Dr. Stephanie Chang’s research addresses issues of community vulnerability and resilience to natural disasters. Broadly speaking, it investigates three types of questions: What happens in disasters, and why? What can be anticipated in future disasters? And, how can disruption from disasters be effectively reduced? Her work emphasizes economic, geographic, and planning aspects of risk and resilience at the urban scale. She is particularly interested in the role of urban infrastructure such as energy, water, and transportation systems. Dr. Chang has written extensively on socio-economic impacts of disasters, loss estimation models for critical infrastructure systems, infrastructure interdependencies, economic evaluation of disaster mitigations, urban disaster recovery, and long-term urban risk dynamics. She has conducted research on these topics in Canada, the U.S., Japan, New Zealand, and other places. Her current projects focus on coastal hazard risk and resilience in British Columbia. Dr. Chang has served on the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee on Disaster Research in the Social Sciences and its Committee on Earthquake Resilience Research, Implementation, and Outreach.
Coastal communities face many hazards, ranging from oil spills to coastal flooding and the longer-term threat of climate change. New information tools are needed to help communities find relevant tools and information to address these risks. The Resilient Coasts Canada (Resilient-C) online platform was developed to facilitate knowledge and resource sharing between coastal communities to support hazard risk reduction. Launched in 2016, the platform uses an indicator approach to help communities identify similarly vulnerable peer communities, as well as learn about risk reduction activities they are undertaking. Currently, new geospatial vulnerability indicators are being developed and the platform's geographic scope is being expanded from the Salish Sea region of British Columbia to other coastal regions of Canada.
A catastrophic earthquake could disrupt marine transportation across coastal British Columbia, severely affecting supply chains to coastal communities and emergency response capabilities. This project seeks to better understand such risks and develop effective resilience strategies for different types of coastal communities. It inquires into how disaster events would likely affect ports, marine transportation routes, and the associated movement of people and resources in the emergency response phase, and what strategies would be effective to alleviate potential consequences. Co-principal investigators on this project are David Bristow at the University of Victoria (infrastructure systems modeling) and Ron Pelot and Floris Goerlandt at Dalhousie University (shipping risk).
The Salish Sea and coastal communities are at risk of marine oil spills from various ship sources, including tankers carrying diluted bitumen (dilbit), which are projected to increase. This project seeks to improve scientific knowledge and tools to support evidence-based planning for oil spills. The research will improve modeling of dilbit in the coastal ocean, prediction of near-surface currents, and risk communication strategies for diverse decision-making groups. It will produce predictions of strong currents and extreme high/low water for pilots to help reduce ship accidents, as well as maps and related information products to aid in community planning and in addressing ecosystem vulnerability. The study is a collaboration with Susan Allen at UBC (oceanography) and Haibo Niu at Dalhousie University (oceanography).
This study developed knowledge and tools to enhance the resilience of coastal communities to maritime transportation disruption. Many coastal communities in British Columbia and other regions are highly dependent upon ferries and maritime shipping for the delivery of essential commodities. Focusing on fuel and emergency medical supplies, this study investigated the vulnerability of such supply chains in disasters and explored approaches to improving resilience. The study was conducted in collaboration with IRES faculty member Hadi Dowlatabadi and Civil Engineering faculty member Terje Haukaas.
The cascading failures from one infrastructure system to another can escalate a limited disruption into an extreme event disaster. My research in this area has developed an empirical understanding of infrastructure interdependencies and their societal impacts in prior disasters. It has also engaged local infrastructures and governments in understanding this risk in Metro Vancouver, and identifying regional risk reduction priorities. This study involves collaboration with SCARP faculty member Tim McDaniels.
How disaster risk in a community changes over decades as a result of urban development is as yet poorly understood. Using Metro Vancouver as a case study, this research investigates the dynamics of urban risk through modeling studies. One strand of this research examines the risk implications of forecasted transportation and land use patterns. Another assesses retrospectively how land use, building code, demographic, and economic changes have in recent decades changed disaster risk. A third seeks to develop comprehensive scenarios of urban earthquake impacts.
Systematic understanding is needed into why some communities are better able than others to withstand stresses and recover rapidly from them. This research is currently developing tools and databases for establishing patterns and comparing cases in disaster recovery. Integration of multiple types of data is a core component. The project involves U.S. and U.K. collaborators and cases in the U.S. Gulf Coast and Haiti. Particular emphasis is placed on economic recovery and its relationship to environmental recovery.
On 22 February 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand was struck by a M6.3 earthquake that caused severe damage and losses. This study focuses on post-earthquake reconstruction decisions made by various levels of government in Christchurch. It seeks to gain insights into the impacts of reconstruction decisions on community recovery, and to develop lessons on planning for reconstruction decision-making in future urban earthquakes, especially in British Columbia. This study involves collaboration with Resilient Organisations in New Zealand and with Civil Engineering faculty member Ken Elwood.
Crises can spur changes that would be unachievable under normal circumstances. This study investigates how businesses adapted to electricity shortages following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. In summer 2011, mandatory and voluntary electricity conservation measures affected nearly all of Japan, and peak hour electricity consumption was reduced by a remarkable 18 percent in the Tokyo region. Using statistical data from business surveys, this paper identifies electricity saving patterns in order to inform conservation policies in non-crisis contexts. This project involves collaboration with colleagues in Japan.