and policy decisions.

This seminar, intended for students from all academic majors, will examine the evolution of energy supply, energy demand and the global energy system as a whole, from the rise of photosynthesis to the development of agriculture, the Industrial revolution, and the modern, carbon-constrained world. It will investigate the historical relationship between energy use and economic welfare and possible scenarios for the coupled development of the global energy system and Earth’s climate over the coming centuries. Familiarity with basic mathematical and scientific concepts (comparable to high school physics) will be assumed; moderately sophisticated mathematics (e.g., calculus) will be discussed but not required for homework.

16:460:613 Graduate seminar on Major Transitions in the Evolution of the Global Carbon Cycle (Spring 2012)


This special topics course covered the evolution of the global carbon cycle over the 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history, with a particular focus on the relationship between the carbon cycle and paleogeography.

11:546:196 Rutgers SEBS Honors Seminar: State of the Planet (Spring 2012)

[Slides] [Reference Sheet and Reading List] [Personal Energy Audit Exercise]

I served as the guest instructor for the week on energy issues in the Rutgers School of Environmental & Biological Sciences honors seminar.

Ge11b: Earth and the Biosphere and  Ge 104: Introduction to Geobiology (Winter 2005, 2006

At Caltech, I served for two years as TA for Ge11b: Earth and the Biosphere and Ge 104: Introduction to Geobiology, taught by Joe Kirschvink. As TA for Ge 11b and Ge 104, I led the redesign of the readings, assignments, and laboratory exercises for these classes. [Reading List]

Other TA roles at Caltech (Fall 2003-Summer 2005)

I also served as teaching assistant for Ge 124: Paleomagnetism and Magnetostratigraphy, taught by Joe Kirschvink (spring 2005), and ACM 118: Methods in Applied Statistics and Data Analysis, taught by Tapio Schneider (fall 2003). In addition, I coordinated several field trip classes, including weekend classes to southwestern Utah and the Colorado Plateau and two-week summer field trips to Western Australia in 2004 and to Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Beartooth Range in 2005.