UNT professor studying land buyouts in areas hit by natural disasters named Early-Career Research Fellow

DENTON (UNT), Texas — A University of North Texas professor, who studies the role of land buyouts in disaster recovery and hazard mitigation, has been recognized as one of the nation’s top scientific leaders researching ways to improve the wellbeing of coastal communities and ecosystems. Elyse Zavar, assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science, is one of the 20 fellows selected as a 2020 Early-Career Research Fellow by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Her research focuses on buyouts – federally funded land purchased to relocate residents out of high-risk areas like floodplains or hurricane-impacted coastlines – and the challenges and successes of open space land management by local governments, most recently in areas of Harris County hit by Hurricane Harvey.

“I am honored and incredibly excited to be selected as one of the 2020 fellows. This is a tremendous opportunity that will further my research, which in turn, directly informs my teaching. I look forward to learning from and engaging with the other researchers who represent a variety of disciplines but share a common interest in improving the resilience of Gulf Coast communities,” Zavar said.

While the award is not attached to a single project, she plans to continue her research on how local governments in the Gulf Coast region manage and use the open space created through buyout programs to meet community-wide mitigation goals while also reflecting the needs of residents and other stakeholders. She will also examine how relocated residents commemorate their former homes and how these remembrances may contribute to their individual recoveries.

The two-year fellowship, beginning Sept. 1, is awarded to emerging scientific leaders who are prepared to work at the intersections of environmental health, community health and resilience and offshore energy system safety in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. coastal regions.

“Dr. Zavar has emerged as a national leader in the study of post-disaster land use issues in coastal regions, and we are extraordinarily proud that she has been selected to receive this very prestigious and highly competitive award,” said Professor Gary Webb, chair of the Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science. “This kind of recognition also affirms our department’s mission of promoting societal resilience to disasters by delivering top-notch educational programs and conducting cutting-edge applied research on the human dimensions of hazards and disasters.”

The undergraduate Emergency Administration and Planning Program, which is housed in the Department of Emergency Management and Disaster Science, was established in 1983 as the nation’s first bachelor’s degree program in emergency management.

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UNT is one of the nation’s largest public research universities with 39,000 students. Ranked a Tier One research university by the Carnegie Classification, UNT is a catalyst for creativity, fueling progress, innovation and entrepreneurship for the North Texas region and the state. As the university has grown, so has its reach and impact. UNT students earned 9,600 degrees last year from its 14 colleges and schools and the university offers 106 bachelor’s, 88 master’s and 37 doctoral degree programs, many nationally and internationally recognized.