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Postgraduate research project

Vulnerability of low-lying coastal transportation networks to natural hazards

Type of degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Entry requirements
2:1 honours degree
(View full entry requirements)
Faculty graduate school
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Closing date

About the project

Vulnerability of transportation networks to natural hazards represents a fundamental challenge for climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. This interdisciplinary project will explore vulnerability of road and rail networks, and of users, to natural hazards in low-lying coastal areas. It will use quantitative methods and approaches from network science, natural hazards management, social science, human geography, and built-environment geography.

Transportation networks such as roads and railways are fundamental to societal functioning, but are especially vulnerable to disruption and fragmentation by natural hazards. Failure of transportation networks can turn a hazard event into a disaster. This might be by

  • obstructing emergency response
  • impeding delivery of essential supplies
  • preventing removal of debris and waste
  • intensifying direct physical and indirect economic damage
  • protracting processes of recovery

Knowing how a road or rail network could fragment or fail from disruption by natural hazard, who will be affected, and with what likelihood of occurrence, is therefore valuable information for authorities, managers, and planners of urban systems. However, standard vulnerability assessments often do not account for network connectivity, and indirect impacts on users. This means they miss key diagnostic for systemic vulnerability to network failure that means assessments may underestimate the potential impacts of extreme events.

The project will address research questions such as:

  • How do different kinds of hazard disruptions (e.g., flooding, erosion, sediment and debris deposition) drive different spatial patterns of network failure?
  • What patterns of network vulnerability emerge from reconstructing the evolution of past hazard extremes, who is affected, and how might those insights inform the modelling of future extremes?
  • Who are the transport network users most vulnerable to hazard-driven disruptions and network failures?

This project will deliver critical, quantitative insight into climate adaptation of critical infrastructure for societal resilience and disaster risk reduction.

The postgraduate student who leads this project will build transferrable skills in stakeholder analysis, multi-criteria analysis, geospatial analysis, open-source code (e.g., Python), and science communication through clear technical writing (e.g., for peer-review publication) and presentations to broad audiences.

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