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Melanie Duncan

Melanie Duncan BSc (Hons) MSc EngD

Volcanologist, British Geological Survey 

Honorary Research Associate, University College London

Overview: I am an experienced researcher in natural hazards and disaster risk reduction, with professional experience in emergency management and hazard communication.  My research interests are multi-hazard risk assessment and the application of science for the purposes of reducing and communicating hazard risk.  I have conducted research in the UK, St Vincent and the Philippines and have travelled extensively in South America.  

Doctorate research: My EngD research focused on the application of multi-hazard assessments by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and was conducted in partnership with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).  I paid particular attention to elucidating the concept of multi-hazard, emphasising the interrelations between hazards.  The objectives of the research were (1) to identify a conceptual framework for multi-hazards, especially their interrelations; (2) to determine current methods for hazard assessment adopted by NGOs, whether these methods incorporate a multi-hazard and scientific approach and what factors constrain or enable their implementation; and (3) to examine the reality of multi-hazards and their assessment within a case study to support or challenge the findings from the first two objectives.

The research adopted a largely qualitative research, involving interviews with DRR and climate change adaptation (CCA) NGO staff in the UK and Philippines.  I also undertook a case study analysis of a typhoon triggered lahar disaster at Mayon volcano in the Philippines, in order to better understand the reality of hazard interrelations and their assessment.  This case study involved interviews with local scientists, government officials, NGOs and communities, as well as participant and field observation.

A major component of the research was the integration of science with community knowledge in the participatory process of hazard assessment.  The main practitioner output was the NGO guidelines for ‘Integrating science into humanitarian and development planning and practice for enhancing community resilience’.  A major case study in the research was conducted at Mayon volcano in the Philippines, which involved the forensic analysis of a typhoon-triggered disaster using interviews and field observations, as well as the statistical analysis of historical rainfall and lahars. 

Consultancy: I have specialist knowledge in risk science communication and knowledge transfer, and have worked as a consultant on DRR and climate change for the CAFOD, The World Bank and United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.  I have also worked for the Environment Agency in Flood Incident Management.

Practitioner outputs: Duncan, M., Crowley, E., Cornforth, R., Edwards, S., Ewbank, R., Karbassi, P., McLaren, C., Penya, J. L., Obrecht, A., Sargeant, S., and Visman, E., 2014.  Integrating science into humanitarian and development planning and practice to enhance community resilience: initial guidance for non-governmental organisations: Available: