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AT&T Awards USF St. Petersburg a Climate Resiliency Grant for Crowdsourced Community Project

water with the city of St. Petersburg in the background

The Community Resiliency Information System (CRIS) was selected for a $50,000 grant from AT&T.

USF St. Petersburg was one of just five universities in the southeastern U.S. to be awarded an AT&T Climate Resiliency Community Challenge grant. The University’s Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (iCAR) is receiving $50,000 for a project that will leverage citizen engagement and crowdsourced data to identify climate vulnerabilities in local communities.

The Community Resiliency Information System (CRIS) is designed to “make smart cities smarter” by allowing residents from diverse communities to collect data and communicate directly with elected officials through their smartphones, said Barnali Dixon, executive director of iCAR and professor of geographic information systems and remote sensing.

“Our goal with CRIS is to gather information and intelligence from the people,” said Dixon. “Residents know more about their own neighborhood than anyone else. Using CRIS, we can harvest that information to build a system that offers two-way communication between community members and policymakers. That way, policymakers are not just handing out policies – they’re able to cultivate information and resources from the community they intend to benefit.”

Working with Rebecca Johns, professor of geography and iCAR’s director of community outreach and education, Dixon aims to test a preliminary platform in St. Petersburg’s Childs Park neighborhood within the next two months. After receiving feedback and refining the system, the iCAR team plans to roll out demos and offer orientations to community members in June.

AT&T’s Climate Resiliency Community Challenge was launched to address resilience in the face of extreme weather and climate change. The proposals were selected through an application process that included a review by a panel of climate and resilience experts from groups like the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and World Wildlife Fund.

“Last year, we shared with the public the rich climate datasets that we’re using in our own risk analysis so that others can assess their vulnerability,” said Andrea Brands, director of corporate social responsibility at AT&T. “We’re now making funding available to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and four other universities so they can launch innovative research on climate impacts and community responses. The universities will work with local governments to conduct climate risk analysis and help boost community resilience.”

“The Community Resiliency Information System is unique in that it features community-driven data, with a strong emphasis on equity so that a range of socioeconomic levels are included,” she added. “This is at the heart of what we are hoping to accomplish, helping prepare communities for future changes and address a variety of needs.”

For Dixon, the Climate Resiliency Community Challenge fits neatly into her mission at iCAR, which seeks to foster resilience for coastal communities.

“CRIS will create an information system that can be used outside St. Petersburg, promoting resilience in other communities as well,” she said.

Grateful for having been selected for AT&T’s Climate Resiliency Community Challenge, Dixon looks forward to continuing her mission of creating resiliency solutions that have real world impacts.

“This is not just an academic exercise,” she said. “We can do something here that’s going to help everybody.”

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