Article accepted for publication: Natural Hazards

The Natural Hazards journal just accepted a journal article I wrote with Leah Campbell, Mai Nguyen, and Gavin Smith for publication. This article is: “(Mis)trusting the Process: How Post-Disaster Home Buyout Processes Can Degrade Public Trust.”

I’m pretty excited about this article for a few reasons. First, I’ve been working on collecting and analyzing this data with the rest of my co-authors for awhile. Second, this is really my first formal foray into qualitative research methods. Third, it’s always exciting to get that email that it is accepted.

The abstract is below:

Federally funded housing buyout programs are the dominant method of government-supported retreat in the United States. Done correctly, buyouts can reduce pre-disaster vulnerability and facilitate post-disaster recovery. However, the success of buyout programs hinges on successful coordination and implementation by local administrators, who represent buyout participants, manage the buyout process at the community level, and connect them to state and federal resources. Because of this, trust between local administrators and the members of their communities is crucial for project participation and successful outcomes. While local administrators play a critical role in the buyout program, their role in building trust throughout the process has been an understudied aspect of the buyout literature. To address this gap, our paper examines the perceptions of local buyout administrators related to trust. This is done through a study of the conditions following Hurricane Matthew’s landfall in North Carolina, USA in 2016 using in-depth interviews with 18 local HMGP administrators, and an analysis of over 300 local newspaper articles to study how trust is built and lost in the buyout process. Our findings indicate that a lack of program clarity, unclear communication about the program’s guidelines across all levels of governments, and extended time frames deteriorated public trust in a manner that hindered program success and diminished program results.

Aerial of Kinston, NC in recent floods. From the FEMA Media Library

Hobbies: Inventing a board game

Board games are one of my favorite ways to ruin long standing friendships over theoretically benign competitions – just kidding (mostly). From the living room – I’ve built and razed cities, engaged in clear cutting forests for fun and profit, created endearing bird sanctuaries, lost space cargo to asteroids, and homesteaded on medieval farms. And now, to deal with dissertation stress, I’m making my own.

Tentatively titled: The Tragedy of the Commons, my board game is designed to push players to overuse common space in an attempt to secure victory before the ecosystem collapses. Here’s some early artwork of the process:

Book review accepted for publication: Journal of Planning History

My book review on The Invention of Rivers: Alexander’s Eye and Ganga’s Descent, by Dilip da Cunha, was accepted for publication by the Journal of Planning History. I had a great time reading this book. And I was exciting to think of it from the perspective of planning history, with considerations for how we are living in an era defined by anthropogenic climate change.

Geographisches Institut (Weimar, Germany), 1966. Image reprinted in The Invention from the David Rumsey collection

Article Accepted for Publication: Climatic Change

A paper I have been working on with Dr. Todd BenDor has just been accepted for publication by Climatic Change. It is my second, first author publication in a peer reviewed journal.

This paper uses a SEM model to analyze results from an in-depth survey distributed in 2017 to better understand how residents of the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula, NC, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, are viewing adaptation decisions. Our results show that residents who are concerned about future trends are more open to moving away from their community. We find that an optimistic perception of flooding over the past two decades (i.e. flooding has gotten better, storms have gotten milder, etc.) is associated with reluctance to engage in protective measures generally. We also found that a resident’s pessimistic perception of past events, absent of concerns about the future, is correlated with a greater openness for in situ adaptation measures.

Our findings push forward the understanding of the factors that prompt resident willingness (and similarly, unwillingness) to consider taking measures to adapt to climate change. Understanding the process that leaves residents willing to retreat or protect themselves is critical to governments’ ability to mitigate long-term risk. Moreover, this information is critical to informing the strategies that local, state, and federal governments use in approaching and encouraging individuals to take proactive measures to mitigate increasing climate risk to their properties, livelihoods, and health.

These findings, and results from future studies, can be used to inform communication strategies that may prompt residents to take precautionary measures to reduce their personal risk, as well as the risk of their communities and the state at large. The abstract for the article is below:

The growing cost of climate-driven coastal impacts requires an improved understanding of how coastal populations engage with adaptation decisions. While many studies explore factors driving coastal adaptation, generally, few evaluate how residents consider relationships between in situ, protective adaption vs. retreat from at-risk areas. What is the relationship between residents’ exposure, perceptions of climate trends, and concerns about the future? How do these factors influence attitudes openness to different adaption 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? We apply structural equation modeling to evaluate these decision pathways using a 2017 household survey in North Carolina’s (USA) Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula (n=147). Our 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.

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 accepted for publication: Environmental Science and Policy

Article entitled “From abstract futures to concrete experiences: How does political ideology interact with threat perception to affect climate adaptation decisions?”, co-authored with Sophie Kelmenson, Todd K. BenDor, and Danielle Spurlock, has been accepted for publication with Environmental Science & Policy! Abstract below:

Climate change forecasts predict impacts that will increasingly expose coastal residents to existential risks, necessitating aggressive adaptation. While the polarization of climate change attitudes in American politics represents a barrier to climate adaptation efforts, it is not well-understood how political ideology mediates how individuals connect the abstract concept of “climate change” to concrete experiences with environmental risks. Understanding this link in the context of adaptation decision-making is important, as the effects of many, household-level adaptation efforts compound over space and time, affecting community flood risk and vulnerability. This paper asks, how do political ideologies interact with threat perception to affect coastal climate adaptation decisions? We frame this analysis using the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and Protection Motivation Theory (PMT). Using responses from a survey of residents (n = 164) in North Carolina’s (USA) Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, we examine how measures of residents’ subjective norms, threat-appraisals, and self-efficacy influence their intent to retreat or topographically adapt. We find that, despite political polarization around climate change, generally, when given concrete examples of risk, respondents’ political beliefs appear unrelated to their plans to protect their property and livelihoods.

Ghost forests from the study area, the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula

Teacher of record: PLAN 247

When I first signed up to teach PLAN 247: Solving Urban Problems it was the Fall of 2019. It was a simpler time, Covid was not yet a household name, classes occurred on campus, and, while racial tensions were brewing beneath the surface, they had yet to spill out into the streets in the form of protests through most of our major cities.

I had expected to teach in one of the familiar classrooms in our familiar department building on our familiar campus. Instead, the first class I taught was online, first from an office set up in a spare room of my parents house, and, later, in an office nook set up in my own home. While I have been training, in some sense or another, to teach a class in person through a series of TAships, I came to the online classroom with very little experience in how to make this work.

That said, I’m a millennial, and I had a few ideas up my sleeves that I wanted to trial out.

I made google slides the backbone of my course lecture style. I invited all the students to join the document and gave them permission to edit, leaving open spots where they were explicitly required to do so. I broke up my slide decks a couple of different ways.

First, I had traditional lectures. In these, I went through different concepts and then assigned them discussion questions that highlighted key takeaways and invited them to write down and later explain their positions to the class:

Second, I had case studies. In these, I presented controversial planning solutions and showed multiple sides of the argument for or against them, using 5-10 different perspectives.

 

Afterwards, I asked them to take opposing, argumentative positions (even if they didn’t agree with them!), and led small debates on different features of the issue at hand.

discussion

Finally, I created a range of activities. These classes began with a lecture on the issue at large, then broke out into parallel exercises that students put together live. I left blank slides for them to fill in, with directions on what sort of pictures they should include, what questions they should answer, and links to relevant resources. Each student had an assigned city that they followed throughout the class. To keep time, and to show without having to go into a overload of detail, I went through the exercise myself with my own city.

Overall, I think it ended up being very successful. The students were wonderfully engaged for such a rough time of the year, and for such a complicated shift in their learning structure. They participated in class, talked to each other, and, in the end, presented policy recommendations to solve urban problems in their case study city. It was an odd first go around of teaching, but I honestly enjoyed it more than expected, and look forward to finding new ways to engage students in the future.

ACSP 2020: Four Abstracts Accepted

I have presented the past two years at the 2018 ACSP conference in Buffalo, New York; as well as the 2019 ACSP conference in Greenville, SC, so, I am comfortable with the process by now. However, was a little surprised to reflect back on the work I’ve done the past year, on my own papers and on teams with other researchers, and realize I’ve been a partner on four different projects that are being presented on for this upcoming conference (theoretically still taking place) in Toronto.

A quick list of the paper authors and the other authors are below:

The-Storm.2(MIS)TRUSTING THE PROCESS: HOW COMPLICATIONS IN THE BUYOUT PROCESSES CAN DEGRADE PUBLIC TRUST
Abstract ID: 199

SCHWALLER, Nora [presenting]
NGUYEN, Mai [primary author]
CAMPBELL, Leah [co-author]

 

flood parcel

A PARCEL-SCALE ANALYSIS OF MUNICIPAL FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT IN NORTH CAROLINA
Abstract ID: 379
HINO, Miyuki [presenting author]
BENDOR, Todd [co-author]
BRANHAM, Jordan [co-author]
KAZA, Nikhil [co-author]
SALVESEN, Dave [co-author]
SCHWALLER, Nora [co-author]
SEBASTIAN, Antonia [co-author]
SWEENEY, Shane [co-author]

 

CHANGES IN THE WATER: THE IMPACT OF NATURAL HAZARDS VULNERABILITY AND EXPOSURE ON POPULATION CHANGE
Abstract ID: 885
BRANHAM, [presenting author]
SCHWALLER, Nora [co-author]

 

Hurricane-Regional-meeting-1024x682

BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE LOCAL ADMINISTRATION OF POST-HURRICANE
MATTHEW BUYOUTS IN NORTH CAROLINA
Abstract ID: 368
CAMPBELL, Leah [presenting author]
NGUYEN, Mai [primary author]
SCHWALLER, Nora [co-author]

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.