Degree completed in 2016.

Public priorities and public goods: the drivers and responses to transitions in flood risk management

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Academic Profile

The inspiration for my research has come from a rather unexpected source: I grew up in Milton Keynes, and watched as the infrastructure was laid to support a population of a quarter of a million. Entire lakes were dug into the ground, millions of trees were planted, and tonnes of concrete and tarmac were laid down to create some kind of beautiful natural machine. The lakes, shaped in teardrops and connected throughout the city, were not just aesthetic; they were magnificent feats of engineering designed to hold vast quantities of excess water within the city. When initially applied in Milton Keynes, keeping water in a city to prevent flooding was a very novel idea and opposite to the national trend, but has now proven effective and is widely applied in the form of SuDS. As a child I was fascinated by all of this and spent my days exploring the parks and the libraries to learn more.

Nothing much has changed, and I still enjoy exploring nature and reading about these fascinating concepts. Yet now, I also add people to the mix. I have developed a great sense of empathy in regards to how the choices of others, and hierarchies across society, impact the decisions a person can make. Current risk assessments do not take into account the whole system over time, and undoubtedly the decisions of the past have left certain sectors of society more or less able to make decisions and improve their position in life.

Today, we live in a society in which responsibility is more widely distributed. Yet, some stakeholders have more awareness of this responsibility, and more power to manipulate the natural and social systems which they are part of. To ensure the dispersal of responsibility is not manipulated for the benefit of few, it is vital to develop methods which make the impact of flood risk management decisions more transparent. Transparency will enable authorities to better inform fair decisions, allow people to make the best decisions possible within the context they exist, and, where necessary, enforce accountability and social justice.

The research I am developing focuses on risk assessment, resilience and communication of risk. Creating both practical tools for those wishing to assess their risk and the impact their decisions have on others, and developing ideas to improve resilience of society as a whole in an environment of uncertainty.

Qualifications

  • DPhil in Geography and the Environment, Oxford University (in progress)
  • MPhil in Geography and Environment, Oxford University, 2012
  • BSc Geography (1st class honours), Durham University, 2010

Current Research

I believe that all people should be able to know how the actions of others impacts the way they experience risk, and the decisions they can make to improve their situation in life. My research reflects this belief, developing challenging research which brings flood risk assessment together with behaviour and decision making in a multi-agent environment.

This exciting thesis is interdisciplinary in every sense of the word, combining my long-standing passion for understanding how humans interact with natural processes with my enthusiasm for communication and my grand plans to apply technology to make a fairer, more transparent and accountable form of democracy.

The output of the research will be both practical and theoretical. Practically, the model I am developing will be able to inform flood risk assessments taking into account how the decisions of others may impact the effectiveness of a stakeholder's investment, as well as the more traditional impact on flows of water. It is my aim to make this tool usable and accessible to all stakeholders, so that people can make informed decisions of the best options for mitigating flood risk within the physical and social context of their flood system.

Theoretically, this work aims to further the idea of resilience. The concept of resilience when applied to humans is abstract, and unmeasureable, yet we all know it is real: it is known that when one bad thing happens to us, another unfortunate event will have a far worse outcome than expected. If we can find a usable measure of resilience, we will be able to develop greater understanding of the unseen catalysts which lead to social blight. A model which can isolate the thresholds and events which 'tip the boat' of resilience will allow better decisions to be made in the future.

Current Teaching

Publications