Facilitating Sustainable Responses to Floods

The Flood Mitigation & Recovery Research Program advances research and education on flood vulnerabilities and environmental policy solutions in New England. With Drs. Anita Milman and Anne Short, I bring together individuals with multidisciplinary backgrounds from universities, non-profits, government and the private sector to investigate the complex dynamics of river management, flood adaptation strategies, and environmental change.

More specifically, we are conducting interviews and a mail survey of owners of land located along streams and rivers in Western Massachusetts (Deerfield River Watershed, see map created by Dr. Milman), and insights gained from this study will help lead to a better understanding of flood mitigation efforts across the watershed and will inform the development of policies that are more tailored to landowner needs.


For more information, see:


Farms, Floods, and Fluvial Geomorphology: Making the most of our natural resources

This project is using state-of-the-art assessment techniques to create a map of the river corridor for the Deerfield River in Massachusetts and Vermont, where considerable activity and excitement surrounding responsible whole-watershed management is underway, and existing funded projects can be leveraged for maximum benefit. Through this map, we will determine best-practices for fluvial geomorphic assessments for application elsewhere. On this corridor map we will then overlay maps of existing farmlands to target floodplain and river corridor farms for outreach efforts to disseminate educational materials highlighting the role farms play in floodplains.

With PI, Dr. Christine Hatch, I integrate our knowledge with the basin’s agricultural stakeholders in an effort to provide them with needed tools and support, including fact sheets and kits for flood preparedness, strategies for riparian land management to maximize overall watershed/river health and minimize damages, sources for relief and post-disaster assistance, and pro-active measures for riverfront property management (and potential for profit).


For more information, see:


Adapting to interacting global change risks:  Determinants of adaptation limits among Northwest Costa Rican smallholder rice producers

Beginning in 2010, this project focuses on responses of smallholder rice farming in Northwest Costa Rica (see map of study area) to interacting global change risks. I incorporate national and international politics and drought risks into a framing of winners and losers in Costa Rican agriculture. This project was designed to answer four questions in the context of this case. Taken as a whole, the answers to these questions provide insight into the sustainability of smallholder agriculture in Northwest Costa Rica. These questions are:

  1. How were the development goals of the largest rural development-oriented irrigation project in Central America undermined?
  2. Why are smallholder rice farmers, targeted by an industrial-based rural development program designed to spread risks evenly among all farmers, negatively impacted by risks from global changes while other more powerful farmers, presented with the same risks, profit?
  3. What are adaptation limits in smallholder rice farming in the region? Do farmers perceive themselves as crossing these limits given plausible impacts of future global change risks? Why or why not?
  4. How do socio-economic determinants of adaptive capacity among smallholder farmers in Northwest Costa Rica determine their ability to avoid adaptation limits in the face of the impacts of multiple global change risks?


For an example of completed work, see:


Sustainability Science for Sustainable Schools:  Assessing Certified Sustainable K-12 Schools in the United States

For more information, see: