UPEI researcher receives federal funding for project to build PEI’s resilience to climate change

| Research
Damage caused by Hurricane Fiona
LaFortune Cottage, French Village, in 2017 (left) and May 2023 (right) post-Hurricane Fiona. Photo by Don Jardine

Dr. Xander Wang, an associate professor with the UPEI School of Climate Change and Adaptation, has been awarded a total of $1.6 million to investigate ways to protect PEI from coastal erosion and to build Island communities’ resilience to climate change.

The project is supported with a $864,226 contribution previously announced through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA); $619,090 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation through its Innovation Fund; and $64,410 from UPEI.

 “Our government knows that a deep understanding of the impacts of climate change goes hand-in-hand with building a strong and sustainable Atlantic economy,” said Sean Casey, Member of Parliament for Charlottetown, on behalf of the Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA. “Thanks to a thriving system of research, innovation, and collaboration here in PEI, I’m confident in our ability to turn this knowledge into unique solutions to some of the biggest climate challenges facing us today.”

“In recent years, global warming has intensified extreme precipitation and caused unprecedented sea level rise around the world,” said Dr. Wang. “This is especially true for PEI, which has been threatened by increasing coastal-inland flooding risks. As well, the Island has been shrinking at a faster rate than previously thought due to severe coastal erosion. How to protect the Island from coastal erosion and build climate-resilient coastal communities has become one of the most pressing questions to be addressed in PEI.”

To address this question, Dr. Wang and a multidisciplinary team will develop an innovative research program to help protect the Island from changing climatic and oceanic conditions. They will create a system to monitor and model coastal and flooding hazards across PEI, as well as test various coastal protection measures—both nature-based such as planting vegetation and engineering-based such as building seawalls.

The coastal hazard monitoring, modeling, and testing system will be the only one of its kind in Canada. It will assist the provincial and municipal governments to plan coastal adaptation measures, evaluate the effectiveness of different coastal protection measures, and manage flooding events from an operational and an emergency perspective. The system will include 360-degree cameras that will record storms in real time and an indoor facility to test protective measures in a simulated coastal environment.

“The damage caused to PEI by Hurricane Fiona in September 2022 was devastating,” said Dr. Wang. “The province lost about five per cent of its coastal land cover during that one storm alone. Our ultimate goal is to help build PEI’s sustainability and improve its ability to withstand climate change.”

“Hurricane Fiona and the extreme damage it wrought on our small province gave us a snapshot of climate change in action—and of our increasing vulnerability in the future,” said Dr. Greg Keefe, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor of UPEI. “With our climate change and adaptation program, UPEI is uniquely placed—and bears responsibility—to work toward finding solutions to climate change. I congratulate Dr. Wang and his team on achieving the funding for this important project.”

UPEI acknowledges the assistance of Canada’s tri-council of federal granting agencies--Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)--through its Research Support Fund, which helps fund services and infrastructure that support research activities at the University. In 2023–2024, UPEI was allocated $931,234.00 from the RSF.

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