Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Robert McLeman

Advisor Role



In 2021, over 30 million people were displaced by disasters, most of which were weather related and nearly half of which were the result of storms. While research on disaster displacement has provided broad observations of post-hurricane human mobility and the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics that influence displacement, few studies examine the factors that influence household mobility decisions after a disaster. My dissertation uses a primarily qualitative research approach to empirically investigate the relationship between mobility and the capacity of displaced households to cope and adapt to the impacts of hurricanes through a detailed examination of Hurricane Dorian displacement in the Bahamas. My research findings are based upon 40 semistructured interviews with displaced individuals and 14 semi-structured interviews with disaster response organizations, pastors and local government, rapid ethnography and in-depth observations, and secondary data.

Key findings highlight that household mobility decision-making is dynamic throughout displacement and reflects household’s available assets and priorities. My research shows that households continue to make rational and informed decisions throughout displacement, weighing the benefits and challenges of their decisions as they attempt to recover in various locations to determine what is best for their households. It also demonstrates how a secondary event, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, can influence the ability of displaced households in islands to respond to future hurricanes. My research reveals that, when faced with multiple hazards, households reassess their assets and resources, and capacity to rebuild these assets and resources in order to prepare for future events, which in turn influences their decisions on where to live.

The research informed my development of a conceptual model to illustrate the relationship between household adaptive capacity and disaster mobility, highlighting opportunities to advance and enhance climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in small islands. Results of the research demonstrate that island-specific hurricane planning created in coordination with residents, local leaders and island-based NPOs can provide comprehensive assessments of the existing skills, knowledge and physical resources on islands that can be used in disaster preparedness and response. My dissertation contributes to scholarship examining adaptive capacity, displacement and mobility, emphasizing the importance of grounding research in the experiences of displaced populations to provide a nuanced and rich understanding of household post-disaster decision-making.

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