2020 Ardaman-Wissa Lecture, Geotechnics and the Climate Challenge

Date(s) - 03/17/2020
3:00 PM - 5:30 PM

Reitz Union, G320


From rising sea-levels to changing weather patterns, the projected impacts of climate change are significant. The host of specific geotechnical challenges related to climate change range from the need for new strategies to protect coastal cities, to dealing with the consequences of melting permafrost on Arctic infrastructure. Increased severity in extreme weather events (both floods and droughts) will also jeopardize existing dams and levees, increase slope hazards and trigger excessive erosion and scour. This lecture will discuss examples of climate change impacts likely to influence geotechnical engineering research and practice, together with the challenges such impacts pose. New advances needed to tackle the climate challenge will also be described. Green infrastructure as an example of a climate adaptation strategy will then be presented, together with the lessons learned from an extensive, multi-year green infrastructure program that is being implemented in New York City. The program is an example of an emerging class of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies that relies on local, or neighborhood level, infrastructure interventions. The final part of the lecture will deal with the implications of this new approach to the future of geotechnical engineering research, practice and training.

A leader in the field of geo-environmental engineering and urban sustainability, Patricia Culligan explores novel, interdisciplinary solutions to the challenges of urbanization, with a particular emphasis on the City of New York. Her research investigates the opportunities for green infrastructure, social networks, and advanced measurement and sensing technologies to improve urban water, energy, and environmental management. She is co-Director of a $12 million research network sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop new models for urban infrastructure to make cities cleaner, healthier, and more enjoyable places to live. She was the founding associate director of Columbia University’s Data Science Institute and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Earth Institute. Culligan has received numerous research and teaching awards for her academic contributions, including the National Science Foundation’s CAREER AWARD and Columbia University’s Presidential Teaching Award. She has also served on the Board of Governors of the Geo-Institute and the National Academies Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, and has Chaired the National Academies Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering. She is the author or co-author of more than 170 technical articles. She received her BSc from Leeds University, England and her MPhil and PhD from Cambridge University, England.