map of study site

I am an alum of the University of Georgia’s Integrative Conservation and Geography PhD Program. My training and education span from marine sciences and stream ecology to cultural anthropology, environmental conservation, and geographic information systems (GIS). As a geographer trained to work across ways of knowing socio-environmental challenges, my research broadly investigates coastal systems as socio-natural landscapes drawing on mixed methods and theories from hazards geography, GIScience, political ecology, and critical race theory.

My dissertation research examined how quantitative and qualitative methods of vulnerability could be combined to produce more robust analyses of uneven risk to sea-level rise. This project involved modeling of socio-demographic change and sea-level rise inundation as well as narrative analysis of interview and participant observation data collected during nearly a year of fieldwork in communities on Georgia’s (USA) coast. My findings show that when population characteristics are modeled alongside forecasts of sea-level rise, the projected population with indicators of higher risk are more than double previous estimates. Moreover, my work argues that acknowledgement and acceptance of race as a process of enabling or constraining meaningful engagement rather than as a mere demographic category will help the professional community working on sea-level rise mitigate vulnerability in underrepresented communities.

I am now a postdoctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) based at the University of Maryland. My postdoc research examines how land use histories and futures affect vulnerability of coastal communities. Specifically, I am working with Dr. Nik Heynen of the University of Georgia, a human geographer, to examine how vulnerability to flooding has shifted as population, culture, and land use/ land cover have changed over time (approximately 100 years) and how it will change into the future under rising seas, stronger storm surges from hurricanes, and increasing population pressure via processes of urbanization. We are focused on synthesizing social and environmental data from Sapelo Island, Georgia, a place with extensive documentation of its cultural and environmental change available via studies of its people’s Gullah/Geechee heritage as well as ecological research by two research programs (the University of Georgia Marine Institute and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve). Through this project, we endeavor to show how vulnerability is never a static predetermined state, but a responsive condition to a multitude of factors that are always changing.

 2018 Hardy, R.D., M. Hauer. Social vulnerability projections improve sea-level rise risk assessments. Accepted to Applied Geography on December 19, 2017. Access until Feb 20, 2018:;
SocArXiV preprint (accepted version):
 2017 Hardy, R.D., R.A. Milligan, N. Heynen. Racial coastal formation: The environmental injustice of colorblind adaptation planning for sea-level rise. Geoforum 84, 62-72. Open Access:
 2016 Hardy, R.D., B.L. Nuse. Global sea-level rise: Weighing country responsibility and risk. Climatic Change 137(4), 333-345. Downloadable self-archived version
    2016 Hardy, R.D., J. Hepinstall-Cymerman, L. Fowler. Prioritizing conservation easement recruitment efforts: A policy-informed conservation assessment of private land. Southeastern Geographer 56(1).
    2014 Welch-Devine, M., D. Hardy, J.P. Brosius, and N. Heynen. A pedagogical model for integrative training in conservation and sustainability. Ecology and Society. 19(2):10.
    2014 Vercoe, R. M. Welch-Devine, D. Hardy, J. DeMoss, S. Bonney, K. Allen, J.P. Brosius, D. Charles, B. Crawford, S. Heisel, N. Heynen, R. de Jesus-Crespo, N. Nibbelink, L. Parker, C. Pringle, A. Shaw, and L Van Sant. Acknowledging trade-offs and understanding complexity: Exurbanization issues in Macon County, North Carolina. Ecology and Society. 19(1):23.
    2014 Burke, R. A., K. M. Fritz, C. D. Barton, B. R. Johnson, S. Fulton, D. Hardy, D. A. Word & J. D. Jack. Impacts of mountaintop removal and valley fill coal mining on C and N processing in terrestrial soils and headwater streams. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 225, 1-17.
    2005 Emanuel, B.N,, R.D. Hardy, R.A. Milligan, B.L. Nuse. Ecological surveys of four river corridors in Georgia. In Proceedings of the Georgia Water Resources Conference. ed. K.J. Hatcher, 812-815. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia. [pdf]