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I am an alum of the University of Georgia’s Integrative Conservation and Geography PhD Program. My training and education span from marine sciences and stream ecology to cultural anthropology, environmental conservation, and geographic information systems (GIS). As a human geographer trained to work across ways of knowing socio-environmental challenges, my research broadly investigates coastal systems as socio-natural landscapes drawing on mixed methods and theories from hazards geography, GIScience, political ecology, and critical race theory.
My dissertation research examined how quantitative and qualitative methods of vulnerability could be combined to produce more robust analyses of uneven risk to sea-level rise. This project involved modeling of sociodemographic change and sea-level rise inundation as well as narrative analysis of interview and participant observation data collected during nearly a year of fieldwork in communities on Georgia’s (USA) coast. My findings show that when population characteristics are modeled alongside forecasts of sea-level rise, the projected population with indicators of higher risk are more than double previous estimates. Moreover, my work argues that acknowledgement and acceptance – by the professional community working on sea-level rise – of race as a process of enabling or constraining meaningful engagement, rather than as a mere demographic category, will help mitigate vulnerability in underrepresented communities.
At SESYNC, my research examines how flood risk transformations occur through changing territories of race and vulnerability in coastal communities. Specifically, I am working with Dr. Nik Heynen of the University of Georgia to examine how vulnerability to flooding has shifted as population, culture, and land use have changed over time (approximately 100 years) and how these will change into the future under sociodemographic and climatic change via rising seas and stronger storm surges from hurricanes. We are focused on synthesizing social and environmental data from Sapelo Island, Georgia, a place with extensive documentation of its cultural and environmental change available via studies of its people’s Gullah Geechee heritage as well as ecological research by two research programs (the University of Georgia Marine Institute and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve). Through this project, we endeavor to show how vulnerability is never a static predetermined state, but a responsive condition to a multitude of factors that are always changing.