Map of research site

Map of Coastal Georgia showing the locations of two dissertation research sites, Tybee and Sapelo Islands, as well as the area of the coast less than 1.2 meters above current sea level.

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland's National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) and an alum of the University of Georgia’s Integrative Conservation and Geography PhD Program. My training and education span from marine sciences to human geography. As a geographer trained to work across ways of knowing socio-environmental challenges, my research investigates landscapes as socio-natural, drawing on environmental justice studies, political ecology, hazards geography, and critical race theory. Broadly, my research examines racial formations as socio-ecological. My work seeks to combine critical race thoery on the socio-historical processes that shape race relations (aka "racial formations") with socio-ecological studies that conceptualize society and nature as mutually produced, or co-constituted.

At SESYNC, my postdoctoral research examines how flood risk transformations occur through the process of territorial racial formation, which is shaped by ongoing uneven racial development and changing socio-ecological relations. For my postdoctoral research, I am 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). The results show how the historical geography of race relations continues to shape today's flood risk, what I refer to as "legacy vulnerability". Moreover, this work shows shows that current sociodemographic and climatic change via rising seas may create a "double dispossession" of Sapelo's Gullah Geechee people. In other words, if Sapelo's native African American population resists displacement via gentrification and rising property values, they will inevitably face sea-level rise in the future. Through this project, I endeavor to show how vulnerability is never a static predetermined state, but a responsive condition to a multitude of factors that are always changing.

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 sociodemographic change and sea-level rise inundation as well as narrative analysis of interview and participant observation data collected during nearly a year of ethnographic 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 five times the estimates obtained from unprojected population data. Moreover, this work showed that colorblind adaptation planning ignores the significance of strucutral racism. I argue that mitigating vulnerability in underrepresented communities will require race-aware adaptation planning.



Hardy, R.D. A sharing meanings approach for interdisciplinary hazards research. Risk Analysis. SocArXiv preprint (accepted version):

Hardy, R.D., M. Hauer. Social vulnerability projections improve sea-level rise risk assessments. Applied Geography 91, 10-20.; SocArXiv preprint (accepted version):


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:


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

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).


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.

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.

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.