- Research Interests/Specializations
My work focuses on weather-related disaster prevention and climate change. I have experince with flooding, landslide and more recently with wildfire hazards. I am currently researching critical infrastructure network vulnerability with emphasis on the transportation energy system in California. Crisis management, inquiry systems, spatial analysis and network science are the main tools I have been working on to tackle these problems.
- Bachelor in Geography, University of Montpellier III
- Master in Territories, Society, Planning & Development, University of Montpellier III
Understanding the controversial equilibrium between human occupation and natural environment has always been at the root of my vocational aspirations. Today, as an American-Brazilian Geographer, specialized in Natural Hazards and Disaster Assessment and seeking a PhD in Environmental Planning, I am satisfied with how my career has been unfolding, progressing my never-quenching thirst for understanding this delicate relationship. Why is this important to me? I believe natural disasters are a culminating result of our inability to coexist with our natural surroundings to which the consequences are the deepening of socioeconomic inequalities. Based on varied sources of international news, during the first week of 2018, extreme-weather related incidents had already caused 37 deaths in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) from flooding and landslides, and two thousand hectares burned in northern Corsica (France) injuring 3 people. These wildfires were difficult to control majorly because of strong winds related to the winter storm Eleanor that had swiped western Europe, causing 10 deaths, over 30 injuries, power loss to hundreds of thousands of homes and an underestimated 200 million euros of direct economic losses in that same period. In the Pacific, tropical cyclone Ava had caused life-threatening floods and landslides in eastern Madagascar, registering one victim. Australia had been hit with heat waves causing a 20-acre brush fire that threated residential neighborhoods in Tasmania. A cold wave had caused at least 9 casualties in the Nepalese Teri region and 13 people were killed following a snow storm in the Chinese province of Anhui. A powerful winter cyclone had swiped part of the Canadian and nearly the entire United States East Coast causing power loss to over a million homes and businesses because of intense blizzards, damaging winds, and dangerous coastal flooding. While trying to absorb this appalling trail of weather-related events on a global scale that occurred only during the first seven days of 2018, the word "extreme" suddenly lacks meaning to me. These incidents are screaming symptoms of deep societal deficiencies, and unfortunately, they also represent an unprecedented window of opportunity for action to improve social-environmental relations. This is unfortunate because progress in such pressing issues have usually been registered as a reaction to high impact events that exceed a certain threshold of risk acceptance. However, there is a political and public awareness increase accompanied by the willingness and acceptability of investment in proactive actions. These windows of opportunities need to be properly seized, and my goal is to improve our capacity to do that while I am also hoping to cut this vicious cycle of forgetfulness- building up of vulnerabilities- high impact event-awareness-response that act as band-aids to long term crisis.
Throughout my academic and professional path, I have witnessed great shifts of investment programs in disasters risk prevention and mitigation as a response to one of these extreme incidents. A few months after Brazil's deadliest natural disaster in 2011, Rio de Janeiro, when landslides and floods killed over 1300 people, I was hired to help implement the country's first Natural Disaster Early Warning Center (CEMADEN). Back then I had just finished my master's degree in France and had moved back to Brazil to engage with a small group of researchers devoted to the incipient Brazilian field of natural disasters preparedness. I had field experience with mapping risk areas in informal settlements in South America's largest city, Sao Paulo, which sensitized me to the urgency of urban and environmental planning. My CEMADEN employee experience was a pioneering effort to develop an innovative national institution in my area of expertise. I participated daily in making high-stakes decisions, such as sending the necessary early warnings of rainfall triggered hazards to the Civil Defense Force at a municipality level. Before this, I had chosen to pursue an academic career in foreign countries where the concept of natural hazards as a major challenge for environmental development has been historically embedded in their public policies and academic fields. My undergraduate and first two years of graduate studies all took place in southern France and partially in northeastern Spain. These experiences were as challenging as they were rewarding for they opened unparalleled opportunities for an enriching international immersion, for establishing an original academic background and for developing long-lasting links between France, Brazil, and Spain. After six years of applied professional experience with natural disasters, I gained inside access to Brazil's growing interest and investment in natural hazard prevention as well as to its failures. Since 2011, the country has invested exponentially in determining where and when disasters occur, however, the question of what to do once you have both answers is embryonic. Moreover, the valuable answer to "when and where disasters happen", is still is limited to a hazard-centered assessment, which undoubtedly undermines governance capabilities. Later, I was then hired by the Interamerican Development Bank piloting project for measuring public expenditure quality in climate change adaptation strategies. Overall, from a research perspective, I have learned that there is a palpable demand for the development of holistic methods that consider the interconnectedness of the natural and human systems for complex problem-solving.
When dealing with environmental challenges, we are inherently exposed to interdisciplinary problem solving because these problems are never exclusive of any single profession or discipline. I have learned to apprehend environmental problems as a system of dynamic and intricately related problems that interact with each other and cannot be viewed separately. The more appropriate expression used by Russel Ackoff is "mess" or wicked problems, a term coined by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber. They state these webs of problems must be addressed simultaneously because "a partial solution to a whole system of problems is better than whole solutions of each of its parts taken separately" (Ackoff, 1985). Ultimately, my eagerness to meet the complexity of environmental issues with proper tools, and mindset led me to apply for a PhD in the U.S. This was an awaited opportunity to embrace my alter nationality and expand my learning and professional experiences to internationally-renowned research institutions. I was extremely pleased to have been accepted by UC Berkeley for fall 2016, where I now work and study at the College of Environmental Design, the same place where Rittel and Webber had previously tackled and developed designs for "wicked problems". I chose to focus my research on the Transportation Fuel Sector (TFS) vulnerability to climate change with Professor John Radke as my main advisor, professor Karlene Roberts, and Ian Mitroff as co-advisors. Since August 2016, I have been hired as a graduate researcher to take on an 18-month project from the California Energy Commission collaborating with more than another dozen students and researchers to model the exposure of the TFS to abrupt and chronic climate threats. I am leading the depiction of the TFS, as it has never been addressed as a critical infrastructure from a systemic perspective. My responsibilities range from spatial modeling to stakeholder engagement with a various public and private organizations that participate in the key decision-making process of the transportation fuel industry. This connection to inside field experts from oil and hydrogen companies, to governmental hazmat and energy supply regulatory experts is a necessary step to understand at what level our hazard models represent a threat to the fuel network, and consequently to society. The project will be finalized mid-2018, and it delineated many issues regarding environmental safety and reliability of transportation energy that require further inquiries for which I will take on as part of my PhD research. One of them is modeling the TFS network from an organizational perspective and identifying indirect vulnerabilities that are buried underneath the physical exposure of this complex infrastructure network. One of the expected outcomes is promoting targeted coordination at the organizational level for the short-term emergency response as well as cohesion towards common, long-term resilience goals by identifying groups pf organizations that are exposed to these weather-related threats. The challenges that the TFS and consequently all of society faces with climate change hazards represent a unique opportunity to develop methods that are generalizable and applicable to other critical infrastructures and messy environmental problems that require Euclidean and topological interpretations of hazard exposure. It also identifies the deficiency in the current petroleum-based transportation energy system that should orient and facilitate the transitions to alternate fuel systems in the next 20 to 80 years. Considering my immersion in foreign countries, my professional aspirations tend towards international consulting organizations, governmental or educational institutions that support drivers of positive environmental change. My goals pursuing this PhD is thus, to bring together and foster the diversity of experts and institutions from different countries that I have had the privilege to connect with; and to create opportunities to exchange ideas and methods for environmental disaster analysis and complex problem-solving. I seek not only to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge but also, and if not most importantly, its application. My experience with flooding, landslide and most recently wildfire hazards are being coupled with knowledge on crisis management, inquiry systems, spatial and network analysis to tackle these problems.