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Tara Pozzi Thesis Defense

April 29 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am MDT

Title: Understanding the Facilitators and Barriers of Lidar Adoption for Flood Risk Management in the Pacific Northwest, U.S.
Program: Biology, MS
Advisor: Dr. Vicken Hillis, College of Innovation and Design
Committee: Dr. Marie-Anne de Graaff, Biology; Dr. Jesse Barber, Biology; and Dr. Brittany Brand, Geosciences
Flood risk and damage are expected to increase in the Pacific Northwest due to climate change. Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) is a remote sensing technology that provides high-resolution topographic data and can therefore produce higher accuracy floodplain maps, an important tool that communities use to assess their flood risk spatially. While availability of lidar data varies across the U.S., uptake also varies even when lidar is available. For example, we found that only 50% of flood risk managers in Idaho are using the technology. Previous research investigated important factors in the role of technology adoption in reducing long-term environmental risk. However the current literature infrequently examined the social processes that impact an individual’s choices about how to manage risk. We used a mixed-methods approach to examine the adoption of lidar by flood managers for risk mitigation, as a function of individual (e.g. risk perception, direct experience) and collective predictors (e.g. peer influence, network expertise). We conducted 8 semi-structured interviews with flood risk managers in Idaho and gathered 150 survey responses from flood risk managers in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. We found that flood managers who share information with other flood managers using lidar are also more likely to use lidar themselves. Furthermore, the more frequently these flood managers communicate, the more likely a manager is to use lidar. This work provides a foundation for how to incorporate collective factors in mitigation behavior research and reveals potential for increased lidar uptake through collaboration in the flood risk manager community.

In addition, we developed three educational outreach products to address barriers identified in our semi-structured interviews and survey instrument from our mixed-methods empirical study. We found that lack of funding, expertise, and political support were the top barriers flood risk managers faced. The first educational outreach product was a webinar titled the “Current State of Lidar in Flood Risk Management in Idaho” that had over 65 flood risk managers in attendance and a panel of cross-sector participants. The second product was a white paper, intended for the Idaho Geospatial Council-Executive Committee and Elevation Technical Working Group, with a call to action to ensure the completion of the lidar goals set forth by the USGS 3DEP and the Idaho Lidar Statewide Acquisition Plan. The third product was a Story Map and provided a detailed account of various lidar applications throughout Idaho. Both the white paper and Story Map exist in digital formats that are easily shareable and are considered living documents that can be updated as needed.

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