Tropical Storm Hilary packed a punch but wasn’t nearly as devastating as it could have been. Meanwhile Tropical Storm Franklin is battering the Caribbean. As we enter the height of hurricane season, Virginia Tech has a team of coastal experts available who can provide insight about hurricanes, flash flooding, storm surge, sea-level rise and emergency response.

Robert Weiss examines the impact of coastal hazards in the geologic past, today and in the future. His work analyzes how climate change and sea-level rise could change the nature and impacts of coastal hazards in coming years. He develops computer models and uses data analytics to translate the geologic record of coastal hazards into insights that improve the understanding of coastal hazards today. Weiss is a professor of natural hazards in the Department of Geosciences.

Stephanie Zick studies tropical meteorology, tropical cyclones (hurricanes), precipitation, numerical weather prediction, and model forecast verification. Her research focuses on using spatial methods to better understand tropical cyclone dynamics and structure with a particular focus on hurricane landfall. More specifically, she harnesses the intimate link between the anatomy of a hurricane and its physiology, or the physical mechanisms that fuel the storm. Zick is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography.

Jennifer Irish studies coastal flooding and engineering solutions to minimize its impacts. Her work emphasizes the characterization of storm surge likelihood, barrier-island response to coastal storms, mitigation potential of coastal forests and wetlands, and the influence of sea-level rise. Irish is a professor of coastal engineering in the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Anamaria Bukvic's research is focused on coastal hazards and disasters, adaptation, resilience, and population relocation. She studies the impacts of coastal flooding on migration dynamics and displacement in coastal settings and the reasons behind the willingness to consider permanent relocation in rural and urban communities. She also studies the flood risk of older coastal populations and other socially vulnerable groups. Bukvic is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography.

Liesel Ritchie is a disaster resilience expert and professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Ritchie has studied a range of disaster events, including the Exxon Valdez, BP Deepwater Horizon, and Mauritius oil spills; the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash release; Hurricane Katrina; and earthquakes in Haiti and New Zealand. Her focus has been on the social impacts of disasters and community resilience, including conducting social impact assessments, with an emphasis on technological hazards and disasters, social capital, and rural renewable resource communities.

Christopher Zobel’s research is focused on helping decision makers improve their ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. He is particularly interested in using analytical modeling and computer simulation to help understand the complex nature of disaster resilience. Zobel is a professor of Business Information Technology in the Pamplin College of Business.

Manoochehr Shirzaei is an environmental security expert and associate professor of geophysics and remote sensing in the College of Science. His research interests include sea level rise, land subsidence, and flooding hazards. Shirzaei characterizes the impact of land subsidence on the hazards associated with hurricanes, storm surges, shoreline erosion, and inundation of low-lying coastal areas where the high density of population and assets amplifies the region's exposure to hazards and risks. His research shows that subsidence can also affect coastal structures' integrity and increase the likelihood of failure.

Dan Goerlich serves Virginia Cooperative Extension as associate director for Economy, Community, and Food. In this role, Goerlich provides leadership to Extension’s emergency preparedness and response efforts, among other responsibilities. The Extension offers valuable research-based information to support communities preparing for and recovering from disasters. Goerlich is a Virginia Tech representative on the Extension Disaster Education Network, a collaborative multi-state effort by Cooperative Extension Services across the country to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. He also serves on the advisory board for the Virginia Tech Disaster Resilience and Risk Management graduate certificate program. 

About Virginia Tech Center for Coastal Studies

Nearly half of the world’s population lives in the coastal zone and is, therefore, exposed to impacts of terrestrial and marine processes. The Center for Coastal Studies’ mission is to inspire societally relevant solutions to the complex challenges emerging in the coastal zone. Sea-level rise, urbanization and other stressors threaten important nodes of the global economy, critical infrastructure for civil and national security, and fragile ecosystems. Human and ecosystems well-being, economic prosperity and security are interdependent and form a complex coupled network, defining a nexus of resource limitation, opportunity, and vulnerability from which knowledge crucial for the design of sustainable solutions can emerge–the Center for Coastal Studies overarching goal.

About Virginia Cooperative Extension

Virginia Cooperative Extension is a partnership of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments. Extension operates out of 107 offices, 11 Agricultural Research and Extension centers, and six 4-H centers across the commonwealth. Agents, specialists, and volunteers work to assist farmers, empower youth, guide responsible resource management, and advance the wellbeing of all Virginians.


To schedule an interview, contact Margaret Ashburn at or 540-529-0814 or Shannon Andrea in the media relations office at or 703-399-9494.