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College of Arts and Sciences

Hazards and Vulnerability Education

Members of the Hazards Vulnerability & Resilience Institute at the University of South Carolina teach a range of classes, at the graduate and undergraduate levels, that can help students expand their knowledge of natural hazards and their effect on the word around us.


Most parts of the world are at risk from environmental hazards, although to differing degrees. This course introduces you to the nature, impact, and social responses to environmental hazards and disasters. The focus is on the origin and characteristics of disasters, lessons learned from many of the great disasters, and how society anticipates and responds to disasters. The major goals of this course are to:

  • Introduce you to the range and type of environmental hazards and disasters and their geographic distribution
  • Examine the causes and consequences of hazards on society over time
  • Assess various responses to hazards by individuals and society from the local to global scales.

There are no formal pre-requisites for this course, but there is an assumption that students have basic knowledge of natural science and social science and most importantly, an inquisitive nature.

This course investigates the causes and impacts of environmental hazards on society. Specifically, the course focuses on the relationship between society and nature, especially how people and societies respond to hazardous geologic, atmospheric, hydrologic, and technological events. In addition to briefly reviewing the physical/technological dynamics of hazards, we will focus most of our attention on hazards mitigation and recovery from disasters. The major goals of the course are to:

  • Examine the causes and consequences of hazards on society over time and space
  • Assess various responses to disasters (relief, recovery, reconstruction, mitigation) by individuals and society
  • Understand the evolution of and current status of hazards policy
  • Identify gaps in knowledge and policy in the hazards area

The prerequisite for the course is GEOG 330: The Geography of Disasters or its equivalent.

Examination of the geo-spatial aspects of hazards analysis and planning with specific reference to disaster preparedness, recovery, mitigation, and resilience. This course 1) provides a historical overview of hazards assessment and planning within the United States including the legal frameworks such as the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 and its amendments; 2) introduces the conceptual and theoretical background to hazards analysis including scale, geospatial models, and metrics for vulnerability and resilience; 3) introduces analytical tools used in hazards and vulnerability assessments; and 4) illustrates the application of existing hazards research on planning and analysis into contemporary practice.  Using a combination of learning styles ranging from reading, lectures, and in class discussions to more active engagement with online discussions, blogs, GIS labs, and hands-on exercises, the course illustrates how the principles of the geographical sciences tailored to hazards analysis are translated into useful information for practitioners.  Students should already have some of the fundamental knowledge and basic introductory background in hazards and in geographic information systems.

By the end of the semester students should be able to: 1) demonstrate the ability to think spatially, analyze hazards data, and provide a place-based hazard assessment for a community, county, state, or region, 2) understand the geographical dimensions and information requirements for preparedness, mitigation, and recovery, 3) understand limitations in measuring hazards and vulnerability at different spatial scales, 4) critically evaluate hazard assessment methodologies including limitations in models and in available data streams, and 5) spatially represent hazards, vulnerability, and resilience at local to national scales.

Prerequisites: GEOG 363 and 530, or equivalents; or permission of the instructor.

Climate changes are taking place now. Climate adaptation planning is becoming ever more pressing. This course will cover the processes of climate adaptation planning and management starting with central concepts in adaptation to issues such as projecting impacts, vulnerability assessment, equity considerations, coping with uncertainty, and decision making. This course will focus on adaptation in the United States to allow us to consider some issues in more depth. We will consider case studies that reveal the diverse issues, approaches, and challenges in other communities large and small, and those well or poorly resourced.  

The investigation of nature-society relationships has a long history in geography. It was part of the earliest discussions that characterized geography as a discipline and it continues to be an important disciplinary contribution to today’s interdisciplinary environmental studies. This course is designed to introduce the history of these debates and how they relate to contemporary understandings of environment-society relationships including risk and hazards. The major schools of thought and the critiques made of them are examined, as are contemporary research themes and related methodological approaches.

Prerequisites: GEOG 530: Environmental Hazards or GEOG 568: Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change

This research seminar is designed enhance your ability to critically evaluate the theories and concepts employed in contemporary social science hazards research. The readings represent a combination of environmental "classics" as well as a number of provocative books illustrating some of the current approaches to hazards theory and practice. In addition to broadening your exposure to alternative conceptual models and modes of explanation, this seminar will assist in your development of research topics, and enhance your writing skills.

The prerequisite for the course is GEOG 530: Environmental Hazards or GEOG 730: Seminar in Environmental Geography.


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