Aerospace professor awarded division's first Fulbright fellowship

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Aerospace professor awarded division's first Fulbright fellowship

Rebecca J. Romsdahl, assistant professor in the UND Department of Earth System Science & Policy (ESSP), has earned a 2013-2014 Fulbright US Scholar Award to conduct research in the United Kingdom. Her project is titled "Comparing Adaptation Planning for Climate Change at Local Government Levels in the United Kingdom and United States." ESSP is part of the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences (UND Aerospace).

Romsdahl is the first UND Aerospace faculty member to get the US State Department's Fulbright Award, a program administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, a division of the Institute for International Education. She will be hosted at Lancaster University, in Lancaster, which is located on the northwest coast of England, about two and a half hours by train from London.

The ongoing focus of Romsdahl's research is global climate change and its policy implications.

"Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity in the 21st century," said Romsdahl, who grew up on a farm near St. James, Minn. "My Fulbright project will utilize a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews with local government officials in the United Kingdom to develop a deeper understanding of how local governments are framing climate adaptation. I'll also be looking at the role of policy entrepreneurs, diagnosing barriers to adaptation policy, and identifying strategies for how barriers have been overcome."

Romsdahl will analyze her findings in the UK with similar data collected in the US to provide a comparative understanding of climate adaptation planning.

"Insights from this project will be valuable to public policy for both UK and US governance as they struggle to implement climate policy by two different routes, top-down versus bottom-up," she said.

"Global climate change poses significant challenges to governance due to the complexity of human-environment interactions, the high stakes involved in the costs and benefits of policy actions," said Romsdahl, whose interest in this field of inquiry began with a report she wrote about the ozone hole for a high school biology class.

She refined her interest in climate science during her Ph.D. training.

"I was awarded a three month fellowship with the National Academies of Science through its Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program," Romsdahl said. "I worked with the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change. This is when I was introduced to the international scene of climate change research and policy activities and a variety of people involved."

Romsdahl begins her six month Fulbright fellowship at Lancaster Sept. 1. Her husband, Michael Beltz, a faculty member in the UND Department of Philosophy and Religion, will accompany his wife, teaching his courses online for the duration of Romsdahl's Fulbright Award.

Juan Miguel Pedraza

University and Public Affairs writer

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