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Posted: 3/04/20

Social Sciences Lecture Series Explores ‘Assessing Flood Exposure, Adaptive Behavior for a Mobile Population’ Friday


Dr. Ashley Coles
Dr. Ashley Coles, Assistant Professor of Geography, TCU  

The third in a social sciences lecture series at Texas A&M International University  (TAMIU)  is Friday, March 13 from 1 – 2 p.m. in Academic Innovation Center 127. 

Dr. Ashley Coles, assistant professor of Geography at Texas Christian University, will present “Assessing Flood Exposure and Adaptive Behavior for a Mobile Population.” 

Dr. Coles received her MA and PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona and a BS in Atmospheric Sciences from Cornell University. Her research focuses on the human-environment interactions, specifically the potential for non-expert knowledge to improve environmental and hazard management. Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, she has examined how daily activity patterns and livelihoods are disrupted by hazards or by development processes across case studies in the U.S., Mexico, and Colombia. 

Coles notes that campaigns such as “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” encourage motorists to avoid driving into flooded roadways, but motorists may not have a feasible alternate route, or they may not be aware of one.  Her study pairs a questionnaire and mapping exercise to examine how motorists are exposed to floods along their typical routes and how they behave when encountering floodwaters, including changes in driving behavior such as changing the route or canceling the trip, and whether the behavior depends on the destination or demographic factors.

A mapping activity was used to determine whether the routes survey participants take on a regular basis intersect flood areas, and whether alternate routes exist that avoid flood areas without adding excessive travel time. Many of the alternate routes were shorter than the routes provided by participants, and 80 percent added less than one mile to the trip. 

Since most of the participants indicated they would be willing to travel at least one mile to avoid floods, they would likely take the safer alternate routes. These findings highlight the potential utility of a decision-support tool to help motorists choose safer flood-avoidance routes during storms. 

Social Sciences Speakers Series organizer Dr. Sean A. Maddan, TAMIU associate professor and chair of the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of Social Sciences, said the Series is free of charge and encourages a discussion of contemporary issues across the social sciences. 

“We’re excited to present a slate of speakers who will introduce a range of research findings across the fields of anthropology, criminal justice, geography and sociology,” Dr. Maddan explained, “we encourage members of the University community and community at large to join us.” 

The concluding lecture in the 2020 edition of the Series is Friday, April 10 and features Dr. Nicholas P. Lovrich, Regents Professor Emeritus and a Claudius O. and Mary W. Johnson Distinguished Professor in Political Science at Washington State University. His topic will be  “Criminal Justice, Civil Discourse and the Hidden Costs of Hyper-Partisanship: Evidence Across the 50 States.” 

For additional information on the Social Sciences Speaker Series, please contact Dr. Maddan at or 956.326.2467.  

TAMIU is celebrating its 50th Anniversary and its 25th Anniversary at its north Laredo campus throughout 2020. A dedicated website shares the University’s remarkable transformation from a hybrid upper-level University to a full doctoral degree-granting University with over 29,000 graduates worldwide that enrolls over 8,400 students. Visit the calendar of Anniversary events, explore the University’s timeline, review alumni profiles and more at 

For more on the University’s story, contact the TAMIU Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at 956.326.2180, email, click on or visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 268.