Exploring responses to geohazards in a dynamic risk environment – the role of knowledge, culture and risk perception
Dr. Tom Dijkstra & Dr. Ksenia Chmutina (Loughborough University), Dr. Colm Jordan (British Geological Survey), Professor Xingmin Meng (Lanzhou University)
In the Bailong region of Southern Gansu (China) sustainable community development and the resilience of the infrastructures that connect them is severely compromised by the dynamic nature of the natural environment. Communities are exposed to severe hazards that include seasonal events such as landslides, extreme rainfall and flooding, and recurring hazards such as earthquakes. The disaster risk picture of this region is further complicated by added pressures resulting from rapid societal change (expanding urban footprints and increasing transport links). We need to get a better understanding of the human-landscape interactions and characterise the complex hierarchies of relevant process-response systems. At the same time, it is imperative that perceptions of hazard impact and drivers of community resilience are better understood so that we can better design appropriate preparedness and management strategies, early warning systems and resource allocations. The PhD addresses three main research questions; (i) how do communities develop their perceptions of geohazard and risk, (ii) what are the priorities in terms of sustainable development and resilience building in this landscape and (iii) how can we mobilise indigenous and scientific knowledge to develop effective community-based response schemes in a truly multi-hazard framework to fully address disaster risk, develop appropriate early warning systems and achieve more resilient societies. This research will build on a strong platform of understanding geohazard processes, including, for example, the experimental early warning systems for rainfall triggered landslides (Wudu) and the landslide susceptibility and geohazard assessments developed with Lanzhou University. It will further develop community-based research initiated in this region by Lanzhou University. The aim of this study is to develop pathways and tools to achieve fully integrated, community-centred schemes that enhance early warning and reduce geohazard impact in this region. The study is supported by a CASE studentship with British Geological Survey and by the Global Geological Risk Platform of the British Geological Survey NC-ODA grant NE/R000069/1: Geoscience for Sustainable Futures.
What inspires you
I’ve always loved the outdoors, stemming maybe from time in rural Wales and France, paddling in streams and building dens at the bottom of the garden. That developed into an interest in geography at school, understanding the physical and social processes that make up our world, and leading on now to look at human-environment interactions.
Just a few things! I’ve been a student support worker, a recycling promoter, completed a BSc in Natural Science and a MSc in Water Management, lived in Niger for 3+ years managing water and sanitation projects, and most recently worked as a researcher, looking at sustainable rural water and sanitation in Kenya and Bangladesh. I’ve also been part of emergency response teams for refugees on the Greek islands in 2015 and after Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean in 2017, providing water and sanitation.
Why did you choose doctoral research?
I’ve enjoyed my research work and I wanted to develop my own research interests and skills, as well as move forward with my career. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to my research topic. I also love the international nature of universities and being part of a community of research students at Loughborough.
Why did you choose CENTA?
Regarding CENTA, it was the great opportunities for training, being part of a network of natural environment researchers that interested me. Specifically for this PhD I was excited to work with great supervisors, and specialise in landslide research in China.
My future plans and career aspirations are to continue in applied research, at the nexus between cutting-edge science and relevant application and policy-making. I want to understand more about how we impact and are impacted by our physical environment in a world with a changing climate and growing population, and conduct research that informs decision-makers and contributes to finding sustainable solutions to the complex challenges that we face. I am open as to whether this means continuing as a post-doc researcher, in consultancy or in a more policy-making role.