Strategy for Storms, Flooding & Sea Level Defense Investments
April Conference 2021

Arvind Acharya
President, San Francisco Post, Society of American Military Engineers
Sr. Project Executive, Gilbane Building Company

Mr. Acharya currently serves as the President of the Society of American Military Engineers, San Francisco Post and coordinates programs and events locally with a focus towards security and infrastructure resiliency and related challenges. Mr. Acharya is an experienced Project Executive with Gilbane Building Company with over 28 years in managing large-scale multi-project contracts that involves Environmental and Civil infrastructure construction activities. He has managed varied regional and national contracts with several federal agencies including the US Navy, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Air Force, Department of Energy and GSA.

Jeroen Aerts
Director, VU University of Amsterdam, Department of Water and Climate Risk

Jeroen Aerts

Trained as a hydrologist, Jeroen Aerts has an established internationally recognized leading position in the field of coastal flood risk management. After conducting a PhD in risk assessment and decision support techniques at UC Santa Barbara and UvA, Jeroen started working at the VU University in Amsterdam. At the VU, he is currently head of  the department ‘Water and Climate Risk’ within the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), the oldest multidisciplinary environmental research institute in the Netherlands. From 2015 to 2020, Jeroen Aerts was the director of IVM. He has published over 220 peer reviewed publications, with 21 key publications in Nature, Science and PNAS. In 2020, he was awarded as the top 1% highly cited researcher globally, by Web of Science. He works in close collaboration with MIT, Stevens Institute, Princeton, Wharton, Columbia University, Texas A&M and UCSB.

Jeroen’s work focuses on assessing risk from coastal flooding using advanced modeling tools, combining storm surge models with socio-economic impact models. The key results are risk projections into the future, showing how flood risk  projections change assuming different trends in sea level rise, climate change, and socio-economic growth. The risk projections are used to develop flood adaptation strategies for coastal cities and ports to reduce (future-)flood risk. Key in this approach is a participatory approach where stakeholders provide feedback to risk projections and potential solutions.

Jeroen is scientific coordinator of the Connecting Delta Cities initiative under the Clinton C-40 global cities network, and Co-authored the OECD report on Water Security. His international work also includes research with Munich RE, Red Cross and UNDRR. Jeroen was advisor to Mayor Bloomberg of New York City on flood risk resilience issues, before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He has conducted sea level rise and risk assessment studies in multiple port cities such as: New York City, Los Angeles/ Long Beach, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Houston-Galveston, Rotterdam. Jeroen won the best paper award of the Journal of Risk Analysis in 2012 and 2013. He also won the Lloyds science of Risk prize in 2014, for his paper on flood risk in New York City, published in Science.

Matthijs Bos MSc
Consultant Flood Risk Management / Product Owner Global Flood Risk Tool

Matthijs Bos is consultant Flood risk management at Royal HaskoningDHV. He is specialized in flood risk assessments and the design of flood risk reduction measures.  The social urgency of flood safety and strategic thinking about an appropriate solution are major drivers for his work as an adviser. That their solutions are being built, confirms for him the relevance of the work. He has a broad international profile and travelled a lot over the world. For some periods of times he has been working and staying in Singapore, Manila, Jakarta, Colombo, Hanoi, Banjul, London, Dublin and New Orleans to work on flood adaptation and create safe living environments.

Over the past four years he has been the lead flood risk consultant for the Port of Rotterdam. Together with the port authority they assessed the current and future flood risk and prepared adaptation strategies to reduce the expected flood risks for the entire Port of Rotterdam. Meanwhile he is developing the Global Flood Risk Tool (GFRT) that enables an efficient and clever way of working to get to the desired adaptation strategies for his clients. The GFRT is Royal HaskoningDHV’s cloud-based platform that delivers accurate and comprehensible flood risk analysis and recommends investment proposals to reduce risk on losing lives and economic damages. Clients making use of the tool are: port authorities, government real estate agency, private industrial clients, dutch waterboards, international financial institutes and local governments. GFRT conducts a thorough flood risk assessment and delivers a set of customized solutions if the identified flood risk is considered significant. The output is generated instantly, and the tool is set up in such a way that it can easily connect to, integrate or exchange with other services, tools and models.

Jonathan Camp
Acting chief, Office of Smart Mobility & Climate Change, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Division of Transportation Planning, “Climate Adaptation Planning and Investment on the State Highway System”

Jonathan Camp is the Acting Chief of Caltrans’ Office of Air Quality and Climate Change, overseeing Caltrans’ climate vulnerability and adaptation planning efforts.  During his 11 years with Caltrans, Jonathan has worked in a variety of capacities within the Division of Transportation Planning including the Air Quality and Climate Change, Project Initiation Document, and Freight Planning Programs. Prior to joining Caltrans, Jonathan worked in the private sector performing a variety of land use planning duties including general plan updates and the preparation of CEQA/NEPA documents.  Jonathan received his Bachelor of Science degree in City and Regional Planning from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

John Cullather
Executive vice president, International Propeller Club of the United States

Principal, U.S. Maritime Safety Network (2015-2019). An organization dedicated to the promotion of maritime safety on all types of vessels – from fishing and towing vessels to large commercial ships and recreational boats. Staff Director, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, US House of Representatives (1995-2010). Senior Legislative Staff and Group Director, Committee on Merchant Marin and Fisheries, US House of Representatives (1977-1995).

Meri Davlasheridze
Assistant professor, department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston

Dr. Meri Davlasheridze is an assistant professor at the department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston. She holds her PhD degree in Agricultural, Environmental, and Regional Economics from the Pennsylvania State University. Her research involves understanding economic and health impacts of disasters, evaluating effectiveness of federal disaster policies in promoting community disaster resilience, and developing market incentives for private catastrophe insurance. She currently serves as a PI for the project funded by the Texas Department of Insurance to study market incentives for catastrophe windstorm and hail insurance. She has led an economic component of the project funded by the Texas General Land Office on understanding economic ripple effects of storm surge for Galveston bay communities. She serves as a co-PI on a NSF funded multidisciplinary research project  “Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Program: Integrated, multi-scale approaches for understanding how to reduce vulnerability to damaging events.” She has published numerous research articles in leading environmental economics, hazard and regional science journals.

Elaine Forbes
Executive Director, Port of San Francisco

Elaine Forbes leads the Port to responsibly manage the waterfront as the gateway to a world-class city and advances environmentally and financially sustainable maritime, recreational, and economic opportunities to serve the City, Bay Area region, and California.

At the recommendation of the Port Commission, Mayor Edwin Lee appointed Elaine Forbes Executive Director of the Port on October 12, 2016. Elaine is one of 12 women Port Directors in the United States.  Before her appointment as Executive Director, she served as Deputy Director for Finance and Administration for the Port for six years.

Prior to joining the Port, Elaine held executive management and leadership positions at both the San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco International Airport. She also worked for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget Analyst’s Office providing fiscal and policy analysis and evaluating and reporting on complex municipal issues.

Before beginning her tenure with the City and County of San Francisco in 2000, she worked as a redevelopment agency planner for the City of Oakland. She also has worked for several non-profit land use policy and economic development organizations including the Urban Strategies Council and the California Budget Project.

Elaine holds a Master’s degree with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles in Community and Economic Development, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Mills College in Oakland. She is also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. She was born in San Francisco and resides in the Castro neighborhood with her partner.

Sharai Lewis-Gruss
Lead and senior adaptation specialist, First Street Foundation, “Flood Factor and Our National Adaptation Database”

Sharai Lewis-Gruss is the Lead Adaptation Specialist at First Street Foundation. In this role, she applies her background in environmental policy and GIS to analyze data on flooding, vulnerability, and adaptation.

Before joining First Street, Sharai was a GIS Specialist and Project Coordinator at COWI North America, where she mapped shorelines in an effort to help reduce vulnerability to sea level rise, major storms, and other events. She coordinated teams in multiple countries to deliver an interactive mapping platform and products that were used for the City of New York projects, which included the Waterfront Maintenance Management System and Rebuild by Design Living Shoreline.

Prior to that, Sharai was a GIS Manager for the Regional Plan Association of Greater New York. In that position she created the “Access to Jobs” interactive map, using it to present the findings of an associated study on the state of the tri-state region to private organizations and federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition, Sharai worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a GIS Specialist for the Superstorm Sandy recovery effort, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Kyle Hopkins
Partner, Oisann Engineering, “Offshore desalination to mitigate flooding and saltwater threats

Kyle Hopkins is a founder of Oisann Engineering which has patented Waterfountain, a scalable, off-shore desalination system.  He has over 20 years experience in business administration, corporate training and consulting in Asia, USA and Europe.

Mike Kaminski
Lead and senior adaptation specialist, First Street Foundation, “Flood Factor and Our National Adaptation Database”

Mike Kaminski is a Senior Adaptation Specialist at First Street Foundation, where he focuses on development of the nation’s first of its kind flood adaptation infrastructure database. He brings nearly a decade of experience from the ecological consulting sector and has a leading role in crafting the methodologies used to incorporate flood defense projects into the Foundation’s national flood model.

Prior to joining First Street, Mike founded Ecology: Visualized, a visual communications company that helps restoration ecologists, planners, and engineers better communicate their ideas through mapping, graphics, and design. He believes a complex scientific idea, presented in a visually compelling manner, has the greatest potential to reach the largest audience.

Before that, Mike worked for a variety of ecological consulting firms as an ecologist and landscape designer. His work in restoration planning involved collaboration with clients such as Chevron, Blue Apron, BASF Chemical, and some of the world’s largest resource mines.

Mike holds a Master’s in Biology from SUNY Binghamton, and a Master’s in Landscape Architecture and Certificate in GIS-Based Spatial Analysis from the University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability.

Alexander Kolker
Associate professor, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, “Sea Level Change in Coastal Louisiana: Implications for Coastal Resilience and the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.”

Alexander S. Kolker is a coastal geologist based at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), in Cocodrie, Louisiana. He studies how rivers, winds, tides, climate and people impact the ways coasts function and change. Dr Kolker has worked in coastal systems across the world, including in the Mississippi River Delta, the Florida Everglades Ecosystem, the Atlantic coast of the United States, and northwest Africa. He received his Doctoral and Master’s degrees from Stony Brook University, State University of New York, and his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Kolker has served on numerous scientific advisory panels, including multiple climate assessments and tasks forces, the Framework Development Team for Louisiana’s 2017 Coastal Master Plan, and, in the 2019-2020 academic year, he serves as Fulbright Scholar in Morocco. Alexander Kolker lives in New Orleans, LA. 

Bill Lambrecht
Co-authors, “Saltwater Threats to U.S. Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Coasts Water Supply”

William Lambrecht is a partner in New Bay Books, a Maryland-based publishing house, and a veteran of three decades as a Washington correspondent. He was Washington bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before joining Hearst Newspaper’s Washington Bureau as an investigative reporter. He later wrote exclusively for the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and other Hearst newspapers. 

Lambrecht is the author of two books: Dinner at the New Gene Cafe, focused on the politics of biotechnology; and Big Muddy Blues: True Tales and Twisted Politics Along Lewis and Clark’s Missouri River. Both were published by St. Martin’s.

He co-founded his family-owned Bay Weekly, in Annapolis, Md., the largest weekly newspaper covering Chesapeake Bay. The paper was sold in early 2020 to Chesapeake Bay Media. 

Lambrecht was Visiting Professional in 2020 at the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism. In that position, he directed Saltwater Invasion, a project that dealt with the growing threats to drinking water, agriculture and the environment from the buildup of salt as a result of rising seas and over-pumping aquifers.

He has reported from around the world and been nominated on multiple occasions for a Pulitzer award. His journalism prizes include three Raymond Clapper awards and a Sigma Delta Chi bronze medallion in the category of Washington correspondence.

Lambrecht lives in a village on the Chesapeake Bay shore.

Jeremy Lowe
Coastal geomorphologist, San Francisco Estuary Institute, “Integrating Landscape Resiliency and Transportation Planning in the San Pablo Baylands of San Francisco Bay”

Jeremy Lowe is a coastal geomorphologist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute with 35 years of experience in tidal wetland restoration and sea-level rise adaptation planning on the Pacific Coast and in Europe. Career highlights include designing sea defenses to reduce flooding in Venice, Italy; designing marsh restorations for the Ballona Wetlands in Venice, California; and authoring tidal wetland restoration guidelines for San Francisco Bay, and the Lower Columbia River Estuary. He has lived in the Bay Area since 1999 and is currently working on sea-level rise adaptation planning for the baylands of the Petaluma River, for the city of Sunnyvale, and for Highway 37.

Stas Margaronis
President, Propeller Club of Northern California

Stas Margaronis is the California Ports Reporter for the American Journal of Transportation (AJOT).

Melissa Roberts
Executive director, American Flood Coalition, Federal Investment In Flood-Resilient Infrastructure

Melissa Roberts is the Founder and Executive Director of the American Flood Coalition, a nonpartisan group of more than 260 cities, elected officials, military leaders, businesses, and civic groups. As the first and largest grasstops coalition of its kind, AFC brings together leaders from both sides of the aisle to drive adaptation to the reality of higher seas, stronger storms, and more frequent flooding through national solutions that support flood-affected communities and protect our nation’s residents, economy, and military installations.

Under Melissa’s leadership, AFC’s membership has grown to represent 5 million people across 19 states in its first three years, including a remarkable 400% growth during the organization’s inaugural year. AFC supports its members developing local adaptation solutions, and the growing coalition has successfully passed legislation in multiple state capitols and Congress. In recognition of Melissa’s work to advance responsible and equitable adaptation to higher seas and more frequent flooding, she was named as a Forbes 30 under 30 Social Impact Leader.

Melissa regularly comments on flooding and sea level rise, and has been mentioned in USA Today, The Washington Post, E&E News, NPR, Science News Magazine, Miami Herald, The Gazette, Tampa Bay Times, and Post and Courier. She has also been a featured speaker at convenings hosted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Aspen Institute, Keystone Energy Board, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island, and others.

Prior to her current role, Melissa was the Director of Strategy at First Street Foundation, a research and technology nonprofit that quantifies and communicates America’s changing flood risk. Previously, Melissa was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company where she specialized in infrastructure finance and planning, working with national governments, cities, major foundations, private sector investors, and developers. She was a lead author on the publication Financing Change: How to Mobilize Private Sector Financing for Sustainable Infrastructure.

Melissa holds a B.A., Summa Cum Laude, in History from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Benjamin Franklin Honors Scholar.

Kathryn Roscoe
Senior flood risk and adaptation specialist, Deltares, “Coastal Flood Resilience Support System for Coastal Communities across the U.S” based on a pilot project in the City of Charleston.

Dr. Kathryn Roscoe has 15 years’ experience in flood risk management and hydrology, with an MSc in Hydrology from University of California, Davis, and a PhD in Hydraulic Engineering from the Delft University of Technology. She is an experienced risk analyst, programmer, project manager, presenter and technical writer. She is dedicated to dissemination and communication of scientific materials in an accessible and engaging manner. At Deltares, she specializes in probabilistic risk analysis, flood damage modeling, and climate adaptation planning under uncertainty in climate, policy, and socio-economic changes. She is experienced in the adaptive planning approach Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways, and has led urban adaptive planning projects in South Florida and Louisiana, accounting for uncertainties in climate and socio-economic futures. She is currently leading the project team developing an integrated modeling decision support system for flood resilience in coastal communities for the Department of Homeland Security, and applied in Charleston, South Carolina.

Kathleen Schaefer
PhD candidate and former FEMA engineer, “Natural Disaster Risk: Liability or Asset?”

Ms. Schaefer is a nationally recognized expert in flood risk management. She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate at the UC Davis Watershed Science Center, examining opportunities to convert flood risk into value. Ms. Schaefer is a passionate advocate for replacing our nation’s antiquated flood control philosophy with a modern, science-based, data-driven, integrated, flood risk management philosophy that engages the whole community.  

Ms. Schaefer has over 30 years of water resources management experience, working in both the public and private sectors. Before leaving to pursue a Ph.D., Kathleen worked as a FEMA Regional Engineer managing over $10M in new mapping projects in California –projects that included a new coastal study of the San Francisco Bay. Kathleen believes in the power of innovation and collaboration. 

Kathleen has a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Nebraska and a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at UC Davis.

In 2009, Kathleen received the Floodplain Management Association’s Goddard Award for Outstanding Contribution to FMA newsletter, and in 2012 she received the Hogg-Owen Award for Meritorious Achievement. 

Kathy resides in San Anselmo, California, with her husband and fellow birder, Gary. They enjoy camping, hiking, traveling, and the symphony.  

Brigadier General Joseph Schroedel
Executive director, Society of American Military Engineers

Joe Schroedel (Brig. Gen., U.S. Army Ret.) is executive director of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He also holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois, a master of military art and science degree from the Command and General Staff College, and a master of national security strategy degree from the National War College.

As SAME executive director, he leads an organization comprising 102 posts around the world and nearly 30,000 members. He retired from the U.S. Army after a highly decorated 34-year career. His assignments with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) included Commanding General, South Atlantic Division, and Commanding General, South Pacific Division. He also was executive officer to the Secretary of the Army during the events of 9/11, and shortly thereafter led a task force to develop a concept that would ultimately become the Department of Homeland Security.

Victoria Sclafani
Senior policy associate, American Flood Coalition, Highlights from “The Local Economic Impact of Flood-Resilient Infrastructure Projects” and Tools for Entities Seeking Federal Funding for Resilience

Victoria is a Senior Policy Associate at the American Flood Coalition. She works to develop the Coalition’s policy strategy, conducts research, and educates policymakers on behalf of the Coalition.

Prior to her current role, Victoria worked as a legislative analyst at the Massachusetts Municipal Association, where she advocated for the interests of cities and towns on issues related to the environment, energy, and transportation. While there, her work included analyzing and weighing in on numerous policy proposals relating to adaptation and resilience and collaborating with local officials to set the Association’s policy agenda and identify best practices for cities and towns.

Victoria holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs from Northeastern University.

Gracie Todd
Co-author, “Saltwater Threats to U.S. Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Coasts Water Supply” 2


Gracie Todd is a fellow at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at University of Maryland, where she plans to earn a Master of Journalism degree this May. She hopes to make a career in oversight of government–– not only reporting on its wrongdoings, but also questioning long-standing assumptions regarding the legitimacy of its authority. Previously, she received a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Cornell University, where she competed in track and field and was a cross country captain. Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Gracie also enjoys fiction writing and philosophy. 

Jeff Varisco
Senior Project Manager, Programs & Project Management Division, Projects and Restoration Branch, United States Army Corps of Engineers – New Orleans District 

Mr. Varisco is a senior project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New Orleans District (MVN).  He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Orleans in Philosophy and a Master’s degree in Urban/Technical Geography with a minor in Urban Planning also from the University of New Orleans.  He began his professional career at the Corps of Engineers in June of 2009.  He has worked extensively with planners, environmental mangers, economists, engineers, lawyers, stakeholders (both public and private), and resource agencies to deliver massive water resource projects such as the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain feasibility study (now in construction and valued at ~$1B), the Mississippi River Levee Construction Program, valued at over $70M in new construction per year, and serves as the lead project manager for regulatory reviews of the State of Louisiana’s mid-basin sediment diversion program of which Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is a part of. He also manages and oversees the MVN business development program which includes Floodplain Management Services, the EPA Brownfields Program for Region 6, SilverJackets, and Planning Assistance to the States. Mr. Varisco also has a broad background in emergency response and recovery. He has served as the MVN liaison to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for multiple hurricane and flood seasons, as well as being selected by FEMA to lead infrastructure recovery efforts after the mega-floods of 2016 in Louisiana. Mr. Varisco is married and has a 1 year old daughter; he is an avid runner and loves his local sports teams even though they bring him agony and displeasure on an annual basis.

Dirk-Jan Walstra
Director of the Hydraulic Engineering Department, Deltares “Advanced Flood Protection Research & Design”

Dirk-Jan Walstra joined Deltares as a coastal morphologist in 1996 and has been involved in numerous consultancy and research studies in the coastal zone. He was involved in the development and application of morphological models such as Delft3D. His main research interests are the long term modelling of cross-shore beach profiles and the morphodynamic and stratigraphic evolution of deltas from a geological perspective. He has supervised over 50 Msc and 10 Phd students. Furthermore, he contributed to nearly 50 journal papers and a number of book chapters. He is currently director Hydraulic Engineering.