Geology for Global Development

EGU2015

EGU15 – Natural Hazards Education and Communications

EGU15 – Natural Hazards Education and Communications

Figure 1: A man herds his livestock in remote, high altitude, snowy conditions in Ladakh.

This post first appeared on GeoEd Trek (AGU Blogs) on December 22nd 2014. It has been slightly modified below, given the deadline for EGU Abstracts has now passed, to include the latest information available about this session.  

Ladakh is a remote and beautiful Himalayan region in the north of India (Figure 1). With stunning landscapes and a rich culture and history it is popular with both domestic and international visitors. Ladakh is also a region subjected to multiple natural hazards, including extreme temperatures, avalanches, landslides (Figure 2), earthquakes and unusual heavy rain, each occurring with varying frequency and intensity. One of the worst examples of recent times was in August 2010, when a devastating mudslide impacted Ladakh. The result of sudden and intense rainfall, the mudslide killed over 255 people.

Figure 2: Ladakhi village sitting at the foot of steep hillslopes, a typical scene in Ladakh and an example of the communities’ high exposure to mass movement hazards.

Figure 2: Ladakhi village sitting at the foot of steep hillslopes, a typical scene in Ladakh and an example of the communities’ high exposure to mass movement hazards.

Challenges associated with these natural hazards, together with issues relating to energy, tourism, water supply and environmental change were the focus of a major international conference in the town of Leh in June 2014.Sustainable Resource Development in the Himalayas’, a three day event drawing participants from across the Himalayan region and beyond, was organised by the Geological Society of London alongside the University of Jammu. Running before and after this conference was a geoeducation programme, working with students from multiple ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, exploring topics ranging from the Himalayan glaciers to landslide and earthquake dynamics. The geoeducation aspect of the programme was co-organised by the University of Jammu (Ladakh, India) and Geology for Global Development (GfGD), a UK-based not-for-profit that I established in 2011 (Figure 3). It was delivered in three settings: (i) a large secondary school close to the important town of Leh, with students coming from many surrounding schools; (ii) a medium sized boarding school 200km away from Leh, with many children from nomadic families in the region; and (iii) a small boarding school with many very young children, all coming from nomadic families.

Figure 3: The GfGD and Jammu University team with some of the students at Nyoma Residential School.

Figure 3: The GfGD and Jammu University team with some of the students at Nyoma Residential School.

Implementing a geoeducation project in an unfamiliar region, both geographically and culturally, brought with it a number of exciting challenges, including the availability (or lack of) of materials and resources, language and cultural differences, managing communications between stakeholders before and after the event, and long-term monitoring and evaluation. These challenges were fantastic learning opportunities for the GfGD team, comprised entirely of undergraduates and postgraduates, and our wider network. Geoscientists often find themselves working overseas, in regions with cultures and systems far removed from what we are used to. Engagement with geoeducation during these opportunities may take many forms – from traditional classroom teaching to informal mentoring and knowledge exchange. Attempting to deliver material designed for a UK-audience (my ‘home’ audience), and in a way suited to a UK-audience, in such settings would not necessarily be successful. Instead, consideration is needed of locally-relevant examples, demonstrations and delivery methods. If we hope to have maximum impact in our education, especially when utilising the fantastic opportunities we have to visit far-flung places, these are factors we should take seriously and be diligent in considering.

Our component of the teaching focused on natural hazards, vulnerability and disasters, with a special emphasis on landslides. Additional exercises relating to earthquake dynamics and mitigation were designed and delivered by theBritish Geological Survey’s School Seismology Project. Our work was underpinned by mini-research projects, undertaken by UK students, about landslides, local geology and culture/demographics. Building on this foundation, we put together course content that was relevant to the students and designed a series of simple, interactive demonstrations. Students used photographs of landslides to look for similarities and differences. They used locally available soil, sand and gravel to create their own landslides and investigate angles of failure, the impact of water, the impact of sediment size and what happens if there is (seismic) shaking (Figure 4). Alongside the technical geoscience, we introduced topics relating to exposure and vulnerability. In the UK, these are sometimes taught in isolation from the engineering geology that relates to slope stability. In the same way that this doesn’t serve UK students well, it wouldn’t serve the students in this landslide-prone region to only give them half the story. Understanding the relationship between vulnerability, exposure and a geophysical hazard, in generating a disaster, was an essential message to communicate. It reinforces that some actions can be taken to minimise the impacts of future disasters.

Figure 4: Rosalie Tostevin (GfGD) leads a landslide simulation practical exercise in Nyoma Residential School.

The delivery of the material went very well. We were delighted to be able to leave short textbooks in each school, together with posters and examples of some of the demonstrations. We also left copies of the teaching material with the Ministry of Education at the Ladakhi Autonomous Hill Development Council. As acknowledged previously, assessing and evaluating the real impact of such a project comes with a number of difficulties. We will, however, continue to work with colleagues at the University of Jammu and associated institutions to follow up this work with the overall aim that educators in the region can replicate and adapt these lessons themselves to use with future students.

Teaching about natural hazards is about more than building an appreciation of geoscience. It has the important purpose of reducing individual, family and even societal vulnerability to future hazard events. Understanding the relationship between earthquakes and tsunamis facilitates rapid evacuation. Helping communities living close to volcanoes better understand the different types of eruption and secondary hazards such as pyroclastic flows and lahars can improve partnerships between local observatories and communities. Strong partnerships mean early warning messages are better understood and acted upon. Finally, understanding slope dynamics can help inform building and agricultural practice decisions. For the young people of Ladakh, helping them to better understand their landscapes can be a powerful tool in their hands (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Joel Gill (GfGD) answers extra questions on slope stability from keen students after his class ends.

Given the importance of the subject, I’m really pleased to be co-convening a session with a number of colleagues from across Europe at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna next year. The session, titled Natural Hazards Education, Communications and Science-Policy-Practice Interface, is particularly interested in: (i) The communication (by scientists, engineers, the press, civil protection, government agencies, and a multitude other agencies) of natural hazards risk and uncertainty to the general public and other government officials; (ii) Approaches that address barriers and bridges in the science-policy-practice interface that hinder and support application of hazard-related knowledge; (iii) The teaching of natural hazards to university and lower-level students, using innovative techniques to promote understanding.

We will be linking this session to an opportunity for discussion and a short course on natural hazard teaching demonstrations. If you are planning on attending EGU, come and get involved in these great opportunities to explore the teaching of a topic that is of interest to so many around the world!

#EGU15 – Some Sessions of Interest (2) – Natural Hazards and Society

Eruption of Santiaguito (Joel Gill)

Eruption of Santiaguito (Joel Gill)

We’re expecting a strong GfGD presence again at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in 2015 and look forward to meeting some of you there. Last week we noted some great sessions on natural hazards education, communications and geoethics (all with exemption from abstract processing charges).

Here we note some sessions from the ‘Natural Hazards and Society’ session within the natural hazards division. Each of these may give people some novel ways to think about hazards and disaster risk reduction. Do consider submitting abstracts – the deadline is 7th January 2015.

NH9.7
**Resilience and vulnerability assessments in natural hazards and risk analysis**
The assessment of vulnerability and resilience is an essential part within natural risk analysis. Commonly, these assessments relate purely to the stability of buildings or to chances that people will be affected. These investigations relate in particular to natural and engineering science approaches, but other types of vulnerability are also inherent, yet are often not covered but need also to be assessed. Similarly, resilience is a new approaching concept in risk assessments and needs to be explored. These relate among other things to coping capacities and strategies of affected people and communities, to intangible and indirect economic losses, and to communication and education networks. In addition to partially addressed aspects of vulnerability there is neither a uniform and well-excepted technique or method or standard available to assess vulnerability within its multifaceted nature. Different approaches and disciplines often remain in their corner and interdisciplinary approaches are rare. This session aims to summarize assessments of different types of vulnerabilities (e.g. social, personal, structural, economic, political, environmental) and resilience and to present applications for different natural phenomena. The main focus herein is to present different strategies based on developments from different disciplines and to discuss these according to similarities, but also differences. The role of vulnerability assessment within risk analysis is of particular importance. Researchers as well as practitioners are encouraged to present case studies and applications, conceptual ideas and new methods on the analysis of vulnerability to natural hazards. In order to allow a fruitful discussion and exchange between the different disciplines we encourage a particular focus on the demonstration of the employed methodology and the data bases available for respective research or application.

NH9.9
**Cascading and Concurrent Hazards: case studies and models**
This session will examine case studies and models for cascading and concurrent hazards, both natural and anthropic. Multi-hazard risk assessments for a given region have commonly been restricted to qualitative and semi-quantitative approaches, in which risks across individual hazards are summed together to give the resultant multi-hazard risk. However, relationships between hazards may not sum linearly and may have cumulative and non-linear effects. Here we solicit case studies and models for cascading hazards (one hazard triggers a chain of hazards, e.g. earthquake → landslide → flood) and concurrent natural hazards (two single hazards occurring at the same time as each other, and the resultant risk not summing linearly). One hazard can also increase the probability of another hazard occurring. We foresee both a lively oral and poster session, along with an opportunity for brief oral overviews of the poster sessions paired with discussion, and thus encourage both types of submissions.

Road maintenance in the landslide prone region of Ladakh (Joel Gill)

Road maintenance in the landslide prone region of Ladakh (Joel Gill)

NH9.11
**Geohazards and Critical Infrastructures: Exposure, Vulnerability, and Damage Costs**
Critical infrastructures such as transportation systems, telecommunications networks, pipelines, and reservoirs are at risk of geohazards (e.g., landslides, earthquakes, floods) in many urban and rural areas worldwide. A key to safe and affordable operations of these types of infrastructure is an in-depth knowledge of their exposure and vulnerability to geologic hazards and the impact of damage experienced either locally or across the network. Fundamental understanding of hazard and risk involves (i) systematic identification and mapping of potential infrastructure exposure, (ii) integrated assessment of impact as result of damage, repair and/or mitigation, (iii) indirect losses from infrastructure disruption, (iv) consideration of interactions between hazards and/or cascades of hazards. This session welcomes contributions with a focus on geohazards risk assessment for critical infrastructures, and compilation of databases to record impact and elements at risk. We also encourage abstracts addressing the development and application of tools for cost modeling. The session is dedicated to contributions with national, regional, and local perspective and intends to bring together experts from science and practice as well as young scientists. We encourage poster submissions, and foresee a lively poster session couple with oral talks, and will, if appropriate, have an associated splinter discussion session.

NH9.13
**Global and continental scale risk assessment for natural hazards: methods and practice**
In this session we will address recent research in natural hazard risk assessment at the continental to global scales, and discuss future research needs required to advance this rapidly developing field. The session also focuses on the inclusion of spatial and temporal aspects in large-scale risk assessments. The demand from stakeholders for information on natural hazard risks at the continental to global scale has grown explosively in recent years, and large-scale risk assessments have played a prominent role in several major reports (e.g. Global Assessment Reports (GAR) on Disaster Risk Reduction and IPCC SREX report). Moreover, 2015 will be a landmark year for international development with the renewal of major international policies – the Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals, COP15 and the Hyogo (disaster) Framework for Action – and access to evidence on disaster and climate risks is fundamental to these discussions. This has led to increased scientific research to develop new, and improve existing, methodologies for the collection and development of fundamental hazard, exposure and vulnerability datasets. Specific research needs include the robust assessment of risks that address both spatial and temporal changes in underlying risk drivers, i.e. hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. Moreover, research is required on how society can best reduce, or manage, this risk. Such information is of key value to stakeholders such as (re-)insurers, governments, development agencies, and disaster planning and preparedness institutes. We invite contributions related to the full range of natural hazards, and to chains of hazards leading to worst-case scenarios. We encourage contributions focusing on the influence of risk of human systems and economic and urban development; short-term variability in natural hazards; and short to long term changes in natural hazards. We also encourage contributions examining the use of scientific methods in practice, and the appropriate use of continental to global risk assessment data in efforts to reduce risks.

Don’t forget – the abstract submission deadline is 7th January 2015.

#EGU15 – Some Sessions of Interest (1) – Education, Communication and Ethics

We’re expecting a strong GfGD presence again at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in 2015. We note below a number of relevant sessions that our readers may like to get involved with.

Deadline for abstracts is 7th January 2015.

Teaching Landslide Dynamics in Ladakh (India).  Credit: Geology for Global Development

Teaching Landslide Dynamics in Ladakh (India).
Credit: Geology for Global Development

NH9.4/EOS19
**Natural Hazards Education, Communications and Policy-Practice Interface**
This session addresses how we communicate and educate students, the public, policy makers, and practitioners about natural hazards. Although we welcome all contributions in this topic, we are particularly interested in: (i) The communication (by scientists, engineers, the press, civil protection, government agencies, and a multitude other agencies) of natural hazards risk and uncertainty to the general public and other government officials; (ii) Approaches that address barriers and bridges in the science-policy-practice interface that hinder and support application of hazard-related knowledge; (iii) The teaching of natural hazards to university and lower-level students, using innovative techniques to promote understanding. We also are specifically interested in distance education courses on themes related to hazard and risk assessment, and disaster risk management, and in programmes for training in developing countries. We therefore solicit abstracts, particularly dynamic posters, on all aspects of how we communicate and educate the better understanding of natural hazards. The ability to have graphic screens at poster sessions is available (if pre-ordered through EGU), as is a location to put hands-on demonstrations or other material. We are initially planning poster (or a PICO) session, combined with opportunity for those who want to orally present to the rest of the group, and ample time for discussion.

EOS8
**Geoethics for Society – General Aspects and Case Studies in Geosciences**
Geoethics consists of research and reflection on the values which underpin appropriate behaviours and practices, wherever human activities interact with the geosphere. Geoethics deals with the ethical, social and cultural implications of Earth Sciences education, research and practice, and with the social role and responsibility of geoscientists in conducting their activities. As scholars and experts on some of the most urgent problems affecting our planet, geoscientists can play a fundamental role in society, thanks to their unique range of skills, by helping to meet human needs and address environmental problems at the local and global scale, and by providing information and expert advice to support informed decision-making and public debate. Education, at all levels, must be re-oriented to give 21st century citizens a better understanding of natural systems and our interactions with them, and to equip them to participate in debate about the challenges of living equitably and sustainably on our planet. Geoscientists have a great deal to contribute to this re-orientation. The conveners invite abstracts on both practical and theoretical aspects of Geoethics, including case studies. The aim of the session is to develop ethical and social perspectives on the challenges arising from human interaction with natural systems, to complement technical approaches and solutions, and to help to define an ethical framework for geoscientists’ research and practice in addressing these challenges.

EOS12
**Geoscientists as Communicators**
Communication of the scientific process and its subsequent results is done to achieve a variety of objectives depending on the stakeholders involved: from generating awareness and stimulating interest in children to influencing policy and practice at national and international levels. Giving the numerous fields that the geosciences encompass, the complexity of the subjects and issues and the debate they can spark, and the variety of audiences that can be targeted, good communication is vital and as such there is a need to develop and share ways of communicating and measuring the impacts of communication and outreach efforts provided by our community. In this session we invite applied and theoretical contributions that cover the following topics: (1) Should geoscientists act as communicators? (2) Communication in practice and (3) Evaluation of communication. We particularly encourage submissions of examples of communication initiatives (via any type of tools from websites to lectures and exhibitions), whether successful or ineffective, to encourage shared learning and development towards best practice. To allow meaningful discussions and debates, we encourage geoscientists from all fields as well as journalists and communication experts to submit an abstract in our session.

#EGU15 – Natural Hazards Education, Communications and Science-Policy-Practice Interface

#EGU15 – Natural Hazards Education, Communications and Science-Policy-Practice Interface

Below we’ve listed details of a session that will be of interest to many of you at the EGU General Assembly, in Vienna, next spring. Many postgraduates and academic staff from across the UK and beyond attend this event, sharing details of the latest research they have been doing. The convenors of this session, including GfGD Director Joel Gill and GfGD Leeds Ambassador Ekbal Hussain, are keen to gather those interested in natural hazards to share experiences relating to education, communications and policy/practice. If you’re planning on attending EGU, why not submit an extra poster and get involved in what will be a lively and interactive session.

“Natural Hazards Education, Communications and Science-Policy-Practice Interface”

Conveners: Bruce D. Malamud, Joel Gill, Ekbal Hussain, Marie Charrière, Solmaz Mohadjer, Faith Taylor

Teaching Landslide Dynamics in Ladakh (India).  Credit: Geology for Global Development

Teaching Landslide Dynamics in Ladakh (India).
Credit: Geology for Global Development

This session addresses how we communicate and educate students, the public, policy makers, and practitioners about natural hazards. Although we welcome all contributions in this topic, we are particularly interested in:

  1. Approaches that address barriers and bridges in the science-policy-practice interface that hinder and support application of hazard-related knowledge.
  2. The communication (by scientists, engineers, the press, civil protection, government agencies, and a multitude other agencies) of natural hazards risk and uncertainty to the general public and other government officials.
  3. The teaching of natural hazards to university and lower-level students, using innovative techniques to promote understanding.

We also are specifically interested in distance education courses on themes related to hazard and risk assessment, and disaster risk management, and in programmes for training in developing countries. We therefore solicit abstracts, particularly dynamic posters, on all aspects of how we communicate and educate the better understanding of natural hazards.

The ability to have graphic screens at poster sessions is available (if pre-ordered through EGU), as is a location to put hands-on demonstrations or other material. We are initially planning poster (or a PICO) session, combined with opportunity for those who want to orally present to the rest of the group, and ample time for discussion.

Details and Abstract Submission: http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2015/session/18749