Project SP15a: Census data collection for improved hurricane vulnerability analysis

Project SP15a: Census data collection for improved hurricane vulnerability analysis   
Researcher: Nathan Frey   
Position type: data compilation and analysis, GIS, demography
Application deadline: 5:00 p.m. on Monday, December 1, 2014

Application URL:


Position description

A popular method of analyzing vulnerability to natural hazards over the past decade has relied on the Social Vulnerability Index, a technique developed by Susan Cutter, a geography professor at the University of South Carolina and former president of the AAG. The method has evolved since it was first proposed, and variations of it remain common in both policy and academic analyses. In brief, it relies on collecting data on a large suite of socio-demographic variables (race, ethnicity, income, education, etc.) and then performing a statistical technique called principal components analysis to create indexed vulnerability measures. Based on my preliminary review of the literature, recent advances in principal components analysis techniques that allow for the explicit incorporation of spatial processes have yet to be applied in the area of vulnerability analysis. To that end, the student will compile the sociodemographic data from the Census for the relevant variables in an U.S. region we mutually agree upon. If this task is completed before the student has fulfilled their semester requirements, I will work with the student to develop additional tasks for which the student is qualified and in which they are interested. This could include, for example, mapping, surveying the vulnerability literature, and/or preliminary statistical analysis. Many local, state, and federal government employers and their contractors will require an entry-level worker to undertake similar data-gathering efforts, so this is highly relevant experience for someone interested in that type of work. I also anticipate that a publication will eventually result from this work if the results are sufficiently interesting, for which the student could receive co-authorship if their contributions are satisfactory.   


Desired qualifications 

Must be able to compile large quantity of Census/American Community Survey variables and attach them to shapefiles and/or a geodatabase. For most students, this will mean they have successfully completed at least Geography 363. Statistics courses and Geography 364/464 would be helpful, particularly if the student wants to contribute to the actual analysis itself, but these are not necessary. Knowledge of SPSS or especially R also would be nice but again is not necessary.  

Candidates must be willing to contribute 40–120 total hours of work toward the project over the semester, resulting in 1–3 credit hours applied to the transcript. There is no monetary stipend attached to this assistantship, although the experiences gained in this work will be immediately valuable when applying for graduate school or full-time employment.

To apply

Prospective candidates should submit application to by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, December 1, 2014.
A complete application must include:
1. All required fields of online form:

2. A one-page cover letter identifying the position for which you're applying and stating your interest in conducting research, your academic preparation, the skills you hope to gain from this experience, and contact information of two references.

  • Upload a PDF document named as follows: FirstinitialLastname_letterMMYY.pdf (e.g. jvender_letter1114.pdf)

3. A resume

  • Upload a PDF document named as follows: FirstinitialLastname_resumeMMYY.pdf (e.g. jvender_resume1114.pdf)