Department of Environmental Studies, Huxley College of the Environment at WWU
My research program is to develop methods and models for analyzing and reducing disaster risk -- the intersection of social vulnerability and hazards -- using participatory and collaborative means of interfacing science, policy, planning, and citizens. I want to understand how the relationship between different types of decision-support tools, decision processes, and people, within various engineering, planning, and policy contexts, influence method or tool design, local decision outcomes, and broader sustainable development.
I have invested over a decade conducting research on two different computer models related to disaster risk reduction – CAMEL and ResilUS. This work continues to be the two biggest avenues of my research, though does not represent the complete goal of my research program.
I developed, in collaboration with Dr. David Keefer, a GIS-based model of earthquake-induced landslide hazards for collaborative planning applications that predicts the spatial frequency of six landslide types. Using fuzzy logic systems, model algorithms are encoded numerically and expressed linguistically to facilitate end-user comprehension and use of disparate knowledge sources. I developed a participatory method for evaluating the new model (and other similar tools) using a land-use decision role-play simulation. The role-play assessment was conducted with San Francisco-area scientists, engineers, and planners. CAMEL has been applied to the entire San Francisco Bay Area to simulate the landslides triggered by the 1906 earthquake and the Santa Cruz Mountains to draw comparisons with landslides triggered by the 1989 Lorna Prieta earthquake. CAMEL has also been used to model the landslides caused by the 1999 Chi Chi earthquake.
I have also developed a computer model, in collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Chang, of how communities are affected by hazards and recover from ensuing disaster. This work began as a project with the MCEER. The current MATLAB-based model employs fragility curves and Markov chains to quantify the relationship between ground-shaking distribution with impacts on lifelines, commercial and residential buildings, and business-and household-scale economies. The model has been applied to the 1995 Kobe and 1994 Northridge earthquakes, as well as user tested by Seattle-area planners and emergency managers. Current work aims to build in indicators of ecological and socio-cultural capital and apply the model in the Gulf Coast area of the US to assist communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This work is a collaboration with researchers from SUNY Buffalo, LSU, UBC, and the consulting company ImageCat. The ultimate goal of this work is to help Gulf Coast communities plan and monitor their recovery.
Social Vulnerability / Disaster Risk Reduction
One of my objectives is to apply my background in participatory methods and critical geography to the topic of social vulnerability (disaster risk reduction). I am interested in participatory processes for conducting a social vulnerability and capacity assessment for communities, with the goal being to identify particular issues of vulnerability, particularly with respect to resource-deprived populations, and match these to the services offered by various departments. I am also interested in the interplay between local economic development strategies (e.g., import substitution), with poverty reduction, and disaster risk reduction. Lastly, I am interested in theoretical explorations of technology and its relation to space, place, and risk.