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Quantifying vulnerability to natural hazards in changing climate patterns. New perspectives and methods

Explore the chained relationships between susceptibility-hazard-impact-vulnerability-resilience in a changing world.

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CIVIS focus area
Climate, environment and energy
Open to
  • Master's
  • PhD
Field of studies
  • Environmental sciences, Urbanism, Geography
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
3 October - 8 November 2024

The programme aims to prepare a new generation of European scientists for an advanced understanding of how global changes (climate, environmental, and socio-economical aspects) relate to complex vulnerability patterns associated with risks in Europe. 

This BIP: 

  • provides skills and knowledge in the field of hazards, susceptibility, and vulnerability assessments for students from different parts of Europe and Africa; 
  • explores the dynamics and outcomes of challenge-based learning approaches in geosciences and geospatial projects; 
  • identifies and model vulnerability-impact relations across different impacts, starting from the impact chain (UNDRR 2022) of multi-hazard situations. This is an attempt to bridge the gap between vulnerability analyses that describe only patterns and the ones that produce a quantitative value; 
  • points out the difference between vulnerability sensitivity and susceptibility of natural and human features to produce bias-(more) free vulnerability assessments.

The programme consists of both virtual courses and workshops and a 5-day field-learning activity. During the physical mobility part, the students can deepen the knowledge and skills acquired during the virtual component and apply them in a challenge-based learning environment.

The programme's online component will consist of 5 sessions (spread across 5 weeks) held by academics from 7 universities (Romania, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Uganda, and South Africa) and invited speakers from different research institutes in Romania. The virtual part will be strongly connected with the physical component, taking place in the Buzau Mountains, Romania - a natural laboratory for an immersive understanding of geohazard dynamics and vulnerability changes. 

Main topics addressed

  • Anthropocene - Capitalocene - Plantationocene - Plasticene 
  • Anthropology of climate change
  • Humans as a geological force 
  • Role of Geopolitics 
  • Vulnerability, risk perception and action
  • Sea-level changes - vulnerabilities and adaptation options 
  • Landscapes under changing climates - impacts, vulnerabilities, increase of resilience
  • Drainage evolution in active orogens
  • Geomorphometric tools for deciphering tectonic and climatic signals in landscape evolution
  • Geomorphic markers to constrain landscape evolution

Learning outcomes

  • understanding vulnerability in the context of climate change and multi-hazard dynamics;
  • understanding how climate change affects the impact chain of cascading multi-hazard events;  
  • training in a vulnerable mountain environment;
  • new competencies in assessing and choosing vulnerability methods and techniques;
  • new competencies in assessing and choosing hazard and susceptibility methods and techniques;
  • acquiring a well-rounded Disaster Risk Reduction education;
  • synthesis of local knowledge and modern technologies;
  • solid science communication skills and engagement with vulnerable communities;
  • critical evaluation of data sources;
  • introduction to disaster-related policymaking;
  • scenario planning to address uncertainties;
  • theoretical thinking and ability to turn theory into practice;
  • problem-solving ability through the application of local knowledge;
  • search, analyse, and compose data and information using the necessary technologies;
  • teamwork and effective interdisciplinary collaboration;
  • work in an interdisciplinary environment;
  • respect for the complexity of natural and cultural environments.
Dates: 3 October - 8 November 2024 Total workload: 130 hours
Format: Blended ECTS: 5*
Locations: Buzău Mountains, Romania Language: English (C1)

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university.

Physical mobility

The physical part is field-based and will take place between 4-8 November 2024 in the surroundings of Patarlagele Natural Hazards Research Center (Romanian Academy, Institute of Geography) in the Vrancea seismic region (Curvature Carpathians of Romania). . We aim to use the field ‘lab’ of the Vrancea seismic region to better understand the emerging vulnerabilities in coping with uncertainty from interactions between environmental and human components.

As one of Europe's top seismic hazard hotspots, the region experiences numerous earthquakes and related geohazards, offering a complexity of predisposing, conditioning, and triggering factors for potentially combining phenomena like landslides, erosion, floods, and earthquakes. The large presence of landslides (shallow slides, mudflows, deep-seated debris, and rockslides), floods, and flash floods is enhanced by intense human activity, e.g., recent deforestation and inappropriate land management measures.

The field campaign will consist of processes identification (shallow landslides combined with sheet-wash, medium-seated landslides combined with gully erosion, seismo-climatically-induced large, deep-seated landslides, and ancient slope deformations) and ground-based and remote-sensing-based observations and measurements (terrestrial and airborne laser scans, aerial imagery interpretation, geophysical measurements, a.s.o.). The results will be incorporated into susceptibility assessments and hazard scenario development. Various vulnerability assessments (physical, social, economic, environmental) will be performed based on field recognition,  and different exposure levels to model vulnerability-impact relations will be estimated, starting from the multi-hazard impact chain.

The research and training activities are strongly interwoven into three main parts: theoretical background, training activities in the form of field trips, and laboratory activities/ computer processing. Each day will consist of field activities (first half), roundtable discussions, lectures, and computer processing (second half).

The main subjects that will be discussed and the main activities in the field and the lab are organized as Learning Packages, focusing on specific risk components:

Learning Package 1: Hazard

  • Presenting various available techniques for investigating the environmental conditions that contribute to related natural disasters; learning to acquire and verify data input, develop and validate models; using maps to explore, interact with, and understand geographic environments in the hazard domain; assess uncertainties and designs of impact chains for understanding the systemic nature of risk in multi-hazard evaluation.
  • Remote sensing and geophysical surveys performed in the target area to enhance spatial analysis using complex GIS and geostatistical software, focusing on the conditions contributing to natural hazards.
  • Understanding hazard chains (cascading hazards) and cascade development of events (seismic effects, mass movements, avalanching-erosion-deposition, dam formation, breaching impact waves, flash floods-debris flows).
  • Quantitative field measurements on the prospection of mass movements (RTK-GNSS, UAV, terrestrial, and airborne laser scans).

Learning Package 2: Vulnerability and Societal Impact

  • Remote sensing and geophysical surveys performed in the target area to enhance spatial analysis using complex GIS and geostatistical software, targeting the acquisition of datasets necessary for vulnerability assessments.
  • Mapping and quantifying vulnerability versus perceived risk and vulnerability.
  • Simulating risk mitigation measures for identifying important uncertainties in decision-making and developing local coping strategies.

Through this dichotomic structure, the students can choose the package that interests them the most or that they believe will complete their knowledge and skills.

* view Timetable-field activity attached

Virtual part

The virtual component, held between 3-31st October 2024, will set the basis for a proper understanding of the physical part. The students would have been introduced to the theoretical background of natural hazard dynamics related to climate change and emphasizing the vulnerability of exposed physical systems and human communities.

The teaching curricula will start by setting the scene in climate change Anthropocene, reflected in changing hazard dynamics and focusing on changing vulnerability patterns against the change-related uncertainty conditions surrounding human society. The interaction between experts with different, but complementary physical and social sciences backgrounds will help students to better understand the chained relationships between susceptibility-hazard-impact-vulnerability-resilience. An introductory lesson on risk perception and disaster human behavior will change the approach perspective from human society and help students understand the link between vulnerability and coping behaviors.

The virtual component will include live presentations, challenge-based learning approaches, and asynchronous training tools such as multimedia material and recorded lectures. It will also include a virtual field trip and an introduction to the site selected for the physical component, in order to familiarize students with issues trickled into the field. This approach aims to help students during the physical component to be more focused on comprehending new methods and techniques and being acquainted with environmental issues.

The course and workshop materials will be prepared based on state-of-the-art scientific sources alongside spatial and statistical databases. The experts will put together a rich blend of theoretical insights and methodologies to equip students with a nuanced understanding of the ways in which vulnerability can be quantified, considering the intricate climate change patterns. Special attention will be given to incorporating perspectives from multiple disciplines, aiming towards an updated approach that reflects the dynamic nature of the subject matter. All of the materials will be available to students before implementing mobility activities, allowing for an in-depth study before, during, and after the courses, seminars, workshops, and fieldwork.

* view Course online table attached


This course is open to Master's and PHD students at CIVIS member universities. It doesn't require discipline-specific knowledge, although geological and geomorphological notions and computer skills (GIS, RS) are desirable.

Participants should also have a good level of written and spoken English and skills such as critical thinking, communication, teamworking ability, data analysis, problem-solving ability, acquiring new technologies, methods, and techniques. 

NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

This course is also open to students with the same academic profile, who are enrolled at a CIVIS strategic partner university in Africa. Please check here, if you can apply and this particular course is open to applications from your university. Successful applicants will be nominated for an Erasmus+ grant covering travel and subsistence costs during their stay. Erasmus+ grant rules apply. Applicants should be willing to extend their stay at the host university for 1-3 weeks for additional research and/or training purposes.

Application process

Send your application by filling in the online application form by 28 April 2024. Don't forget to also include:

  • CV

  • Motivation Letter

All applications will be evaluatedd based on:

  • students' performance in academic coursework and evidence of individual achievements and qualities;
  • motivation letter revealing the applicant’s “statement of purpose”, scientific research interests, professional experiences, and future direction;
  • diversity of background, including cultural, experiential, and geographic, is an additional factor in the application review.

Apply now


Students' evaluation on the virtual component will be accomplished through online quizzes. They will also be evaluated on their fieldwork by presenting the outcome of the selected research topic at the end of the physical mobility component.

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

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Iuliana Armaș is a Professor of Physical Geography and Natural Hazards in the Department of Geography, Pedology and Geomatics - Faculty of Geography; Head of the Doctoral School of Geography, of the Disaster Management Master Program and the Risk Research Center at the University of Bucharest, Romania. Her research topic is in the field of fluvial geomorphology and susceptibility assessment, vulnerability to natural hazards and risk analysis, and risk perception. Her main research areas are the Prahova Valley - SE Carpathians, the Lower Danube Valley, and the Bucharest region. Her research outputs number over 70 publications in international peer-reviewed journals, 12 books, educational textbooks, and book chapters.

Ștefan Dorondel is an environmental anthropologist/ environmental historian with a Ph.D. in History and Ethnology from the University of Sibiu (Romania) and a Ph.D. in Rural Studies from the Humboldt University Berlin (Germany). He is interested in wetlands, river history, forests, and the people from Southeast Europe (mainly Romania and Bulgaria) who live in these landscapes. His last co-edited volume was A New Ecological Order. Development and the Transformation of Nature in Eastern Europe, The University of Pittsburgh Press (2022).

Mihai Micu is a Physical Geographer and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Geography, Romanian Academy, Bucharest. He is the Vice-President of the International Association of Geomorphologists. His main topics of research are focused on the morphodynamic analysis of slope processes, with a special focus on landslides for local and regional scale susceptibility assessment, frequency-magnitude correlations, hazard evaluation, risk analysis, assessment and management, and earthquake-induced landslides. His main area of research is the Vrancea Seismic Region (SE Carpathians), an area recognized as a European multi-hazard hotspot. He has published over 60 papers (articles, book chapters) in international peer-reviewed journals and books.

Dragoș Toma-Dănilă is a researcher at the National Institute for Earth Physics and the Faculty of Geography, University of Bucharest, Romania. His main activities are related to seismic hazard and risk analysis, GIS, drone mapping, and educational outreach. He is the administrator of the System for Rapid Estimation of Seismic Damage in Romania and was involved in multiple projects such as MULTICARE, PARATUS, TURNKEY, SERA, PREQUAKE or RO-RISK. His PhD thesis was related to the seismic risk of transportation networks. He contributed to developing the Earthquake Mobile Exhibition (MOBEE) and the “Bucharest and Earthquakes” guided tour.

Mihaela Verga is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Geography, University of Bucharest, PhD in Physical Geography since 2008. She is specialized in environmental sciences, applied geomorphology, natural hazards and risks, involved in research projects on the Carpathian region, training programs for secondary school teachers, teaching assignments in the Erasmus+ Program, educational programs in protected areas. Author of several books & book chapters, scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals or proceedings of international conferences.

Cosmina Albulescu is an Early Career Scientist, working as a Researcher at the Center for Risk Studies, University of Bucharest, and as an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Geography and Geology, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iasi. Her research interests focus on vulnerability to natural hazards (earthquake, flood, drought vulnerability), multi-hazard risks, risk assessment, risk perception, and secondarily on forest cover dynamics and the associated forestry policy drivers. The research work she conducted centres on the eastern and south-eastern regions of Romania, and on the Vrancea Seismic Region. Her scientific output includes more than 18 papers in international peer-reviewed journals.

Alasdair Skelton is Professor of Geochemistry and Petrology at the Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University. He is also affiliated to the Department of Environmental Science. His published works are on geology, earthquakes, volcanism, tsunamis, climate of the past and the ongoing climate crisis. He is Chairperson for the European Civic University Hub on Climate, Environment and Energy. He has educated tens of thousands of students at all levels from kindergarten to university, as well as a wide range of public audiences, about geology and climate. He is co-founder of Researcher’s Desk.

Marc-Henri Derron is senior lecturer in the group RISK of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, since 2009. The focus on his work on hazard and risk analysis related to slope processes, utilizing remote sensing technologies, lab experiments and field investigations. Prior to this, he worked as a Geologist Researcher at the Geological Survey of Norway, mostly on developing innovative techniques for geohazards mapping and monitoring. He now participate in projects across Asia, Africa, and Europe, which integrate cutting-edge techniques (such as insar or lidar) with fieldwork and addressing the needs of local populations.

Marta Della Seta is Associate Professor in Physical Geography and Geomorphology at the Sapienza University of Rome. The evolution of drainage networks and slope landforms in response to tectonics, climate, and volcanism is her primary research topic. In particular, she is interested in the medium-to-long term landscape evolution modelling from geomorphic markers, for the estimation of tectonic deformation rates and slope stability. Her studies involve the Mediterranean region (Italy, Southeastern Spain) and Central Iran. She has been member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Geomorphologists and is currently member of the Executive Committee of the Italian Geological Society.

Niki Evelpidou is a Professor at the Department of Geology & Geoenvironment of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, nominated since 2022 as elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Her research focuses on geomorphology, coastal geomorphology, sea level changes, paleogeography, the study and modeling on natural hazards and adaptation and mitigation strategies. Her research numbers more than 340 publications in scientific conferences and journals, 35 books, while she has given many lectures in Greece and abroad. She is actively involved in academic, research and educational activities, as she has organized more than 35 educational seminars and training schools while she has participated in the organization of 45 international workshops and conferences. Prof. Evelpidou has received several awards and recognitions, with the most prominent those from the Academy of Athens: one for her work which promotes the geological knowledge of Greek region, and the second for the monography entitled ‘Sea level changes’. Recently she received the 1st award for the innovative method Nature4Nature a green method for the protection of the coastal zone from erosion.

Dr. Anna Karkani is a Laboratory Teaching Staff member at the Department of Geology & Geoenvironment of the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her research interests are mainly focused on geomorphology, coastal geomorphology, natural hazards, palaeogeography and sea level changes. She has participated in a number of research programs related to geomorphology and environment (Erasmus+, Bilateral Programme Greece-France, Cooperation 2011, INTERREG MED, FP7, COST Action ES0701). Her research numbers 43 publications in scientific journals, 37 conference announcements, as well as 10 books and educational textbooks. She is also actively involved in the organization of conferences, workshops and training schools related to geomorphological subjects.

Dr. Giannis Saitis is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Geology & Geoenvironment of NKUA. His fields of interest are interdisciplinary and involves applied environmental geomorphology (natural disasters risk assessment studies, geochemical and mineralogical analyzes of rocks, research in coastal areas, etc.), evolution of the coastal zone and effects of climate change and natural hazards (change sea level, tsunami, coastal erosion), palaeogeographic reconstruction, geoarchaeological survey and geological mapping and analysis in a GIS environment. Dr. Giannis Saitis holds 21 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, 23 participations in international and national conferences as well as a scholarship from the Operational Program "Human Resource Development, Education and Lifelong Learning", NSRF 2014-2020 "Supporting researchers with an emphasis on young researchers – Cycle B'.

Jasper Knight is Professor of Physical Geography at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. His work deals with geomorphic and environmental impacts of Quaternary and Holocene climate change, in particular on the sediment systems of mountains, rivers and coasts, and mainly in glaciated and semiarid environments. He is also concerned with the responses of these sediment systems to ongoing change in the Anthropocene, including paraglaciation, geohazards, and provision of environmental services.

Yazidhi Bamutaze is a Professor of Geography in the Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Climatic Sciences, Makerere University and the Deputy Principal of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Makerere University. His research is currently concentrated on geohazards and environmental risk and associated human dimension particularly in fragile environments under changing conditions. He's had a line of concentration especially on landslides, flood and soil erosion in strongly coupled highland landscapes addressing both the physical and human aspects.

Dr. Ria Dunkley is a Senior Lecturer in Geography, Environment and Sustainability at the University of Glasgow. She specialises in eco-pedagogy as a route to enabling an understanding of the climate crisis. She is currently leading the Community Collaboration work within GALLANT, based within the Centre for Sustainable Solutions and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). She is co-chair of the European CIVIS hub for Climate, Energy and Environment and Associate Director of the Centre for Sustainable Solutions.