Category Archives: Uncategorized

Missed Opportunities for Resilient (de)Growth

One paper I have been developing focuses on natural patterns of migration in the aftermath of major disaster events. This work is based on an address-to-address dataset I developed that tracks all adults with a credit history in the state of North Carolina. Datasets of this scale and detail are novel in post-disaster settings.

I presented on this topic last November at the 2022 ACSP conference, and I am scheduled to present it at the Population Association of America‘s 2023 conference in April. At ACSP, I focused on how an understanding of larger migration patterns could inform policy interventions to support de-growth from vulnerable areas. At PAA, I will focus more on the development and validation of the individual-level address-to-address dataset. This demonstrates the cross-disciplinary value of my work.

An extended abstract for this work is included below:

Anthropogenic climate change introduces a number of stressors that undermine the viability of communities across the United States representing millions of individuals. Considering that our global community is failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the time to make the adjustments necessary to avert catastrophic impacts of climate change is running out, we must consider strategies for living with and adapting to a more hostile world. This includes retreat from vulnerable areas to increase broader resilience.

Unfortunately, current government funded initiatives for managed retreat are insufficient and are primarily reactive rather than anticipatory. This heightens the importance of finding interventions to increase resilience that work within established patterns of habitation and movement. To that end, this paper analyzes the impact of disaster exposure and vulnerability on migration systems to demonstrate that we are replicating rather than reducing vulnerability.

For this analysis, I leverage a novel, individual-level dataset that I developed from data acquired from the credit agency TransUnion. This data has comprehensive coverage of eastern North Carolina. I track the address changes of over 500,000 individuals who moved in the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018). The results show that roughly 10% of individuals living within floodplains in this area moved within two-years of the aftermath of both storms, and that more than 80% of those individuals moved out of the floodplain over the same period. However, I also show that the majority of these movers were replaced by new in-migration to the floodplains, creating a condition where individuals may increase their resilience, but the overall community-level vulnerability remains constant.

These findings are discussed as a missed opportunity in the context of existing policies and related hazard mitigation plans, which rarely include provisions to support de-growth. Implications for reducing replacement migration, and the effect that could have on the housing market are considered. Finally, I suggest policy interventions that could support long-term de-growth by capitalizing on pre-existing migration systems.

Article accepted for publication: International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters

Article entitled “Stuck in the Middle: The Challenges of Local Government Administration of Post-Hurricane Disaster Mitigation” was just accepted for publication at IJMED, led by my co-author Leah Campbell. It is a companion piece, in a sense, to our work on (Mis)trusting the process, in that it relies on much of the same data and also focuses on local government’s role in buyout programs. However, while the prior article focused on the role of trust between different levels of government and the residents, this one focuses on the precarious position of local government officials and how they have the greatest direct responsibility to their constituents, but often have the least power in the HMGP process.

Abstract below:

The use of buyouts as a climate change adaptation and risk reduction strategy has become increasingly common. Little research to-date, however, has examined the experience of local administrators of buyouts, despite the critical role they play as on-the-ground implementors. We interviewed 18 county and town officials from North Carolina who administered the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Our goal was to better understand the difficulties local administrators face in program implementation and the complexities of their relationship with other program stakeholders. We identified several recurring challenges facing these officials, including limited capacity; staff turnover, program delays; and a lack of flexibility, clarity, and communication. These issues make implementation challenging for administrators and strain their relationships with program participants and higher levels of government, in turn reducing program success and credibility. These results provide valuable insight into the perspective and experience of local administrators as HMGP implementers.

Paper Presentation & First Virtual Conference

Differential Residential Perspectives on In-Situ Protection and Retreat for Climate Adaptation

The growing cost of climate-driven coastal impacts requires an improved understanding of how coastal populations engage with adaptation decisions. While studies explore factors driving coastal adaptation, generally, few evaluate how residents consider relationships between in situ protective adaptation versus retreat from at-risk areas. This presentation addresses that gap by posing and responding to the following questions: What is the relationship between residents’ exposure, perceptions of climate trends, and concerns about the future? How do these factors influence attitudes and openness to different adaptation strategies? Are these strategies considered to be progressive – where protection is indexed to minor threats and retreat occurs when protection measures fail–or are these dichotomous choices? In this study structural equation modeling is applied to evaluate these decision pathways using a 2017 household survey in North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula (n=147). The results reveal that residents commonly view protection and retreat as mutually exclusive, rather than progressive methods for reducing risk, and that their preferences are correlated with different understandings of climate threats.

The Virtual Conference:

For the past 45 years, the Natural Hazards center at University of Colorado Boulder has held a conference on Natural Hazards Research. This year was a little different. Because of the ongoing COVID crisis, the conference moved online.

This year, the conference’s theme was Active Hope. It was a response to the major disasters of the past few years, which has seen record breaking fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. This asks: How can we maintain hope in this era of environmental extremes? I don’t know if I got the answer to that question through this conference, but I saw a good spread of great research.

The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of teaching an empowerment approach known as the Work That Reconnects, the authors guide us through a transformational process informed by mythic journeys, modern psychology, spirituality, and holistic science. This process equips us with tools to face the mess we’re in and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.

Active Hope Synopsis

Article under Revise and Resubmit

I came from a very different corner of the academic universe than the social sciences – Architecture. Anecdotally, it’s the sort of field where smart, quirky people who never learned the difference between their/there and those with severe dyslexia can end up and find success through a potent mix of projected confidence and all-nighters. It takes hard work, iterative work, and just about zero publications.

As a result, this is my first round through the peer-reviewed publication process, and I am double-dipping to catch up. In the past week and a half I have received two revise and resubmits from two different journals on two different articles (on work produced from just one survey, while we’re counting).

There is a lot of discussions out there on how academic publishing, and it’s importance to the success of a career in academia, are part of a broken cycle in a deteriorating system. There’s certainly some credence to that, and people a lot smarter than me with a lot more experience have written extensively about it. But, for the time being, I’m pretty stoked on these results; I’m happy-anxious about the feedback, and excited to get it wrapped up and accepted.

Also, I got the second notice on my 30th birthday, it would have been a real bummer if that had turned out to be a flat out rejection.

Passed Comprehensive Exams

Today, I finished a new milestone in working towards my PhD: passing comprehensive exams. The way that our department structures comprehensive exams is split into two sections. In the first section, I completed five written exams over a seven day period: three four hour exams for Theory, Research Design, and Research Methods; and two six hour exams for my focus areas: Migration and Disasters.

After a brief review period and feedback from my committee members, I entered the oral exam segment. In this portion, I sit with all of my five committee members as they take turns asking me questions about the responses to my written exams, and whatever else they wanted to query me on. Once that was done, I left the room so they could deliberate, and returned to hear that I had passed my comprehensive exams!

Next step: dissertation proposal.

Carolina Planning Journal: Published Book Review

For the most recent Carolina Planning Journal: Changing Ways, Making Change Volume 44, 2019, I wrote a review on The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy, by Anna Clark. An excerpt is included below:

Possibly because the Flint water crisis does not have one true cause, The Poisoned City does not have one true narrative. Clark’s account follows multiple historic arcs that range from the founding of the city to the rise and fall of leaded gasoline to power vehicles… [Taken together] Clark’s story, and the anecdotes that fill the pages, is enough to make you want to buy a water filter and test your taps.

First Prize: ASFPM Student Paper Competition

This is an update to my earlier post on being named a semi-finalist for the ASFPM 2019 Conference Student Paper Competition.  I wrote a paper with Jordan Branham entitled “Disaster Exposure and Migration: The Impact of Major and Minor Flood Events on Population Loss.” I presented the paper on Tuesday, and, today, was awarded first place for this work.

See more about the final paper here!

Climate Change Adaptation Panel: Moderator

Today, I had the privilege of moderating a great panel, Climate Change Adaptation: Communities at a Crossroad, for the 6th annual Climate Change and Resilience Symposium hosted by UNC’s school of public health. A quick description of the panel is below:

“With the Communities at a Crossroad panel, we will hear from academics and practitioners engaged with planning for hazards and climate change in North Carolina. These panelists have diverse experience in academia, planning consultancy firms, and local governments; their work to support local communities offers valuable lessons learned for communities facing a shifting environment in the era of climate change.”


ASFPM Foundation 9th Annual Collegiate Student Paper Competition: Semifinalist

Recently, the abstract for a paper that I wrote with a fellow PhD student, Jordan Branham, was accepted as a semi-finalist for the ASFPM Foundation’s 9th  Annual Collegiate Student Paper Competition. We will be editing the paper for submission in April, and presenting on the topic in May; after which the first, second, and third place entries will be selected. The abstract is included below:


The effects of sea level rise and an increased propensity for major precipitation events caused by global climate change are expected to drive a dramatic reduction in the availability of habitable coastal land and induce population migrations away from particularly vulnerable areas (Allen et al. 2018; R. A. McLeman 2011). However, there is little understanding of how changing risk exposure influences individual decisions to relocate or the thresholds at which these decisions are made (Black, Adger, and Arnell 2013; Bardsley and Hugo 2010). In this paper, we seek to understand how the interaction of different scales of hazard events impact population change over time. To do this, we focus on exposure and vulnerability to flooding events. These events can range from repetitive ‘nuisance’ flooding caused by light weather to storm surges and severe rainfall precipitated by major hurricanes.

We address this research question by examining how minor and major floods between 1990 and 2016 impacted population movements during the same time period in North Carolina. Our study area is home to both coastal and riverine flood hazard areas, affording us the opportunity to tease out the marginal effects of flood vulnerability, exposure to disaster in the form of hurricanes, and the combination of these two factors on population change. Specifically, we use disaster declarations to quantify exposure to major disasters and define a census tract’s vulnerability based on the proportion of buildings within floodplains. Our analysis employs multiple regression with an interaction term in order to assess how our key explanatory variables individually and collectively influence population growth, while controlling for a number of mediating factors such as demographics, economic indicators, geography, and population trajectories.

Our findings suggest that populations have differential responses to environmental risks based on geography, particularly when compounded by joint exposure to both major and repetitive events. More specifically, while coastal communities have experienced significant population growth despite high levels of flood vulnerability, those subareas that are exposed to multiple disasters possess a negative relationship with population growth, suggesting that major disasters can act as focusing events that trigger population shifts (Birkland 1997). Comparatively, it appears that areas subjected to riverine-based flood risk are inclined to population loss in reaction to moderate risk, but less reactive to major events. We expect that these risk-responses will become more pronounced in the era of climate change as both major and minor flood events become more common and out-migration becomes self-supporting. Further, as population loss leads to reduced community resilience, the potential for the rise of non-linear migration exoduses will continue to increase (R. McLeman and Smit 2006; Massey et al. 1993). Therefore, while this study produces important initial findings, it is also presents a methodology that can continue to be used for a more rigorous longitudinal review that will be possible with future Census data.

What You Need to Know About the California Camp Fire: Blog Post

I recently authored a blog post for Carolina Angles on the ongoing California Camp Fire. An excerpt is included below:

The Camp Fire, named after Camp Creek Road near where it originated, has been burning since November 8, 2018. It is the worst wildfire in California’s history; this is not simply a state tragedy, but a national one. Furthermore, it is one that speaks to the unmeasured cost of climate change, which includes damage to environmental resources, expenditure of emergency resources, loss of built capital, loss of lives, and adverse impacts to long-term health.

The Camp Fire is the deadliest California wildfire on record, with over 70 individuals confirmed dead, and hundreds still missing. The next deadliest wildfire in California history was in 1933 and saw the loss of 29 lives. It has also been the most destructive wildfire in California’s history, with the loss of over 15,000 structures so far. The next most destructive wildfire saw the destruction of 5,636 structures. Over 100,000 people have been displaced.

Read more at Carolina Angles