Climate Champion instrumental in American Samoa’s Climate Change Vulnerability study
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — Honolulu District’s Jessica Podoski, a hydraulic engineer in the Civil Works Technical Branch, Engineering and Construction Division, is the national U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Climate Champion of 2019 award winner for her work in preparing climate change and resilience studies in the Pacific Region.
The USACE award citation commended Podoski for “outstanding leadership in identifying the impacts of climate change and providing planning guidance to the American Samoa Government (ASG) during the calendar year 2019 through the execution of a Climate Change Vulnerability Study for the territory. This study is of particular value to American Samoa due to its reliance on transportation infrastructure that serves as a vital lifeline for Trans-Pacific, inter-island, and intra-island commerce and community services. “
“I’m grateful to be able to represent and have Honolulu District receive some recognition for the work we’re doing to prepare ourselves and our Pacific Island partners for the impacts of future climate change,” said Podoski, Honolulu District’s Coastal Engineering subject manager expert and Operations & Maintenance technical manager. “I’ve become involved in the Climate Preparedness and Resilience CoP in the past few years in order to help ensure that our new and existing USACE projects will provide benefits and remain effective for years to come.”
"Addressing sustainability and the impacts of climate change in the Pacific region is critical for us as an organization and outlines how the USACE proposes to address those impacts to protect our missions," said Honolulu District Commander Lt. Col. Kathryn Sanborn. “Jessica’s selection as USACE’s climate champion underscores her continuous outstanding work in external collaboration, improving our Pacific partnerships, and enhancing Pacific territorial stakeholder’s understanding of climate change impacts — we are proud of her continued commitments to our region and sustainability.”
The American Samoa Climate Related Vulnerability Assessment for Transportation Infrastructure Study was completed at the request of the American Samoa Department of Public Works. The study objective was assessing the vulnerability of American Samoa’s transportation assets to climate related hazards and its intent to help the American Samoa government identify what transportation assets are most vulnerable to climate changes, and to begin planning for adaptation of these assets by relocation, elevation or protection.
"This award is a testament to Jessica's dedication to her profession as well as her technical and leadership skills,” said Justin Goo, chief, Honolulu District Civil Works Technical Branch. “Her exemplary work through the completion of the American Samoa Climate Change Vulnerability Study helps to promote USACE's technical capabilities in providing climate preparedness and resilience solutions to a broad array of potential vulnerable stakeholders in low-lying coastal areas throughout the Pacific."
“The study approach involved broad research on climate-related impacts, vulnerability indices and adaption strategies for public transportation systems, interviews with American Samoa stakeholders and regional subject matter experts, and two onsite stakeholder workshops held in June and October 2019,” said Podoski. “I believe this study is a valuable framework for additional USACE climate change/resilience studies.”
The award citation also lauded Podoski’s efforts in sharing knowledge and improving collaboration through presentations on changing sea level, including the Honolulu Pacific Building Trade Expo, and senior level briefings to the Pacific Ocean Division commander.
Podoski has served with USACE for nearly 19 years and has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree and Masters of Engineering in Coastal Engineering degree from the University of Florida. As the District’s Coastal Engineering SME she provides project team engineering expertise on navigation projects, regional sediment management, coastal storm damage reduction, and climate change adaptation.
USACE factors climate change and its impacts into all of its missions and operations and continuously works to identify and address existing and future climate change risks and vulnerabilities.
“Many of our Pacific Island territories and partners face similar climate vulnerabilities and will need to start adaptation planning now in order to be prepared for the impacts they will see 10, 20, or 50 years from now, or are already experiencing,” said Podoski. “Hopefully we (USACE) can apply lessons learned from the American Samoa study to future climate change analyses in the Pacific Region.”