Ship’s captain turned researcher, Austin Becker, looks to the future for how ports will respond to sea level rise. He explains the importance of ports for world trade, the time horizons for port planning, and the plans to brace for rising seas (or lack thereof).
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Austin’s previous career was as a captain of schooners and tall ships. He designed and oversaw educational programs that engaged students in leadership training. He taught traditional seamanship skills, maritime heritage, marine science, and marine affairs. As a professional mariner, Austin traveled throughout the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Austin’s research contributes to the enormous task of untangling complex problems involving uncertainty, large-scale shifts in climate over long time horizons, and the resulting challenges in policy and planning. His dissertation uses empirical data collected through interviews and surveys to understand climate-change intensified disasters in the coastal-built environment in terms of impacts, policy strategies, and barriers to strategy implementation. Seaports facilitate 80% of world trade and are restricted to coastal locations by the nature of their business. As recently seen after superstorm Sandy, resilience issues have become all the more pressing as cities like New York search for acceptable solutions to mitigate large-scale infrastructure damage to seaports, airports, subway systems, water and sewer, and the like. Meeting these challenges in an economically and environmentally sustainable way is one of the century’s most pressing problems.
Lindley joined the Centre for Ocean Solutions (COS) as a research assistant in September 2012. She works with two COS early career fellows who are researching the use of ecological thresholds in management strategies. This new approach may help ecosystems avoid abrupt regime shifts from one steady state to another due to biological or anthropogenic pressures. Lindley earned her bachelor’s degree at Stanford University in human biology and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in earth systems. She spent a year working for California Environmental Associates on a variety of projects and looks forward to applying her past work experience in conservation to her current and future work with COS. She also loves to hike, dance and bake fresh bread. Although she’s falling hard for California, her loyalty lies in Seattle, and her roots run deep beneath the Cascade Mountains.