The RENCI Engagement Center at ECU operated from 2007-2013. This website is an archive of the research and engagement activity over those years. Several of our projects continue at ECU. For instance, see the NC Coastal Atlas ( for current news and information. This site is no longer being updated. Parties interested in these projects and ongoing related activities may contact Dr. Tom Allen, past Director of RENCI@ECU at



Project Leadership Team

Project Leader: Jeff Johnson
Personnel: Craig Landry, Jamie Kruse, Okmyung Bin, Thomas Crawford, and Mohammad Jahan-Parvar


The Natural Hazards and Human Dynamics Project will investigate human perceptions and knowledge of natural hazards in coastal North Carolina, human behavior in response to hazard risks (e.g., mitigation, social capital formation, etc.), and the socioeconomic impact of natural hazard events.

The behaviors of socioeconomic agents have dramatic implications for vulnerability to and recovery from hazard events. Individuals are typically exposed to risk in their choice of location for residence, employment, and recreation. But these choices are made under constraints attributable to family ties, experience, labor markets, transportation costs, and other historical, social, and economic limitations.

Natural hazard risks can be characterized as place-based phenomena, and the scarcity of suitable space for socioeconomic activity restricts agents' ability to obviate hazards. The current social and economic landscape is the result of complex and idiosyncratic histories, the implications of which for current and future human behavior are in turn quite complicated. Hazard impacts may relate to events that directly impinge upon a community or nearby catastrophic events that affect the perceptions or knowledge of natural hazards (e.g., the impact of Hurricane Katrina on flood insurance holdings in North Carolina).

Long term monitoring will allow for an improved understanding of the interaction between human social and economic dimensions and the development of spatial patterns which influence vulnerability to natural hazards and society's ability to adapt and recover. In year one, we will initiate a pilot study in CAMA counties, Dare and Carteret. The pilot study will inform sampling and survey design for subsequent years and provide baseline data for visualization.

Task 1

This task will involve recording baseline data on natural aspects of the coastal environment in our pilot coastal counties, including geological, ecological, and climatological measures of system stability and variability (e.g. long-term erosion rates, measures of ecosystem health, hurricane return intervals). We anticipate integration with the research area "Coastal Environmental Modeling and Ecological Forecasting" at this and subsequent stages. Next, we will identify key social and economic attributes that reflect economic exposure and social vulnerability to natural hazards. We will initiate sampling design at this stage, including protocol and sample selection.

Task 2

Design survey items to measure social and economic attributes. Initiate pilot panel survey. Collect observational information on units of analysis.

Task 3

The dataset will be compiled and cleaned. Faculty members will perform preliminary statistical analysis with the assistance of graduate students.

Task 4

Identify and initiate collaboration with RENCI scientists to begin development of technological tools for policymakers and stakeholders. The goal is to create effective visualization and decision support tools that utilize the unique high-resolution database and state-of-the-art computing expertise housed at RENCI. This subtask represents the initial phase of collaboration to identify and explore potential capabilities. In year 2 we plan to evaluate the potential RENCI-ECU capacities in light of the needs of policy makers, private businesses, and households to protect North Carolina from natural disasters.