What are you currently researching?
I’m researching how communities and cities can become resilient to flood risks. I work in close collaboration with local authorities in the UK to identify where they have weaknesses or shortcomings in response to these risks.
These weaknesses can include buildings in flood zones that are not flood-proof or resilient; areas that lack flood barriers or natural flood protections at riverbanks; or communities where there are few social networks to provide mutual assistance after flood events.
I mainly use participatory methods (such as mind mapping, games, interviews and surveys) to collect information from local stakeholders on their preferences and priorities for interventions that should be implemented for flood risk management.
Why did you choose this area of study?
My background is in architecture and urban planning. During my education, I became interested in the topic of climate change and its impact on cities around the world. As cities grow, more people are located in flood risk areas.
Urban planning and architecture tools, such as land zoning, landscape design, and building codes can play an important role in keeping people away from flood risks. I was interested to explore a) why such measures are not being properly implemented, and b) how we can reduce risks for communities already in flood zones. Thus, I shifted to the topics of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in my PhD and have continued working on these research areas.
How will your research have a wider impact on society? Can you give some real-world examples of the impact your research will have?
Our research provides recommendations for local authorities and communities on which areas require urgent attention and investment. For example, we have collaborated with Lowestoft local authority on the East coast of England to measure the community resilience of this coastal town through the 44 indicators of resilience developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.
As a result of this project, we highlighted several areas requiring local and national attention to reduce flood risk in this region. Results from this study were later used by East Suffolk Council in preparing a grant proposal to the national government.
What have been the highlights of your research work so far?
Raising funding and grants for improving flood resilience in Lowestoft. Our resilience measurement project provided evidence used by Lowestoft local authority to support their case for a flood resilience grant application. Two major national grants were allocated to Lowestoft as the result of this application: £43 million for building flood barriers and another £6 million for building flood resilience in communities. This shows real-world impact as well as providing a successful example of evidence-based decision making for our research.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Communication about flood risks, the impact of climate change, and the importance of climate change adaptation activities can sometimes be challenging. Particularly, when societies are dealing with other types of risks threatening communities.
For example, the Coronavirus pandemic has been a huge distraction for many sectors and organisations that had been working on flood risk reduction activities. Yet, climate change-related events such as flooding continued to have impact around the world. It is, therefore, important that the efforts needed for improving resilience against climate-related risks do not get overshadowed by the emergence of new risks and priorities.
What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?
Find research questions that inspire you, try to obtain knowledge and insight from multiple disciplines beyond your major field, always consider the applicability of your research results in real work, and above all, ALWAYS keep your study life balance!
In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?
I love the supportive environment that the School provides for students and staff both in terms of research and personal development. I feel extremely lucky to be part of the Grantham Research Institute and work with such incredible, supportive and passionate colleagues on one of the most challenging issues facing the world: climate change.