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Austin Becker

Title:Graduate, PhD 2013
Primary Affiliation:Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment & Resources
Other Affiliations:E-IPER
Office Location:
Alternative Website:University of Rhode Island Faculty Profile

Biographical Information

Austin grew up in Connecticut, but has spent equal time living in Rhode Island and on Cape Cod. His previous career was as a captain of schooners and tall ships. He designed and oversaw educational programs that engaged students in leadership training, taught traditional seamanship skills, and developed educational programs in maritime heritage, marine science, and contemporary marine affairs. As a professional mariner, Austin traveled throughout the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, the Caribbean, Thailand, and New Zealand. He returned to graduate school in 2005 and earned a Master of Marine Affairs and Master of Environmental Science and Management from the University of Rhode Island.


Austin's Ph.D. research explores the potential impacts of climate change on seaports around the globe. He focuses on the "adaptation" side of climate change and works across the disciplines of policy, economics, engineering and climate-change science to quantify the risks and vulnerabilities faced by ports and the economies that depend upon them. He is also exploring potential adaptation strategies that ports, policy makers, and the insurance industry may employ to build resiliency in the face of climate change.


Austin has been an instructor for CEE 129/229, Engineering and Policy Responses to Climate Change Impacts on Seaports, along with Prof. Martin Fischer and Dr. Ben Schwegler. He also helped create the ENVRES 220 Seminar, Our Coastal Society: An Interdisciplinary Seminar on Ocean/Coastal Themes, with Meg Caldwell. He also TA'd IPER 330, Research Approaches for Environmental Problem Solving.

Professional Activities

Before coming to Stanford, Austin worked for Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coastal Resources Center on policy issues around urban working waterfronts and ports, marine-based recreation and tourism, and coastal environmental issues. In his role as a Marine Research Associate, he studied and analyzed data collected from maritime-industry stakeholders and collaborated on creating policy solutions that addressed conflicting demands for limited waterfront space, the marine economy, and the ecological health of the urban waterfront. In other previous lives, he owned and operated a yacht charter business with a classic wooden sailboat, worked as a marine surveyor, managed a marina on Cape Cod, and served on the municipal Harbor Management Committee in Provincetown, Mass. Continental Sloop Providence Austin still holds a 500-Ton U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license for ocean-going vessels.


  • 2006 | Master of Environmental Science and Management University of Rhode Island
  • 2005 | Master of Marine Affairs University of Rhode Island
  • 1995 | BA Maritime History Hampshire College
  • 1994 | n/a Maritime Studies Williams/Mystic Maritime Studies Program

Professional Experience

  • 2006 - 2008 | Marine Research Associate R.I. Sea Grant/Coastal Resources Center, URI
  • 1997 - 2005 | Captain Providence Maritime Heritage Foundation and various vessels up to 135'
  • 1997 - Present | 500-Ton Master License, All Oceans, Aux. Sail United States Coast Guard

Honors & Awards

    -     Contributing author to Coastal Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: A Technical Input to the 2012 National Climate Assessment. Burkett, V.R. and Davidson, M.A. [Eds.]. Cooperative Report to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. -     Lieberman Fellowship (Awarded to 9 graduate students across all disciplines at Stanford for outstanding scholarship, teaching, and university service), 2011-2012. -     Certificate of Achievement in Mentoring in the School of Earth Sciences, 2011.  -     Centennial Teaching Assistant Award for outstanding teaching by Stanford graduate students, 2011. -     Stanford Graduate Fellowship in Environment and Resources, 2008-2011, 2012-2013. -     2nd Place at ASCE Ports 2010 Student Presentations Competition, 2010. -     McGee Award from the Stanford School of Earth Sciences to support research and travel, 2009. -     Award from the Stanford University Shell Fund to support research and travel, 2008. -     Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program Challenge Grant ($50k) to fund study, “A Comprehensive GIS-Based Inventory of Rhode Island’s Ports and Commercial Harbors.” Submitted with U.S. Team at URI Coastal Resources Center, 2007. -     Rhode Island Foundation Mini-Grant ($5k) to fund two-day workshop, “Identifying Innovative Solutions to Guide Development in Providence Harbor.” Submitted with U.S. Team at URI Coastal Resources Center, 2007.  

University Service

  • 2011 - Present | E-IPER Student Liaison Committee
  • 2011 - Present | Graduate Teaching Consultant, Center for Teaching and Learning, Stanford University
  • 2008 - Present | Founder/Co-President, The Coastal Society, Stanford University Chapter
  • 2006 - 2007 | President, The Coastal Society, University of Rhode Island Student Chapter

Professional Activities

  • 2010 - Present | Working group member of PIANC Ports Working Group 150: Green Ports: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Seaport
  • 2011 - Present | Coordintating author for UNCTAD Ad hoc expert group's consensus paper on seaport adaptation paper
  • 2011 - Present | Supporting author for US National Climate Assessment Report, Technical Input on Coasts Chapter
  • 2009 - Present | Reviewer for Journal of Climatic Change, Journal of Maritime Policy and Management, and Journal of Risk Management
  • 2007 | UNCONN American Experience Lecture Series, Guest Lecturer
  • 2007 | URI Integrated Graduate Research and Traineeship (IGERT), Guest Lecturer

Courses Taught

         CEE 129/229 - Climate Change Adaptation for Seaports: Engineering and Policy for a Sustainable Future
             Terms: All quarters, Winter 2009 - Autumn 2012   
         Co-instructors: Prof. Martin Fischer and Dr. Ben Schwegler
         CEE 129S/229S - Climate Change Adaptation in the Coastal Built Environment (Seminar/speaker series)
         Term: Winter 2011, Spring 2012 
             Co-instructors: Prof. Martin Fischer and Dr. Ben Schwegler  
    Teaching Assistant 
    ENVRES 220 - Our Coastal Society: An Interdisciplinary Seminar on Ocean/Coastal Themes 
         Term: Winter 2011
         Instructor: Prof. Meg Caldwell
    IPER 330 - Research Approaches for Environmental Problem Solving
         Term: Spring 2010
         Instructor: Profs. Peter Vitousek and Nicole Ardoin


    1. Becker, A. (In press), “Maritime Transportation and Ports.” Encyclopedia of Natural Resources, publication expected December 2013.
    2. Becker, A., Acciaro, M., Asariotis, R., Cabrera, E., Crist, P., Esteban, M., Mather, A., Messner, S., Ng, A., Rahmstorf, S., Savonis, M., Song, Stenek, V., Velegrakis, A.F. (In review), “Climate change adaptation for seaports: A challenge for global ports, a challenge for global society,” submitted to the Policy Forum of Science.
    3. Newell, D., Fu, E., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B., Becker, A. (In review), “Estimating Climate-Critical
    Resources: Global Cement Capacity.” Journal of Construction Innovation: Information, Process, and Management.
    1. Moore, F., Mankin, J., Becker, A., (in review), “Disciplines: Integrating Climate and Social Sciences.” Chapter 4 in Anthropological Approaches to Climate Change, edited by Jessica Barnes and Michael Dove.
    2. Kirchofer, A., Brandt, A., Krevor, S., Prigiobbe, V., Becker, A., Wilcox, J. (Submitted), “Assessing the Potential of Mineral Carbonation with Industrial Alkalinity Sources in the U.S.” Energy Procedia. (Performed GIS analysis portion of this study).
    3. Becker A., Fischer M., Inoue S., and Schwegler B. (2011), “Climate Change Impacts on International Seaports: Knowledge, Perceptions, and Planning Efforts Among Port Administrators”, Journal of Climatic Change, No. 110, pp. 5-29. Online at:
    1. Cote, M., Becker, A., Helmuth, B., Nijbroek, R. (2012), “Everything, Engineered: Water management in the Netherlands: Lessons for U.S. Counterparts.” White paper for American Association of Climate Officers.
    2. Becker, A., Newell D., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B. (2011), “Will ports become forts? Climate change impacts, opportunities, and challenges.” Terra et Aqua, Official Magazine of the International Association of Dredging Companies, Number 122, pp. 11-17.
    3. Becker, A. Wilson, A., Bannon, R., McCann, J., Robadue, D., Kennedy, S. (ed.), (2010), “Rhode Island's Ports and Commercial Harbors: A GIS-Inventory of Current Uses and Infrastructure.”
    4. Becker, A., (2010), “Ready Whatever the Weather,” Ports and Harbors Magazine, International Association of Ports and Harbors, March 2010, 26-27.
    5. Becker, A., J. Boyd, C. Chaffee, S. Kennedy, J. McCann, N. Mitchell, R. Sheridan, M. Allard Cox, & A. Neville (Eds.) (2008), “Recommendations for Management of the Woonasquatucket River & Promenade Street District.” Rhode Island Sea Grant, Narragansett, R.I., 34pp.
    6. Becker, A. (2006), “Making the Waterfront Work: A Case for True Mixed-Use Redevelopment of Providence Harbor,” 41 Degrees North, 3(2), pages 12-13.
      Working papers
    1. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Matson, P., (In progress), “Risk identification for hurricane impacts on the seaport cluster: A case study of the Port of Gulfport (MS).”
    2. Ng, A.K.Y., Becker, A., Fischer, M., Messner, S., Moran, L., (In progress), “Climate change and the roles of the institutional system on the development of the Port of Sand Diego’s adaptation plan: A paradigm shift in port planning?”
    3. American Society of Civil Engineers/Coasts, Oceans, Ports & Rivers Institute, (in progress), “Sea-level change considerations for marine civil works; Chapter 4 – Assessing Risk.” Chapter co-lead with Elizabeth Burkhart.
    4. Hippe, A., Becker, A., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B., (In progress), “Estimation of cost required to elevate US ports in response to climate change: A thought exercise for climate critical resources.”
    5. Rijks, D., Pena, C., Becker, A., et al. (In progress), “Sustainable Ports.” Report from PIANC Working Group 150.
    PRESENTATIONS Invited (E = Expenses paid)
    1. Becker, A. (2012), “Climate change and ports: Qualitative analysis of consequences, plans, and requirements.” United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) International Conference on Adaptation of Transport Networks to Climate Change, Alexandroupolis, Greece, June 25-16. (E)
    2. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B. (2011), “Global resource estimates for adapting seaports to climate change: Connecting science, engineering, and policy.”  A UC Berkeley and Woods Institute sponsored workshop on Understanding Climate Change Effects on San Francisco Bay:  What can modeling offer? December 16.
    3. Becker, A., Fischer M., Matson P., Newell D. (2011), “Adaptation strategies for seaports: Global implications and local perspectives.” United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Ad Hoc Expert Meeting on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: A Challenge for Global Ports, Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 30. (E)
    4. Becker, A., Newell D. (2011), “Climate change adaptation for seaports: Engineering and policy for a sustainable future.” Arup, San Francisco, CA, Feb. 8.
    5. Becker, A. (2010), “Seaports and Climate Change.” Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 19, (webcast).
    6. Becker, A. (2010), “Hot Topics in Climate Change Science.” American Sail Training Association Annual Conference, Long Beach, CA, Nov. 15. (E)
    7. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Inoue, S. (2010), "Climate Change Adaptation: Results of a global survey of ports." Joint UNECE - UNCTAD Workshop, Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 8.
    8. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B. (2010), “Climate Change Adaptation: AAPA/IAPH Member Plans and Perceptions,” presented at AAPA Harbors, Ports, and Navigation/GreenPorts America, Charleston, SC, April 26.
    9. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B. (2010), “Climate Change Adaptation: IAPH/AAPA Member Plans and Perceptions,” presented at International Association of Ports and Harbors Mid-term Conference, Savannah, GA, June 7.
    10.  Becker, A., Schwegler, B., Matson, P. (2010), “Impacts of Climate Change on Seaports: Preliminary Results of a Survey of Knowledge, Perceptions and Planning Efforts Among Port Administrators,” Sea Level Rise 2010 Conference, Corpus Christi, TX, March 2. (E) 11.  Becker, A. (2007), University of Connecticut, American Experience Lecture Series, Guest Lecturer. 12.  Becker, A. (2006), URI, Integrated Graduate Research and Traineeship (IGERT) Program, Guest Lecturer.   Other
    1. Becker, A. (2012), “Climate change and the consequences of natural disaster in seaport systems: A case study of Gulfport (MS) and Providence (RI),” Fourth International Conference on Climate Change, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, July 12-13.
    2. Newell, D., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B., Becker, A. (2011), “Climate change adaptation for seaports
      Engineering and policy for a sustainable future.” Coastal Zone 2011: Chicago, IL, July 17.
    3. Newell, D., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B., Becker, A., Chase, N. (2010), “Preparing Ports for Sea Level Rise.” Cities and Ports, 12th International Conference: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov. 17.
    4. Newell, D., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B., Becker, A. (2010), “Ports & the Environment Seminar 2010: Distributed Technological Tools for Global Sea Level Rise Response Planning,” Long Beach, CA, Oct. 4.
    5. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B. (2010), "Impacts of Climate Change on Seaports: A Survey of Knowledge, Perceptions, and Planning Efforts of Port Administrators," The Coastal Society, Shifting Shorelines: Adapting to the Future Annual Conference, (proceedings in press), Wilmington, NC, June 14.
    6. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Schwegler, B. (2010), “Impacts of Climate Change on Seaports: Results of a Survey of Knowledge, Perceptions and Planning Efforts Among Port Administrators.” American Society of Civil Engineers Ports 2010: Building on the Past, Respecting the Future, Jacksonville, FL, April 25-28.
    7. Becker, A., Fischer, M., Matson, P. (2010), “Impacts of Climate Change on Seaports: A Survey of Knowledge, Perceptions and Planning Efforts Among Port Administrators,” Coastal Zone 2009 Conference, (proceedings at, Boston, MA, July 21.
    8. Becker, A., McCann, J. (2009), “Toward Understanding the Dynamics of Water Dependent Uses and Coastal Policy Through Rhode Island’s Ports and Commercial Harbors Inventory,” Coastal Zone 2009 Conference, (proceedings at, Boston, MA, July 21.
    9. Becker, A., J. McCann, S. Kennedy, P. Rubinoff. (2007), “Applying Place-based Coastal Management Tools in the Redevelopment of Rhode Island's Urban Metro Bay Shoreline,” The Proceedings of the Water Access 2007: A National Symposium on Working Waterways and Waterfronts, Norfolk, VA, page 41, May 9.
    10.  Becker, A. (2006), “Urban Waterfronts in the 21st Century: Shaping Policy for the Port of Providence,” The Coastal Society Annual Conference, St. Pete Beach, FL, May 15. In the news Research featured in the Stanford Earth Scientist Newsletter (Fall 2011) and The Stanford Report (May 16, 2011), “Seaports need a plan for weathering climate change, says Stanford researchers.” Online at:

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