Blog posts

   Collecting sediment cores in the Limpopo

A view from the office! Photo credit: Fulvio Franchi, 2019

Our fieldwork for CONNECT4 has begun! Our co-investigator, Fulvio Franchi, is leading a team of researchers on a trip to collect sediment cores from a number of dams across the Limpopo. The team tested out their equipment in Botswana last week and are now in Zimbabwe, collecting the first cores in the waters of the Zhove dam. In this post, they let us know how they built the raft that that will carry them on this adventure. Good luck Fulvio and team!

Our first step, before we collect any data, is to build a safe, stable raft on which to set off into the dams of the Limpopo. The raft really needs to be stable, because we will spend a few days on it, floating in the middle of a number of dams, maneuvering a gravity corer that can weight up to 150 kg! We are happy to report that we tested the raft this week in the waters of the Bonkwakathako dam (Lat. -22.484626° – Long. 27.223099°, near Palapye in Botswana) and it worked really well!

15 August 2019

   New points of departure in transitioning disaster reduction and sustainability challenges

Dealing with Disasters, the UK Alliance for Disaster Research, Disasters Research Group and UK Collaborative for Development Research came together to hold an international conference at the University of Northumbria this month.

Natural hazards in Nepal and Senegal

The conference aims to stimulate debate and advance thinking around 'New points of departure in transitioning disaster reduction and sustainability challenges' building on the progress made in the recent United Nations Global Platform 2019 and in anticipation of the forthcoming Climate Summit.

For people and communities to survive and thrive in the face of disaster threats and sustainability challenges, new points of departure in our approach to science, technology, political will and behaviour are vital — and increasingly urgent. SHEAR researchers contributed insights from current projects, highlighting work on improved prediction and management of floods, earthquakes in landslides in India, Nepal and Senegal.

12 August 2019

   Georisk reduction: science, resources and governmental action: reflections on the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics 2019 General Assembly

Held every four years, the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) General Assembly has been hosted across the world — most recently in Prague (2015), Melbourne (2011) and Perugia (2007) — and this year in Montreal. Covering a wide range of science from the interior of the Earth to solar and space physics (and lots in between!) there was much of relevance to the SHEAR programme.

12 August 2019

   Lessons learned from a disaster: 2015 Nepal earthquake

Gaurab Dawadi, PhD student on the LANDSLIP project

Damage caused by the Nepal earthquake. Photo by UNDP

Experiencing the earthquake

During the earthquake of 25th April at around 12:00 noon, it was Saturday, which was a holiday in Nepal. I had to attend a wedding reception of my relative that evening, and after all the preparations, I went inside the kitchen to prepare a fruit juice for myself. As soon as I put all the pieces of fruit inside a juicer, I heard an unusual roaring and grinding sound, as if the mixer had started itself. A moment later, everything started shaking. I was on the ground floor and quickly got out to the open space in front of my house. The shaking lasted for about one minute, and at some point, it was impossible to stand on the ground. After that unforgettable, terrifying minute, I heard family members and neighbours screaming in fear, the dust of collapsed buildings clouding the scene. It was the first time in my life I felt such a massive earthquake, and words cannot describe the chaos at that time.

I tried to get information from the Internet and checked my mobile phone in my pocket, but there was no Internet, no mobile network, and no electricity. Luckily everyone in my family was safe. I then assessed my house for cracks, but every four to five minutes there was an aftershock. Everyone in my family was screaming at me and telling me not to go inside the house; there could be a bigger earthquake coming. That night, I slept inside a car, and other family members also slept outside in the open ground. No one dared to sleep inside due to continuous aftershocks.


Gaurab is a DRR practitioner was involved in risk communication and counselling people regarding earthquake phenomenon, aftershocks, what to do and what not to do during earthquakes. He also worked with Nepal police to identify earthquake affected areas to quickly deploy the Nepal police rescue team based on the satellite image observation and GIS. Gaurab volunteered in structural safety assessment after the disaster, for about 500 buildings in Kathmandu valley.

17 April 2019

   Lessons learned from a disaster: The 2011 Horn of Africa drought

Olivia Taylor, Doctoral Researcher & ForPAc Project Manager

Women and Children waiting for the water truck in Tanzania. Photo by UNICEF Tanzania

Seeing clearly, and seeing whole

Recently, I attended a panel discussion about the future of the discipline of geography. As a human geographer among the diverse SHEAR studentship cohort – which counts geologists, hydrologists and civil engineers among its number – I left the event wondering what a geographer should contribute to the SHEAR consortia. While other disciplines might be of more immediate and practical use, geography's strength as a discipline is to 'see clearly, and to see whole1', weaving together accounts and different perspectives to see a holistic picture, beyond single stories or certainties. When it comes to reflecting on lessons learned from a disaster such as the 2011 Horn of Africa drought, seeing holistically is particularly important – a lot of work by many has gone into understanding the causes of the crisis, the responses from the humanitarian and development community and sharing lessons learned.

1 From J.S Debenham, The Use of Geography, 1950.


Olivia Taylor is a geographer with research interests in climate change adaptation, and in particular in understanding the political economy drivers and policy processes which shape this. She works both as a Research Assistant on a Sussex Sustainability Research programme project, as well as the Project Manager for ForPAc.

10 April 2019

   EGU 2019: Sharing SHEAR research findings at Europe’s largest geosciences meeting

Landslide-EVO researchers arrive at EGU (L-R: Puja Shakya, Prakash Khadka and Binod Parajuli)

SHEAR colleagues were among the 16,000+ delegates at this year’s European Geosciences Union General Assembly. Researchers from LANDSLIP, Landslide-EVO, FATHUM, Catalyst and Disaster Risk Finance projects presented and convened a range of presentations highlighting the latest findings and developments from the SHEAR programme. Select the headings below to find out more about our presentations on these themes, and contact us if you’d like to further details about any of these areas of work.

The preparedness activities led by the Mozambique Red Cross were facilitated by an innovative humanitarian system known as 'forecast-based action', whereby early action plans are triggered when a specific forecast of a natural hazard is made. These early action plans are supported by evidence from academics, with research contributing to early pilot projects in Uganda and Peru and ongoing research under NERC/DfID's SHEAR programme providing the tools and evidence to support the scale-up from these initial pilot projects to systematic international financing mechanisms for approving and funding early action on the basis of a forecast.


Landslide early warning systems

Flood hazard mapping

Disaster risk finance

06 April 2019

   Before Idai: how humanitarian action is evolving to act on forecasts

Damage from Cyclone Idai
Before Idai: how humanitarian action is evolving to act on forecasts

While the full extent of the impact of Cyclone Idai is still unknown, we do know that even with the airport closed and roads impassable, the Mozambique Red Cross were already on the ground in Beira having been preparing communities by disseminating early warning messages and prepositioning non-food items such as emergency shelter kits, blankets, and mosquito nets.

The preparedness activities led by the Mozambique Red Cross were facilitated by an innovative humanitarian system known as 'forecast-based action', whereby early action plans are triggered when a specific forecast of a natural hazard is made. These early action plans are supported by evidence from academics, with research contributing to early pilot projects in Uganda and Peru and ongoing research under NERC/DfID's SHEAR programme providing the tools and evidence to support the scale-up from these initial pilot projects to systematic international financing mechanisms for approving and funding early action on the basis of a forecast.

22 March 2019

   Experiences of the 2015–16 El Niño from across the tropics highlight the importance of building long-term resilience

Livestock in Halaba District, Ethiopia

It is widely anticipated that the global climate in 2019 will once again be affected by El Niño conditions in the Pacific Ocean. This can contribute to a range of experiences of weather extremes across the tropics and impact natural resources and livelihoods in a variety of ways, often requiring people to make adjustments to their livelihood strategies or resource usage.


   Reflections on the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Jonathan Paul

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting is widely regarded as the largest and most important conference in science. In 2018, for the first time, I was involved in convening a couple of sessions. The first — about the use of citizen science in natural hazard risk reduction — was something of an extension of a special issue of Frontiers in Earth Science on a similar theme, which I am co-editing with other Landslide EVO researchers. Following a project meeting in February 2018, we identified a 'gap in the market' that we hoped would be plugged by a second session proposal — this time, on the use of sensor networks in hydrology.


   Studentship spotlight: from a village in India to university in London

What would you call a girl from an Indian village who gets a scholarship to study in London and decides to step out of her comfort zone for the first time in her life? Crazy, opportunistic, brave, intelligent? Well, I have heard of all those adjectives for me and I won't deny any of them. I spent 17 years of my life studying to get a scholarship to attain education, competing against the huge Indian population since I was seven years of age. Little did I know that that this would lead me to sit for examinations that would help me apply for a PhD in international colleges. I had dreamed of being a research scientist since childhood but never thought that I would get an opportunity to be a sponsored PhD student in a unique international project like SHEAR that includes big names like King's College London, the British Geological Survey, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Red Cross Red Crescent Society and Imperial College London.


   Bringing SHEAR together in Brighton

The SHEAR programme held its first annual meeting in this autumn, bringing together the wide range of researchers involved in the different projects and all their different experiences and perspectives. Here, three members of the SHEAR Studentship Cohort — Neeraj Sah, Anna Twomlow and Siobhan Dolan — share their reflections on the experience.


   Citizen science: friend or foe?

Katarzyna Cieslik and Jonathan Paul, Landslide-EVO

Landslide-EVO sensor

The annual Development Studies Association conference invites both academic and practitioner reflections on issues of global importance, from poverty alleviation, through gender justice and the practices of inclusion, to the sustainable use of natural resources. This year's event was hosted by the University of Manchester and centred around the broadly understood theme of global inequalities 'as a subject of research, an issue for action and as a lens through which to approach the world'.


   Pressure cooker: can you design a risk communication strategy in 24 hours?

Anna Twomlow (SHEAR Studentship Cohort PhD student, Imperial College London)
Olivia Taylor (SHEAR Studentship Cohort PhD student, University of Sussex)

Pressure cooker challenge

Every two years, academics, professionals and practitioners working in disaster risk management gather for the Understanding Risk Forum, a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation in disaster risk management. This year, the forum was hosted in Mexico City, and we were fortunate enough to participate, and take part in the world's first 24-hour 'Risk communication pressure cooker challenge'. The challenge was hosted by the Water Youth Network, an organisation that connects youth and organisations within the water sector and beyond.


   New perspectives: fieldwork in Nepal

Neeraj Sah, PhD Scholar, Landslide-EVO, Imperial College London
Siobhan Dolan, PhD Scholar, FATHUM, University of Reading

Neeraj

Rain gauge at Buddhiganga

I started my PhD with fieldwork in western Nepal, and I have no qualms in saying that I had a completely unexpected experience in terms of my understanding of the project, and interaction and collaboration with local people, government officials and other stakeholders.

This fieldwork was carried out by Jonathan Paul, Neeraj Sah, Saugat Paudel and Siobhan Dolan from the Landslide-EVO project between 1 and 12 May 2018. The main objectives were to replace an existing river-level sensor with a new, more sophisticated one, and to install other sensors and a dense network of rain gauges at various locations in the Upper Karnali basin (Bahjang and Bajura districts) that are prone to landslide and flood risk.

It was a very exciting journey as we met new people, local leaders, school teachers and students every day, shared our research objectives, and involved them as much as possible at this stage of the project.


   Showcasing projects building resilience to El Niño — lessons from the field

Showcasing projects building resilience to El Niño — lessons from the field

The most recent El Niño event, occurring from 2015 to 2016, was amongst the strongest ever recorded. In response, NERC and the Department of International Development (DfID) funded the Understanding the Impacts of the Current El Niño Event research programme, which seeks to improve societal wellbeing by building a knowledge base to inform preparation for future extreme climate events.

23 February 2018