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Building Resilience to Multi-Hazards in Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain)

   Department of Geography and Planning

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  Dr Heather Sangster, Dr J Kavanagh, Dr Pablo Gonzalez, Dr Carmen Solana  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The recent eruption on La Palma (2021) has highlighted a gap in current understanding of how societies and communities’ resilience to natural hazards is understood in the Canary Islands (Spain), particularly the threats presented from combined (compound and/or concurrent) multi-hazards. This interdisciplinary research project addresses this knowledge gap by combining detailed single hazard type understanding in order to explore and characterise multi-hazard environments and develop an approach for incorporating geospatial societal vulnerability and resilience information.

Current approaches to multi-hazard analysis require innovative approaches. Whilst much literature has focused on multi-hazard assessment that examines the physical processes (e.g. Hillier et al., 2020), few studies have considered how this affects societal vulnerability and understanding. The dynamics of vulnerability shift during physical events, or change for combinations of events, based on earlier experiences and exposure. Whilst single hazard types are well documented and researched in the Canary Islands, the risks presented by combinations of hazards are poorly understood. Gran Canaria with a population of ~873,000, is exposed to multiple hazards (e.g. geophysical, geomorphological and hydro-meteorological) presenting novel challenges in risk mitigation and sustainable resilience development.

This research project involves both field and desk-based research using a range of interdisciplinary methodological approaches and frameworks, with a placement within IPNA CSIC (Instituto de Productos Naturales y Agrobiología), Tenerife, as part of the studentship. The project takes advantage of the high-resolution mapping and existent risk assessment database for Gran Canaria (GRAFCAN). Specific research gaps addressed within the studentship include:

        i.           Identification of appropriate analytical approaches, incorporating contextual understanding and local knowledges for assessing combined multi-hazard assessments.

      ii.           Evaluation of societal resilience and understanding of multi-hazard risk through qualitative GIS mapping and innovative communication approaches (e.g. Messy maps, Taylor et al., 2020).

    iii.           Co-production of risk resilience plans and strategies with local communities and stakeholders, specifically emergency responders.

This research project is structured into four phases:

1.      Identification and compilation of existing knowledge and understanding of (multi-)hazards and risk resilience planning on Gran Canaria.

2.      Community and stakeholder interviews and focus groups to develop an understanding of current (multi-)hazard awareness and resilience on Gran Canaria.

3.      Integration and analysis of the outcomes from phases 1 and 2 above, this may take several forms, including within a GIS or through the development of novel approaches.

4.      Stakeholder evaluation and assessment of the findings and outputs. 


The University of Liverpool, IPNA CSIC and University of Portsmouth will provide training and support in the analysis of participatory methods, qualitative analysis, GIS, with language (Spanish) training also available if required. The student will undertake a placement at IPNA CSIC in Tenerife as part of the PhD project, fieldwork in Gran Canaria, be part of the School of Environmental Sciences research groups, attend Departmental and School seminars, and attend national and international conferences. The supervision team will support the student through training and supervision, with support for publications. 

Eligibility Criteria

We are looking for candidates with an enthusiasm for interdisciplinary research. Candidates should hold or expect to gain a minimum of a 2:1 Bachelor Degree, and Masters Degree with Merit/Distinction, or equivalent in Geography, Geosciences, GIS, Environmental Science or a related field. Informal enquires welcome to Dr Heather Sangster ([Email Address Removed]).

To apply for this opportunity, please visit: and click the 'Ready to apply? Apply online.'

Funding Notes

This competitive funded studentship supports 3.5 years of full-time studies, covering UK fees (, annual stipend of £15,843 and a research training support grant of £5000 for the duration of the studies. If you are an international student, you will need to cover the differences in fees.
Shortlisted candidates will have an interview on the 9th of March 2022 (date tbc).


Hillier, J.K., Matthews, T., Wilby, R.L., Murphy, C. 2020. Multi-hazard dependencies can increase or decrease risk. Nature Climate Change, 10, 595–598.
Taylor, F., Millington, J., Malamud, B. & Pelling, M., 2020. Messy Maps: Qualitative GIS representations of resilience. Landscape and Urban Planning, 198, 1-11.
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