In addition to my global and national level work on sea-level rise, I also work at the three sites located above. My primary research is focused on racial coastal formation in Georgia. I have two other projects examining socio-ecological segregation in Atlanta's urban watersheds as well as conservation justice in the the US South's Lowcountry region.

I am an Assistant Professor in the University of South Carolina's School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment (SEOE). 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 theory 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.

My postdoctoral research at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center examined 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. I 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 that current socio-demographic and climatic change via rising seas may create a "double dispossession" of Sapelo's Saltwater Geechee people. In other words, if Sapelo's 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 endeavored 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. The 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, my work shows that colorblind adaptation planning ignores the significance of structural racism. I argue that mitigating vulnerability in underrepresented communities will require race-aware adaptation planning.


2018 - 2021. NSF Geography & Spatial Sciences ($288,652). A socioecological investigation of the impacts of uneven exurban development and sea-level rise on socioeconomically differentiated communities. Nik Heynen (PI), Dean Hardy (Co-PI). Award #1759594

2016 - 2019. Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, University of Maryland ($305,925). Land use histories and futures: The socio-environmental context of vulnerability.

2017. Institute for Human Geography ($4,991). Protecting nature, protecting property relations: Conservation easements and the political ecology of racial capitalism. Levi Van Sant (PI), Dean Hardy (Co-I).

2017. John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, National Sea Grant (declined).

2015 - 2017. NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, Geography & Spatial Sciences Program ($15,998). Mapping socioeconomic vulnerabilities to coastal hazards. Marguerite Madden (PI), Dean Hardy (Co-PI). Award #1458978

2012. Rainforest Alliance Research Grant ($4,000). Systematic land cover change analysis of the Juabeso and Bia Districts in Ghana. Dean Hardy (PI).

PUBLICATIONS (Google Scholar)


Hauer, M., R.D. Hardy, D.R. Mishra, & J.S. Pippin. No landward movement: Examining 80 years of population migration and shoreline change in Louisiana. Population & Environment.; Read only version:

Thomas, K., R.D. Hardy, H. Lazrus, M. Mendez, B. Orlove, I. Rivera-Collazo, J.T. Roberts, M. Rockman, B. Warner, & R. Winthrop. Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: A social science review. WIREs Climate Change 10(2), 1-18. Open access:


Hardy, R.D. A sharing meanings approach for interdisciplinary hazards research. Risk Analysis.; Read only 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. Check out @HankGreen feature this work on his Vlogbrothers Youtube Channel.

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. Open access:

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. Open access:

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.