Implementing an Integrated, Wireless Monitoring Network to Enhance Decision Making in Communities Impacted by Environmental and Industrial Change
Lead PI:
Michelle Hummel

Texas coastal communities have historically been exposed to environmental threats from natural and industrial sources. In Ingleside on the Bay (IOB), a small, rural community situated along the shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay, tropical storms and high rates of relative sea-level rise cause extreme and nuisance flooding, while industrial expansion is placing stress on the community’s way of life and the natural resources upon which it relies. Such communities lack the comprehensive data needed to advocate for and make informed decisions about risk reduction strategies to mitigate the impacts of industrial growth and climate change. This proposal engages with the nonprofit Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association (IOBCWA), community members, and governmental representatives to assess the role of distributed, real-time sensor technology in improving IOB’s capacity to respond to dynamic environmental conditions that affect the quality of its air, water, and land resources. It also examines how emerging community-based nonprofits like IOBCWA engage with diverse organizations in response to new threats and how they can utilize environmental sensing data in planning and advocacy efforts.

This project will leverage interdisciplinary, sociotechnical methods to (1) assess the current structure of communication and information-sharing networks related to environmental threats and mitigation planning in IOB; (2) activate academic-civic partnerships to deploy environmental monitoring sensors to generate a pilot smart grid for comprehensive and timely data collection; (3) develop a preliminary online data visualization dashboard that makes sensor data available in real-time to the community; and (4) assess how the data and dashboard can be utilized by residents and nonprofit organizations to inform sustainable planning and development strategies that address industrial permitting challenges and safeguard community and environmental well-being. To achieve the technical objectives, this project will develop and deploy a pilot sensing network for real-time environmental monitoring, design an online dashboard and data analysis framework to display the collected data in real-time, and beta test the dashboard among a diverse group of residents, community leaders, and local stakeholders. To achieve the social science objectives, this project will apply grounded theory to characterize the evolving role of community-based nonprofits in networking, civic engagement, and policymaking efforts in IOB and identify data needs that can be addressed by leveraging sensor technology to provide a scientific basis for decision-making. Community workshops will provide opportunities to refine the study needs and objectives, obtain feedback on the sensor network and dashboard, and co-develop a vision for future integrative research efforts.

Michelle Hummel
My research focuses on understanding the impacts of natural hazards and climate change on water resources, critical infrastructure, and communities using a combination of physical, statistical, and geospatial modeling tools.
Performance Period: 10/01/2021 - 09/30/2022
Institution: University of Texas at Arlington
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Award Number: 2125234