Climate Change Adaptation and Post-Disaster Recovery of Flood-Affected Communities in Fiji

Applications are invited from suitably qualified candidates for Graduate Assistant Scholarships to undertake a Masters degree or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by research only at The University of the South Pacific (USP) in a multi-disciplinary research project titled Climate Change Adaptation and Post-Disaster Recovery of Flood-Affected Communities in Fiji.

The awards are tenable from early 2016 and maybe held in any member country of the USP.

Project Outline

This project will explore how rural communities living in flood-prone river basins of Fiji respond to increasing incidences of floods under the influence of climate change and other risk factors, such as hydro-electric power development, forest conversion and environmental degradation. Particular emphasis will be placed on risk perceptions and adaptive strategies of individuals, families and social groups with regard to regular and catastrophic floods and how the livelihoods of vulnerable groups are affected by flood disasters. Our research approach will integrate the food, water and energy security nexus with the rural livelihood framework. The aims of the project are to (1) identify the spatial extent and dynamics of flood hazards as a result of multiple risk factors; (2) determine the various factors that can enhance resilience and adaptive capacities of flood-affected communities in a changing environment, and (3) provide examples of successful community-based flood management and climate change adaptation that can serve as best-practice models for other flood-affected communities in the South Pacific. Data will be collected using a range of qualitative research methods, such as semi-structured interviews, in-depth narrative interviews, oral histories, focus group discussions and observational fieldwork. This approach will be complemented by various interactive and participatory methods, such as multi-criteria ranking exercises and participatory risk mapping to examine local governance of excess water as well as the perceived causes, preventive measures, impacts and local responses to flood disasters at individual, household and community levels in a multiple-risk environment. The qualitative and participatory approach will be complemented by appropriate semi-quantitative methods developed in the context of network analysis and organizational research, such as visualized group discussions and organizational mapping. Q-methodology will be employed to elicit community perspectives and responses to flood disasters and to identify key issues and priorities in building community resilience to future flood events and associated livelihood risks.

Type of Work

The scholar is expected to do a literature review and meta-analysis of scholarly articles on climate change adaptation and post-disaster recovery processes at the community and household level in the South Pacific. S/he will contribute to developing the research design for data collection, including the development of questionnaires, a Q-methodology framework and participatory research tools adapted to the local cultural context. S/he will participate in fieldwork in the study area in Fiji (Ba watershed on Viti Levu) where s/he will work with other researchers. S/he will co-author a book chapter and/or journal article that will draw on the meta-analysis and the fieldwork.

Required Skills

The scholar should be familiar with the wider field of Development Studies and be firmly grounded in the social sciences. A background in environment and development, climate change and development or disaster management and disaster risk reduction is preferable. A sound understanding of qualitative, participatory and mixed-method research would be an asset. Applicants who are familiar with contemporary challenges facing the South Pacific region, either through intensive engagement with the relevant literature or through own travel or volunteer experience, will be given priority. The scholar should have excellent communication skills and a high degree of cultural sensitivity. Candidates will need to demonstrate critical analytical skills.

Applicants should address these required skills in a brief statement of interest.

Benefits to Scholar

In addition to the award of a Graduate Assistantship to complete a Master’s / PhD degree the scholar will have the opportunity to get involved in a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research project. S/he will learn how to conduct a meta-analysis of empirical field studies in the field of climate and development and how to develop a comprehensive research design in a complex cultural context. The scholar will be involved in a major academic writing project, leading to at least one journal article or book chapter. S/he will also gain intercultural communication skills through participating in a field study in Fiji. Overall, the work of the summer scholar will make a major contribution to the success of a new, externally funded research project, conducted with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from various universities.


For detailed information on the application process please visit the Graduate Assistant Scholarships for Research page.


For more information on this project, please contact Dr Eberhard Weber on email

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