Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s stormwater specialist, Jessica Brown, has been selected by the UGA Office of Service Learning to participate in the 2017-18 Service-Learning Fellows program. The year-long program provides 10 faculty members the opportunity to integrate service-learning into their teaching, research and public service work.

The service learning project proposed by Brown will allow UGA undergraduate students to work alongside coastal municipalities and government agencies to assess and design science-based solutions for stormwater projects in disadvantaged coastal communities.

“Our communities are chronically and historically under-resourced for sustainable stormwater management,” says Brown. “This service-learning opportunity will provide a space for social trust to grow as students and communities work together to solve problems and come up with solutions.”

Outdated or poorly maintained stormwater infrastructure can have environmental and public health impacts. Overflowing ditches may lead to flooding, causing damage to properties. Retention ponds that don’t drain properly can cause an influx of mosquitos. Aging pipes can rust or crack, causing stormwater system failure.

Brown argues that some of these issues can be avoided if more investment is put into designing a sustainable system based on site conditions and the needs of a particular community.

“There is no one size fits all for stormwater management,” says Brown. “Sites need to be properly assessed to ensure that management techniques are engineered to fit specific site conditions.”

Green infrastructure is designed to improve quality of life and provide some benefit to the community, but it often requires planning, innovation and support that communities currently do not have. Bringing in students to study the economic, environmental and social impact of these stormwater projects will provide a cost-effective way to address a critical need and help municipalities make better investments in green infrastructure.