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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

17-13. Connecting coastal change hazards to societally important risk assessments

Addressing coastal hazards such as chronic erosion or extreme storm events and reducing risk—the potential loss of societally important assets caused by these hazards—is a high priority for policy makers, community members, emergency managers, resource managers, utility operators, business owners, and planners. The USGS supports stakeholder demand for usable, customer-centric information to support decisions for planning a resilient future and for responding to and recovering from unanticipated events in more adaptable and cost-effective ways (Ludwig et al., 2018).

More specifically, The USGS Coastal-Marine Hazards and Resources Program (CMHRP) maintains a wealth of physical process information that is the underpinning of assessments of risks and changes in risks associated with sea-level rise, sediment deficits, and storm impacts. Additionally, within the CMHRP, a new Coastal Change Hazards program prioritizes providing useful data and products to stakeholders, researchers, and federal partners, while maintaining high standards of scientific research. We are building program-wide capabilities with an initial focus on evaluating user and stakeholder needs, then developing easily accessible tools for sharing assessments and data (e.g. Coastal-Change Hazards Portal). In this context, a postdoctoral researcher has an opportunity to both utilize and guide our risk-assessment capabilities.

Research under this Opportunity will allow a postdoctoral fellow to guide and utilize coastal hazard assessment capabilities that are currently focused on physical-process understanding (e.g., the products found on the Coastal-Change Hazards Portal) and are needed to support quantitative risk assessments. We are most interested in a research approach that will identify gaps in understanding and develop a testable risk assessment that is based on physical-process understanding, societal process understanding (e.g., economics and other social behavioral theory, models, and data), and improved connectivity between these disciplines. A successful proposal will identify existing physical-process information that can contribute to risk assessments that are primarily focused on human impacts (e.g., loss of life and infrastructure) and provide a research plan to quantify the value of existing coastal hazards information to society. Data from actual coastal-hazard driven losses should be included in tests of the new hypotheses and methods.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisors, below, early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Ludwig, K.A., Ramsey, D.W., Wood, N.J., Pennaz, A.B., Godt, J.W., Plant, N.G., Luco, N., Koenig, T.A., Hudnut, K.W., Davis, D.K., and Bright, P.R., 2018, Science for a risky world—A U.S. Geological Survey plan for risk research and applications: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1444, 57 p.,

Proposed Duty Station: St. Petersburg, FL; Golden, CO

Areas of Ph.D.: While understanding coastal hazards may be advantageous, the candidate is expected to have a strength in social sciences, economics, or geography that enables them to connect the oceanographic and geologic understanding to the problem of assessing societal risk from coastal hazards (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive relevant knowledge and skills may be considered).

Qualifications: Research Geologist; Research Geophysicist; Research Oceanographer; Research Economist; Research Social Scientist (This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist).

Research Advisor(s): Nathaniel Plant, (727) 502-8072,; Hilary Stockdon, (727) 483-2870,; Kris Ludwig, (303) 273-8616,

Human Resources Office Contact: Nina Ngo,, 703-648-7431

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U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last modified: 11:07:38 Fri 08 Feb 2019
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