The Mountain Risk Knowledge Exchange – Building Risk Management Capacity and Resilience in Mountain Communities

The Mountain Risk Knowledge Exchange –
Building Risk Management Capacity and
Resilience in Mountain Communities

Principal Investigator: Glyn Williams-Jones (Simon Fraser University)

Opportunity: The dynamic nature of the mountain landscape means that life in the mountains is inherently exposed to a wide range of natural hazards including landslides, snow avalanches, volcanoes, earthquakes, wildfires, and flooding. These mountain hazards affect all Canadians whether they live in the mountains or not. Because important Canadian industries are located in the mountains and critical infrastructure cross them, the Canadian economy is inherently tied to mountains. Effectively managing and mitigating the risks associated with mountain hazards is therefore critically important for the well-being of Canadians. Rapid environmental change has the potential to substantially alter the magnitude and frequency of many mountain hazards and affect Canadians in unprecedented ways.

Objectives: While many alpine countries have developed comprehensive monitoring networks for mountain hazards, the monitoring in Canada is limited to a few known active sites, and observations are held in isolation. This project aims to develop a new approach to mountain risk management that is community-based, harnesses local knowledge and builds risk management capacity and resilience in mountain communities.

Research Plan: Western geotechnical science perspectives will be integrated with indigenous and non-indigenous local knowledge, citizen-science monitoring initiatives and modern technology to develop a sustainable comprehensive and multifaceted perspective on Canadian mountain hazards. We will develop an intelligent information system, the Mountain Risk Knowledge Exchange, which will serve as a central data warehouse for interactive situation analysis and decision support needed to host and process mountain hazard information accessible to all Canadians. A parallel user-friendly mobile application will also be developed for Citizen science and community contributions. Citizen science initiatives (such as www.mountainhub.com, www.e-butterfly.org, www.avalanche.ca/mountain-informationnetwork) have proven to be powerful mechanisms for the collection of high-quality information over large areas and through time while also helping engage the public (e.g. Bonney et al. 2009). This mobile tool (e.g. Powell et al. 2013) would also serve operationally as means of rapidly informing the relevant agencies in case of an imminent crisis (e.g. www.alertready.ca).

Key Outcomes & Impact: A knowledge exchange platform that addresses the needs of mountain communities. Practical guidance to communities for recognizing mountain hazards, information on when assistance from natural hazard professionals is advised, and best practices on risk communication and fostering risk awareness. The comprehensive dataset collected through these initiatives will open unprecedented opportunities for examining trends in mountain hazards in Canada, developing community resilience and proactively managing change.

February 2020 Presentation: The Mountain Risk Knowledge Exchange

Other Team Members:
Pascal Haegeli (Simon Fraser University)
Uwe Glässer (Simon Fraser University)