Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Geology (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

Advisor 1

John S. Gierke

Advisor 2

William I. Rose

Committee Member 1

Kari Henquinet

Committee Member 2

Samuel Sweitz


Scientists from a variety of disciplines have made major advancements in the geophysical and social aspects of hazard science. Despite these advancements, economic losses and the number of people affected by disasters continue to rise. The field of disaster risk reduction (DRR) attempts to counter this rising trend of disaster losses by integrating a variety of disciplines to holistically solve complex problems related to risk and vulnerability. Frequent disasters in El Salvador provide insight into the evolution of DRR and its application during and after two hydrometeorological disasters in the department of San Vicente in 2009 and 2011. This dissertation is divided into four chapters beginning with a unifying introduction that describes contextual background details about DRR policy and why El Salvador was chosen as a field site. Chapter 2 uses qualitative research methods like participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and document review to analyze the evolution of DRR in San Vicente and highlights the unique role of the Universidad de El Salvador – Facultad Multidiscplinaria Paracentral in directing new research and training programs toward reducing disaster risk. Chapter 3 uses similar ethnographic methods within the heavily damaged community of Verapaz to analyze local residents’ perceptions of a relocation scheme designed to reduce physical vulnerability to debris flows. This publication demonstrates that aspects of social vulnerability were not adequately considered, as the majority of homes deemed “uninhabitable” continue to be occupied by residents, but residents who received a new home have developed unanticipated strategies to diversify livelihoods and reduce risk to disasters. Chapter 4 describes a concerted effort to improve our understanding of slope stability and shallow landslides using time-lapse seismic refraction methods. Data acquired during two field campaigns demonstrated survey repeatability and a validation of methods used, however saturated layers and perched water tables, which were hypothesized to be a contributing factor to rainfall-induced landslide generation, were not able to be imaged. The four chapters of this dissertation touch on important aspects relevant to local communities and institutions living and working in San Vicente where landslides, debris flows, and flooding have affected the region. The interdisciplinary nature of this research incorporates the voices, personal experience, and expertise of academics, community members, institutional representatives, politicians, and DRR practitioners in an attempt to holistically address the pressing concern of recurrent natural hazards for the region around San Vicente volcano.

Included in

Geology Commons