Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Many hazard threats challenge the uninterrupted operation of the maritime transportation system across multiple temporal and spatial scales. Environmental hazard threats include hurricanes, storm surge, and sea-level rise. Resilience begins at the port, which provides the physical, economic, and social connection between sea and land transportation users. Ports function through port authorities, composed of people with decision-making abilities, which causes port resilience to be a complex process to understand. The paucity of metrics to quantify port resilience warrants other methods to study this place-specific topic. The goal of the Ports Resilience Index (PRI) project centered on the development of a qualitative resilience self-assessment tool for port authorities, using input of port practitioners. Using a participatory approach, I facilitated three rounds of expert consultation with forty-nine port practitioners across the Gulf of Mexico coast to develop the PRI. One round included pilot-testing the PRI with three port authorities. This dissertation uses qualitative methods of historical and comparative case study analyses, thematic coding of written hurricane plans, focus group discussion analyses, and participant evaluations to analyze the effectiveness of a participatory approach in engaging port stakeholders. The method to develop and complete the PRI might build capacity for resilience in port communities. Social interactions among port practitioners provided a look at the process of resilience that goes deeper than written hurricane plans but also identified challenges to resilience, including an emphasis on reactive, business-driven planning. Discussion facilitated by the PRI enhances anticipation by revealing collective perceptions of environmental risks and creating a non-competitive space to discuss risks. Completing the tool fosters on-going resilience through identification of opportunities to implement feasible resilient practices, including communication strategies and agency partnerships. The discussion-based assessment method of the PRI provides a connection between what researchers know about resilience and how we know it. A geographer’s perspective provides a solid foundation to study and understand the process of resilience at the human-environment interface. Resilient adaptability of ports to other hazards depends on flexibility in decision-making, which can be strengthened through participatory and place-based methods.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Colten, Craig