Independent Research Projects


SITUATED SURVIVAL: Documenting Local Strategies for Living with Disasters in Water-Stressed Communities of India

This was an eleventh-month research project funded by the United States-India Educational Foundation that examined place-based strategies for coping with water stress and adapting to the impacts of climate change in communities of northern India. In particular, the study documents traditional knowledge and evolving local technologies that communities in the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand and the high desert region of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir have been using and adapting to cope with chronic water scarcity.


TRAINING RIVERS, TRAINING PEOPLE: The Making of Disasters and Politics of Response in Nepal’s lower Karnali River Basin

This research, conducted over a period of five months in 2015 and 2016 in communities of Nepal’s lower Karnali River Basin, formed the basis of Sierra’s Master’s thesis at the University of Colorado Boulder. Examining three different development interventions to assist communities in coping with floods, this research reveals the specific ways in which interventions to ‘fix’ disaster in a place can actually end up further marginalizing the very communities they claim to serve.


ANTICIPATING DISASTER: Local Dependence on Formal Climate Information vs. Traditional Ways of Knowing in Zambia

This study was conducted as part of an internship through the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre at the Zambia Red Cross Society. The report is based on several weeks of qualitative data collected in July 2016 in rural communities located in Kazungula District, Southern Province of Zambia. The specific goals of this study were to detail current barriers that communities face both in coping with and adapting to climate-induced disasters and to identify potential culturally-appropriate and feasible mechanisms to improve local access to early warnings.

Collaborative Research Projects


RISK NEXUS: What Can be Learned from the Columbia and Charleston Floods 2015?

Conducted in collaboration with researchers from the ISET-International and Zurich Insurance Group, this project provides a post-disaster review of the 2015 floods that affected Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina. The report explores why this event became a disaster in the first place, what worked and did not during the response phase, and how disaster resilience can be improved here and in similar places in the future.