Dr. Yan Wang is the director of the Urban Agility and Resilience Lab at the University of Florida, an Assistant Professor at UF, and one of the founding faculty members of FIBER. She has previously researched various topics involving sustainable infrastructure and movement in response to environmental events, but her primary area of focus is urban resilience. Urban resilience, otherwise known as city resiliency, refers to the concept of measuring a city’s ability to adapt to hazards (both natural and human-made) and improve itself proactively in the face of ongoing issues such as climate change and the rising sea level. One may be inclined to only think of a city’s physical infrastructure – sea walls, the structural resilience of buildings, or the spread of greenery in a city – but Dr. Wang elects to focus on an often overlooked aspect of urban resiliency: the human factor.
“My background was civil engineering, but I was also quite passionate to study urban resilience because of the growing population, the complexity of infrastructure, and also climate change’s…pressure and impact on the population and society. So that really drives my interest to study the human dynamics – the human side of resilience. I focus on population behavior — like how [people’s] mobility changes, like how their access to different social infrastructure and interactions with built environment changes over time during and after disasters.”
To this end, she has engaged in various interdisciplinary research projects that examine various aspects of sustainability and urban resilience, from examining the shifting of human mobility as a result of environmental shocks (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-3231-1) to investigating the ability of the public to crowdsource perceived built environments and sentiments regarding underutilized land (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aei.2021.101371). In addition, two of her upcoming projects have both received grants from the National Science Foundation, funding her work as she looks into both the urban resilience of community-based small businesses as well as the social psychological aspect of misinformation on the internet.
Dr. Wang’s primary project, which she took two years to develop and is the principal investigator on, examines the ability of community-based small businesses (CSB) to respond and adapt to environmental disasters and changing climates.
“Community-based small business are not something like a chain business like Publix or Whole Foods, they’re more like local businesses like restaurants or art galleries — anything that relies on foot traffic, like you have to travel there to buy something. These are the type of businesses that have been affected most by environmental shocks like flooding. So if there’s a hurricane or a coastal flood happening, people do not have access to these businesses.”
She went on to describe how she chose to focus on these businesses in particular due to the lack of available research pertaining to how these businesses in particular respond to climate change in the long-term.
“[CSBs] have been really understudied in terms of long-term climate adaptation. Definitely, there is much disaster recovery research in this domain but we didn’t see a lot of things from the perspective of doing spatial planning – land-use planning, transportation planning, and to really dive into what contributes to their success over the long term.”
Dr. Wang hopes that, by pursuing this research and examining the resiliency of CSBs, she can provide the business-owners of CSBs with data in the future with the goal of informing them on the best practices to adapt to the environmental shocks and to find the ideal location to ensure their business succeeds in the context of climate change.
Featured Image Credit: Urban Agility and Resilience Lab