Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences/Environmental, Earth & Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Ellen M. Douglas

Second Advisor

Michael Paolisso

Third Advisor

Steven A Gray


Policy response to climate change impacts fall broadly into mitigation and adaptation. Where global scale mitigation through emissions reduction has been well-documented and has quantifiable global impact, the field of adaptation planning is still developing because no single adaptation strategy or response is effective across temporal and spatial scales (Fussel and Klein 2006). Although mitigation strategies have typically received greater focus, the inevitability of climate change impacts even if global emissions are eradicated renders adaptation planning essential (Schaeffer, et al. 2012). While downscaled climate models and localized scenario development are an integral component of vulnerability assessments, this only captures one dimension of vulnerability. Integrated vulnerability assessments, in addition to this scientific understanding of the potential impacts, acknowledges and prioritizes local knowledge and perceptions in addressing the social dimension of vulnerability. Effective adaptation planning hinges on `information on what to adapt to and how to adapt, and resources to implement the adaptation measures' (Fussel and Klein 2006). This implies the effective communication of both physical and human components of vulnerability. However, while community-based adaptation planning is rapidly growing, it is unclear whether the human dimension of vulnerability is effectively captured and translated into community based adaptation planning efforts. This research explores ways that geographic information systems (GIS) techniques like participatory mapping may be integrated into qualitative research to visualize community based information and to compare community stakeholder-led perceptions of climate change and vulnerability with that of planning authorities. Using maps as a visual medium to convey physical and human vulnerabilities may strengthen the integrated assessment and empower community stakeholders by providing a common platform for stakeholder exchange. It may also further understanding of community-specific resilience to climate change impacts. Environmental justice social discourse provides the lens to engage with community vulnerability, and guided the identification of the majority-Hispanic community of East Boston as a potentially vulnerable coastal community to flooding.


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