Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



Understanding and assessing the spatial and temporal changes of quality of life and environment of a community is critical to its sustainable development, especially after a disaster strikes. This study explores an approach that integrates remote sensing with socioeconomic data to assess the temporal changes in quality of life and environment (QOL) using Orleans Parish as an example. Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, has had vast implications economically, socially, and environmentally for this city and the surrounding area. Empirically quantifying these concepts will help to rebuild the city more sustainably. This study investigated change in environmental quality pre- and post-Katrina using Landsat-TM imagery. Environmental quality was measured by means of vegetation productivity as an indicator, using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and Tasseled Cap Index (T-cap) of greenness, wetness, and brightness derived from the Landsat images. Factor analysis was employed to create a QOL index at the zip code level that incorporated both environmental (vegetation, flood depth) and socioeconomic variables. The factor analysis yielded four factors with 95.3% of the variance explained. A weighted QOL index was created that included seven variables from the four factors: NDVI, median household income, population density, housing density, median home value, educational attainment, and flood depth. Validation of the QOL indices with households receiving mail post-Katrina resulted in correlations of 0.546 and 0.510 for the pre- and post-Katrina QOL indices, respectively. The QOL index maps demonstrated spatial contiguity pre- and post-Katrina. Areas that exhibited high QOL included Downtown, Uptown, Garden District, West Bank, and Lakefront. Low QOL was found in New Orleans East, Lower Ninth Ward, and Central Business District. Four years after Katrina, much of the city experienced a decrease in QOL. Zip codes with high wealth tended to maintain or even increase their high QOL, such as in Uptown and the Garden District. This study suggests that higher values of income, education, home value, and vegetation contribute to higher QOL and increase resilience to natural disturbances. These QOL indices link human and natural systems and provide an effective means for comparing changes in a region after a disaster.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Lam, Nina