Project I13: Multiple flood experience and social resilience

Timescale: Oct. 2021 – Sept. 2024


Prof. Christian Kuhlicke, UFZ Leipzig & University of Potsdam

Prof. Annegret Thieken, University of Potsdam


Many studies have explored the consequences of flood events for exposed households by focusing on single flood events. They have documented, among others, that the immediate experience of a flood event is often associated with enormous financial losses as well as with considerable negative health-related and psychologically distressing consequences resulting, among others, in anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. In this sense, flood experience may undermine the resilience of flood-exposed people, which includes not just the immediate pathological consequences, but also the wider perception of individual agency, emotions attached to the place of residency, social ties and networks as well as trust in responsible institutions. At the same time, there is a rapidly growing body of research showing that flood events also offer an opportunity for change: in the aftermath of flood events households, companies and authorities seem to be more inclined to invest in adaptation measures in order to mitigate the consequences of future flood events and by doing so are often able to reduce the monetary damage caused by a subsequent flood event quite effectively. However, most studies treat floods in isolation. By relying on a cross-sectional survey design, empirical studies usually try to better understand how individuals prepare for, cope with and recover from the impact of single flood events. Such event-centred studies, however, are hardly able to capture the possible legacy effects of previous floods and thus neglect the socio-environmental dynamics associated with experiencing repeated flood events and how they feedback on the resilience of exposed households.

The project I13 therefore aims at advancing the discussion by putting the potentially chronic nature of flood risks (i.e. exposed communities are undergoing repeated flood events within a relatively short time-span) at the forefront of the analysis and how it interacts with the resilience of exposed households (understood here as the ability to withstand and recover) as well their trust in their own efficacy, but also that of managing organisations and institutions at the forefront of its analysis. It hypothesizes that the experience of multiple flood events results in an increasing uptake of adaptive and emergency measures. At the same time, the experience may also undermine the resilience of exposed households and their trust in their individual coping and adaptive efficacy as well as their trust in managing organisations and institutions. Empirically, the study will focus on Germany, which has undergone a series of devastating flood events since 2002. It will survey differently affected communities (from single to multiple flood events) by means of a standardized household survey which will be complemented by in-depth interviews with affected residents.

Dedicated Regional Cluster: Central Europe / Germany

Related PhD-projects: Q3 (first period, Jonas Laudan) and P7 (second cohort, Lisa Berghäuser)

Responsibilities: The PhD-project “Multiple flood experience and social resilience” is based at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH, UFZ, Department Urban and Environmental Sociology (Leipzig) and at the research team “Geography and Disaster Risk Research” of the University of Potsdam. The PhD-project assesses how multiple flood experience interacts with the resilience of exposed households and communities. The PhD-project will follow a multi-method approach, including advanced statistical analysis of survey data, focus group discussions with members of exposed communities and participatory modelling approaches. By applying different methods, the PhD-project focuses particularly on interactions between resilience on the level of households and the resilience on the level of communities and how both are shaped by the experience of multiple damaging flood events.

Requirements: We are seeking applications from highly motivated individuals with an excellent Master’s degree in geography, sociology, statistics, digital humanities or a comparable field of studies. Advanced statistical as well as modelling skills are essential. Fluency in the English language (speaking and writing) as well as the willingness to work in an interdisciplinary team are essential, too. Knowledge of social science research in the field of risk, disaster or environmental studies and high motivation to work in this field of research is beneficial.