PhD Thesis Defense: Carolyn H. Stwertka

Tuesday, August 15, 2017, 10:00am

Rm. 201, MacLean ESC (Rett's Room)

Analytical studies of community resilience to prepare for increasing environmental variability


Every year, hundreds of communities in the United States suffer the casualties, damages, and disruptions inflicted by extreme events.  Recoveries may span from months to years, with some community recovery projects planned yet never implemented.  Adapting to climate change is an urgent societal issue.  The private and public sectors within the United States have embraced adaptation planning and building resilient communities as the solution to minimize these damages.  In response, substantial climate change adaptation planning is occurring at all levels of the government and in local communities, yet implementation of these plans varies significantly.  Many local climate adaptation plans identify the need for federal partners, but few identify with which federal agencies to partner or how to prioritize plans to implement.  Substantial research on how to define resilience is occurring, yet the existing literature has not yet converged on a definition.  This leads to the predicament that the current techniques used to analyze climate adaptation and community resilience are not reaching their full potential and climate vulnerabilities might not be reduced as anticipated.  The academic literature indicates there does not yet exist a framework to analytically test whether municipalities contains similar structures, which attributes or components are necessary and sufficient, and how feedbacks between the components lead to the properties identified as important in climate adaptation and resilience. Without a framework of this type, decision support tools cannot effectively identify the leverage points to close the implementation gap.  This thesis aims to bridge this gap by using quantitative analyses of the qualitative concepts of community resilience, climate adaptation planning, and federal strategic planning for climate change. The results indicate that quantitative tools can be applied in conjunction with qualitative social science concepts to provide previously undiscovered insight into community action in response to preparing for future climate change.

Thesis Committee

For more information, contact Daryl Laware at