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Social Sciences: Graduate Research Fellow - Social Benefits of Flood Protection

The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center's Coastal & Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL) performs research on ocean, estuarine, riverine, and watershed systems in support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Department of Defense (DOD) Task Force in support of the Ocean Commission. A multi-disciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and support personnel work in CHL's internationally known, unique facilities. This team has developed state-of-the-art experimental and computational models for solving water resource problems worldwide. CHL research and development addresses water resource and navigation challenges in a variety of hydrodynamic systems including aquifers, watersheds, rivers, reservoirs, lakes, estuaries, harbors, coastal inlets, and wetlands. Physical facilities of approximately 1.7 million square feet and high-performance computing facilities at the DOD Supercomputing Research Center ( are the basic infrastructure for producing cutting-edge products for successful coastal, inland water resources, and navigation management. CHL work, although primarily in support of the DOD and the Corp's districts, also interfaces with other federal, state and local agencies, academia, conservation groups, and the general public, as appropriate. The Research Participation Program for USACE-ERDC-CHL provides opportunities to participate in new and on-going applied research and development projects. Research projects range from design guidance to three-dimensional computational models. Focus is placed on inland and coastal navigation, military logistics over the shore, dredging, flood control, storm and erosion protection, waterway restoration, fish passage, hydro-environmental modeling, water/land management, and other water and sediment-related issues facing the nation. For more information about USACE-ERDC-CHL, please visit
US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) District planning staff evaluate possible projects by quantifying public benefit in terms of economic development, environmental quality, and “other social effects” (OSE). Planners need better tools to evaluate the social benefits of USACE infrastructure projects. This research project seeks to identify existing datasets, methodologies, and tools to enable analysis of proposed flood protection structures’ impact on local populations. These may include metrics like the Social Vulnerability Index, tools such as the FEMA Hazus software, and others to assess flood impacts on community resilience. This research will give USACE planners resources to make a case for flood protection projects that may not meet traditional economic development thresholds. 
Under the guidance of a mentor, the participant may contribute to this research by analyzing existing tools available in the field and collaborating with others in the planning community to determine needs and best practices. The participant can apply quantitative and qualitative social science methods to evaluate tools and develop best practices for their use in this context. Ideally, this research fellow will complement the research team by providing a social sciences perspective, and will learn how to apply their methods to improve flood protection engineering practices within the Corps. The participant will benefit from exposure to a multi-disciplinary team, the opportunity to learn about applied research within the agency, and will have the opportunity to co-author reports and presentations through this project.
Appointment Length
This ORISE appointment is for a 12 month period.  Appointments may be extended depending on funding availability, project assignment, program rules, and availability of the participant.
Participant Benefits
Participants will receive a stipend to be determined by ERDC-CHL. Stipends are typically based on the participant’s academic standing, discipline, experience, and research facility location. Other benefits may include the following:
  • Health Insurance Supplement. Participants are eligible to purchase health insurance through ORISE.
  • Relocation Allowance
  • Training and Travel Allowance
Nature of Appointment
The participant will not enter into an employee/employer relationship with ORISE, ORAU, DOD, or any other office or agency. Instead, the participant will be affiliated with ORISE for the administration of the appointment through the ORISE appointment letter and Terms of Appointment.