How Transdisciplinary Teams, Participatory-Based Research, and Community Engagement Work to Improve Outcomes and Build Local Capacity for Hazard Resilience

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Garett SANSOM, Institute for Sustainable Communities, USA
Phil BERKE, Institute for Sustainable Communities, USA
John COOPER, Institute for Sustainable Communities, USA
Nasir GHARAIBEH, Texas A&M University, USA
Marccus HENDRICKS, University of Maryland, College Park, USA
Jamie MASTERSON, Texas A&M University, USA
Galen NEWMAN, Texas A&M University, USA
Recent research has demonstrated many benefits of engaging community members and interest groups in the conduct of research and the development of interventions to improve local conditions and build community capacity. The Institute for Sustainable Communities at Texas A&M University has brought together a transdisciplinary group of researchers from landscape architecture, urban planning, public health, engineering, sociology, marine sciences and geosciences in conjunction with community engagement staff to collect and synthesize data and co-learn with communities about flooding risk, toxic exposure, and climate change impacts. The work is focused on two socially vulnerable and Environmental Justice neighborhoods in inner-city Houston, Texas; both neighborhoods are low-income and majority minority, and both are located near the highly industrialized Houston Ship Channel.

Since 2014 there have been several participatory action research projects conducted with local community organizations and high school students including: 1) a storm-water infrastructure assessment that incorporates citizen science data collection, 2) an urban landscape design project to improve community resilience to hazards, 3) sampling of standing surface water and within-home samples assessing for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals, 4) a community health survey, and 5) participatory GIS to identify flooding issues. Findings from these endeavors revealed a population that is at particular risk of health impacts from exposure to hazardous substances and natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the na-tech impacts from the resultant chemical releases. All aspects of these were co-led and organized with local residents and local advocacy groups and stakeholders. This presentation will discuss how using the knowledge of residents within local areas strengthens every step of hazard, climate change, and public health research and best practices and insights into conducting this type of disaster research. We will also discuss the importance of transdisciplinary research and engagement teams to address hazard issues.