The focus for this cohort of the Action on Natural Disasters (AND) programme is earthquake-induced landslides in Nepal. Landslides are a perennial hazard in Nepal that pose a particular challenge to post-earthquake disaster response. The cohort comprises four PhD research projects, all of which seek to learn from the 2015 earthquakes and build upon ongoing and existing long-term research and collaborations in Nepal. The projects are designed to address pressing questions around landslide risk, use new and innovative approaches, and bring together supervisory teams from multiple disciplines, including Earth Science, Geography, Engineering, Psychology and Philosophy at Durham University.
All projects involve an element of fieldwork within Nepal and time on placements working with local partner organisations to maximise the quality and utility of the research. The projects also seek to benefit directly those at risk from future natural hazards, working at the community level wherever appropriate and developing outputs that will be applicable in Nepal and beyond. The projects bring together students from a range of backgrounds, who interact to build a body of research that aims to reduce landslide risk in Nepal and beyond.
Katy Burrows, PhD student
Earthquakes that occur in mountainous areas often trigger damaging landslides that destroy buildings, block roads and cause significant loss of life. Rapid mapping of the location and size of landslides is vital following a major earthquake so that humanitarian and governmental organisations can effectively deliver aid to stricken areas. This project aims to develop new methods to automatically detect landslides in images taken by radar satellites. These satellites can see through the clouds that often block the view of optical satellites and will enable a much faster response to future earthquake-triggered landslides.
Sheena Ramkumar, PhD student
This project aims to develop ‘simple rules’ to protect communities in Nepal which continue to face landslide hazards. Complex problems such as hazard analysis and mitigation require decision rules that are adequate to the task in a twofold sense: they work for the environment within which the decision is taken and they work for the decision-maker who, very often, operates under conditions of great uncertainty, computational limitation and temporal pressure. The rules developed by Sheena's research are intended to be easily taught to those without much formal education and who might have to use them under pressure. The rules must also be shown to be ecologically rational (well-adapted to the specific structure of the environment to which they are applied).