UR Boulder

Vision: Understanding Risk (UR) Boulder is two-day event that convenes the talent and expertise of our region’s communities, scientists, technologists, and government to develop shared understanding of the challenges we face in building long-term resilience to natural hazards; the impacts of climate change; and develop innovative solutions to meet them.

Sessions: UR Boulder will host 12 sessions to highlight key themes in Boulder and provide a forum where experts and non-experts can share information and develop strategies about the issues that matter most to them. The event is free, but seating is limited.

Event registration is closed. You can see our full program here: UR Boulder Program

Tech Challenge: We are awarding up to $20,000 in contracts to develop open-source technology that can help improve resilience in Boulder. The submission period has been closed.

You can see submissions from our six finalists here:See Submissions

Understanding Risk Boulder is part of an initiative of the Understanding Risk Global Community, managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. Understanding Risk is an open and global community with over 3,300 members from the disaster risk identification field with the primary aim of fostering collaboration, sharing knowledge and advancing innovation. To learn more, visit the UR website and join the UR LinkedIn group.

Friday, Oct. 23

UR Boulder will kick off on Friday night at NCAR's Mesa Laboratory with a welcome reception for all participants including live entertainment, keynote presentations, and Ignite presentations.

Shuttle service so NCAR for the Friday night is available. It will pick up from the HOP bus stop at Walnut and 11th at 4:40 5:10, and 5:40. The shuttle will be making return trips beginning at 8 until 9:30

5:30 PM
6:00 PM
Welcome & Introductions:
Greg Guibert, City of Boulder
Shadrock Roberts, Ushahidi
Lawrence Buja, NCAR
6:15 PM
Keynote Presentation:
Olga Wilhelmi, NCAR
6:35 PM
Ignite Presentations
7:30 PM

Saturday, Oct. 24

The main program of UR Boulder will begin Saturday morning with an Opening Plenary and continue throughout the day with our sessions. BoCo Strong and Mapbox are co-hosting a meetup Saturday evening at Sanitas Brewery from 6-9pm. Please RSVP to join us for great beer and brainstorming about Boulder resilience these evening at 6pm! Sign up for the meetup.

URB will be held in “Kittredge Central” with parking available in lot #308 at the corner of Kittredge Loop Dr. and Regent Dr. See our map for details.

8:30 AM
9:00 AM
Keynote Presentations:
Brett KenCairn, City of Boulder
Joel Smith, Abt Associates
Ben Harding, Lynker Technologies
10:00 AM
Ignite Presentations:
Hannah Fletcher, Learn More About Climate
Iain Hyde, State of Colorado
10:30 AM
Coffee Break
11:00 AM
Room 1: Risk of Absence: Local Volunteerism and Social Capital
Room 2: 50% Chance of an Effective Forecast: Risk Communication
Room 3: Boulder's Economic Resilience
12:30 PM
1:30 PM
Room 1: Mapping Hazard and Risk
Room 2: At the Edge: Looking Beyond Trauma & Resilience for Emerging Perspectives in Disaster Mental Health
Room 3: Building Resilience Around the World
3:00 PM
Coffee Break
3:30 PM
Room 1: Thresholds & Tipping Points
Room 2: Food Security
Room 3: UR Boulder Tech Challenge Pitches
6:00 PM
BoCo Strong Meetup at Sanitas Brewery

Sunday, Oct. 25

UR Boulder will continue on Sunday with another opening plenary, more sessions and wrap up early in the afternoon with a group photo.

URB will be held in “Kittredge Central” with parking available in lot #308 at the corner of Kittredge Loop Dr. and Regent Dr. See our map for details.

9:00 AM
Keynote Speakers:
Simone Balog, World Bank
Victoria Derr, University of Colorado
Mari Tye, NCAR
10:00 AM
Ignite Presentations:
Greg Guibert, City of Boulder
Olivia Stinson, Rockefeller 100 RC Program
Joshua Sperling, NCAR
10:30 AM
Coffee Break
11:00 AM
Room 1: Review Flood Risk in Boulder
Room 2: Citizen Science
Room 3: UR Boulder Tech Challenge Awards
12:30 PM
Group Photo

Session Listing

Risk of Absence: Local Volunteerism and Social Capital

Session Lead: Tiernan Doyle, BoCo Strong

Recent disasters have shown us the crucial importance of social connections in community resilience and risk planning, but this remains a difficult topic to plan around. How do we measure social capital, engage and successfully amplify the impact of local volunteers, and promote connectedness within our communities? This session uses presentations and discussion to examine the effects of local volunteerism and social engagement. The goal of the panel is to advance the conversation on methods for empowering community capacity and building local connections to promote innovative and collaborative solutions for disaster response and risk management.

At the Edge: Looking Beyond Trauma & Resilience for Emerging Perspectives in Disaster Mental Health

Session Lead: Heather Cook, Healing Among Chaos

Disasters are complex. The human psyche is even more complex. An individual’s experience of a disaster is personal, collective and nuanced. Psychological well-being in the disaster world is often described using two key words: trauma and resilience. This session will examine sociological and psychological factors that influence these juxtaposed concepts, as well as the topics of vulnerability and uncertainty. Even more notably, the intention of this session is to expand the conversation beyond the mental health field to the larger understanding of the human perspective of disaster. In the most fundamental way, almost all objectives in risk and emergency management boil down to preventing, mitigating or responding to human suffering. Disasters often create a heightened sense and focused awareness of the human experience itself. In disasters, the interplay of the physical environment on an individual’s internal, psychological landscape is readily brought to the forefront.

Citizen Science

Session Lead: Keith Porter, University of Colorado

Models of earthquakes, windstorms, floods, and other perils necessarily touch on disaster effects on people. But catastrophe models sometimes break down in their understanding of human behavior and public preferences. They sometimes rely on data that only lots of people can provide. Citizen scientists can help risk models to better reflect the interaction between people and the built environment. They can help modelers correctly place people of various demographic groups in various settings at various times of day, and better understand human behavior in disasters. They can help engineers understand the public’s preferences for the performance of the built environment in natural disasters, and their preferred tradeoffs between costs and safety. And citizen scientists can collect and report data that instruments and remote sensing cannot. Let’s discuss how.

Mapping Hazard and Risk

Session Lead: Graeme Aggett, Lynker Technologies

This session will highlight the essential role of spatial hazard, exposure and vulnerability data and modeling tools/techniques in understanding risk and making informed decisions to build resilience. The forum will consist of presentations and discussions showcasing applications of geospatial science and technologies to hazards and disaster risk assessment, and emerging risk assessment tools and methodologies. Topics covered will include: hazard and vulnerability analysis, geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, uncertainty analysis related to land use change and climate change, and risk education and community engagement using GIS. The session aims to promote the cross-fertilization of ideas and promotion of nontraditional partnerships, targeting grassroots organizations, the public and private sectors, NGOs, academics, and space agencies.

Re-view Flood Risk in Boulder

Session Lead: Leah Sprain, University of Colorado

This interactive session will engage participants in a conversation about flood risk in Boulder by working with maps and models developed with data from the 2013 Boulder flood. We'll consider how individual homeowners understand risk, including what is revealed and concealed by flood maps and building damage models. *This session will be audio and video recorded as part of ongoing research at CU-Boulder.*

Thresholds & Tipping Points

Session Lead: Marcus Moench, ISET International

Thresholds and tipping points in the complex systems society depends on determine whether or not a storm or other disruptive event creates disaster. This session, a set of presentations and interactive dialogue, will paint a broad picture of vulnerabilities and resilience in the critical systems Boulder and other urban areas depend on. We’ll kick off with an initial set of illustrative stories from recent fire and flooding events in Colorado. This will be followed by an in-depth look at resilience issues in two areas: (1) the energy systems on which communications and most urban infrastructure depend; and (2) the institutional networks that determine whether or not resilience can be applied and sustained over the long-term. We’ll conclude and open wider discussion with brief perspectives from recent global work on thresholds and tipping points in complex urban systems.

A 50% Chance of an Effective Forecast

Session Lead: Julie Demuth, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Hazardous weather poses risks to people, our environment, and our way of life. Science and technology have tremendously improved our observation, understanding, and prediction of the atmosphere. At the same time, we have an unprecedented ability to notify people of weather threats—sometimes days in advance—with rich, extensive information provided via a dizzying array of sources and channels. But are we reducing risk? What do and don’t we really understand about weather, the risks it poses, and how people perceive and respond to them? What are our capabilities and limitations on this front, now and in the near future? How should we focus our efforts to provide more effective weather risk information to enhance the resilience of Boulder and beyond? This session will include discussion of these topics from the perspective of practitioners who assess and communicate weather risk information to the public, government, and other users, and from researchers who study the weather and weather risk communication.

UR Boulder Tech Challenge

Session Lead: Shadrock Roberts, Ushahidi

The UR Boulder Innovation Competition helps area technologists, coders, and analysts fill technology gaps within local organizations. The competition works with nonprofits, city government, and grassroots community groups to improve resilience in Boulder or strengthen citizen engagement through open-source technology. Challenge finalists will pitch their ideas live to a jury during the Understanding Risk Boulder for a chance to win up to 20k in seed funding.

Building Resilience Around the World

Session Lead: Ken MacClune, ISET International

Efforts like the Sendai Framework and the 100 Resilient Cities campaign have put resilience and disaster risk reduction on the agenda of governments and communities all over the world. This session will situate Boulder's efforts to build resilience within this broader context and showcase innovative approaches from other cities to inform and inspire the UR Boulder community.

Community Food Security

Session Lead: Brian Coppom, Boulder County Farmers Market

Expanding local food production is often lauded as the solution to vulnerabilities in the global food system. With it's open space program and entrepreneurial population, Boulder County is home to many of the country's leading efforts in this area.An open question, however, is whether expanding local production is feasible relative to economics, infrastructure, policy, and market dynamics. This panel explores this question with those who live and work within the local food system.

Boulder's Economic Resilience

Session Lead: Jennifer Pinsonneault, City of Boulder

It is well known that communities with strong, diverse economies and well prepared businesses preceding a disaster are measurably better equipped to recover more quickly. How diverse is Boulder’s economy and how prepared are its businesses? What steps can be taken to increase economic resilience and mitigate the economic impact of natural disasters? How can public and private resources be leveraged for disaster planning and recovery?

Keynote Speakers

Olga Wilhelmi

Understanding population risk to weather disasters in a changing climate

Dr. Olga Wilhelmi is a geographer whose research interests focus on interactions among weather, climate and society across scales, with the main emphasis on understanding societal risk, vulnerability and adaptive capacity to extreme weather events and climate change. Olga is a project scientist in the Research Application Laboratory and the head of the Geographic Information Science Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Olga is a graduate of Lomonosov Moscow State University where she majored in physical geography. She completed her Ph.D. in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1999. Olga has been leading and participating in numerous research activities and has written peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and reports addressing societal aspects of weather extremes and climate change; urban extreme heat and human health; drought vulnerability and water management; extreme precipitation events and flash floods; and the methodologies for integration of physical and social sciences in a GIS.

Brett KenCairn

Sustainability, Resilience and the Message of Lao Tzu: Towards a more realistic cultural narrative in a climate-change driven world

Several decades of effort to define and integrate sustainability have clearly failed to create a truly sustainable world. Climate change demonstrates that key foundation pieces in "modern" societies--fossil-fuel based energy systems; consumption driven economies; extraction oriented management of ecosystems--are both unsustainable and are based on flawed precepts that fail to acknowledge the inevitability of disruptive change. Managing risk effectively will require creating new models of both physical and social systems that build in both infrastructural and cultural practices that recognize the interconnectedness of sustainability (stability) and resilience (disruptive change). Practical efforts to demonstrate this synthesis in the context of Boulder's climate mitigation and adaptation/resilience initiatives will be presented.

Brett is the City of Boulder’s Senior Environmental Planner. He has 30 years experience working on community-based natural resource management. He is the founder or co-founder of four non-profit organizations including the Rogue Institute for Ecology and Economy, the Forest Stewardship Council, Indigenous Community Enterprises, and Veterans Green Jobs. He was also a principal in several private sector firms in the “green” construction and clean energy development sectors. One of these companies, Community Energy Systems, specialized in biomass and waste-to-energy project development. As Senior Environmental Planner for the City of Boulder, Brett is responsible for leading the development of the City’s current climate action plan and participates as a team member on the city’s clean energy development team.

Joel Smith

Risks from Climate Change for the Front Range: Challenges and Perhaps Some Opportunities

Joel B. Smith, a Principal with Abt Associates, has been analyzing climate change impacts and adaptation issues for over 25 years. He has been a coordinating lead author or lead author on the on Third, Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Mr. Smith was a member of the U.S. National Climate Change Assessment Federal Advisory Committee and the National Academy of Sciences “Panel on Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change.” He has provided technical advice, guidance, and training on assessing climate change impacts and adaptation to people around the world and to international organizations, the U.S. government, states, municipalities, and the non-profit and private sectors. Mr. Smith worked for the U.S. EPA from 1984 to 1992, where he was the deputy director of Climate Change Division. He joined Hagler Bailly in 1992 and Stratus Consulting in 1998. Stratus Consulting merged with Abt in 2015. Mr. Smith was a coeditor of The Potential Effects of Global Climate Change on the United States (1989), As Climate Changes: International Impacts and Implications (1995), Adaptation to Climate Change: Assessments and Issues (1996), Climate Change, Adaptive Capacity, and Development (2003), and The Impact of Climate Change on Regional Systems: A Comprehensive Analysis of California (2006). He has published more than 60 articles and chapters on climate change impacts and adaptation in peer-reviewed journals and books and has edited a number of books on climate change. Mr. Smith received a BA from Williams College in 1979, and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Michigan in 1982.

Ben Harding

Characterizing Uncertainty in Climate Scenarios

Ben Harding has more than four decades of diverse experience in water resources engineering. His practice has focused on the design, development, and use of hydrologic models, hydraulic models, water-quality models and river/reservoir system models. Mr. Harding has been a leader in moving research innovations into practice, including using network flow algorithms to simulate water resources systems, using paleo hydrology, using climate model output to estimate projected future stream flows and water demands, and applying non-parametric stochastic methods and Monte Carlo techniques to quantify risk in water resources planning. He led the development of the 2014 Oklahoma Water Supply Reliability and Management Challenge. Mr. Harding holds a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado, and is a registered professional engineer.

Simone Balog

Understanding Risk: A Community

Born and raised in Boulder, Simone Balog has taken her passion for resilience to the development sector, working for the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery at the World Bank. There she manages Understanding Risk, a community of 3,300+ disaster risk identification experts and practitioners. She is passionate about understanding how people see and respond to our changing world, and the use of effective risk communication relating to climate change and natural hazards. She has a Master's in Risk Analysis with a concentration in Risk Communication from King's College London and a Bachelor's in Communication from Boston College. The Understanding Risk (UR) Community was born in 2010 out of a need for a place for collaboration of disaster risk identification experts and practitioners. In the five years since, we have marked improvement in the field. Simone will discuss the history of the community and the importance of risk identification in disaster risk management activities.

Mari Tye

Learning to Love Uncertainty

Dr Mari Tye is a Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology laboratory. She is a researcher in long term changes of extreme weather phenomena under climate change, specializing in the statistics of extreme and high impact weather and climate events. Mari graduated from Newcastle University (UK) in 2012 after interning with the Scottish Government in their Climate Adaptation Policy team. Prior to her PhD Mari practiced as a Civil Engineer for ten years with CH2M and AECOM. Her principle focus was on river and coastal flood mitigation and control. She is the Project Lead for the Engineering for Climate Extremes Partnership (ECEP) which aims to strengthen societal resilience to weather and climate extremes through collaborations between academia, governments, businesses and local communities.

Victoria Derr

Child Friendly Cities as Resilient Cities: Understanding and Fostering Resilience through Participatory Planning with Boulder's Young People

In 2015, Boulder became the first city within the Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilient Cities Network to engage children and adolescents in its planning efforts. Boulder was well placed to integrate children into resilience planning because of six years of prior Child Friendly Cities work through its Growing Up Boulder (GUB) program, which integrates children and youth into urban planning and design. When GUB approached resilience using the wide-ranging definition from the Rockefeller Foundation, young people expressed concerns over economic issues (such as rising prices for housing and rent) and chronic negative influences of global and systemic issues (such as poverty, racism, violence, and climate change). These issues do not affect all parts of cities equally. Therefore, it is important to ask “whose city” and “whose resilience”? Uneven resilience threatens the ability of cities as a whole to function economically, socially and politically, and resilience can be a useful concept and practice to the extent that it helps improve the life prospects of disadvantaged groups. The possibility of intentional resilience creates opportunities for creating a moral compass to guide resilience enhancing actions.Importantly, young people have also offered areas within Boulder that do foster resilience, including greenways and nature, family, friends, and other supportive networks. Many see resilience as “taking care of others and their community.” When children’s rights and urban resilience are considered together, they expand our conceptualization of wellness, promote social justice and well-functioning ecosystems, support children as agents of change, and highlight the importance of multilevel, multisectoral structures of governance. Integration of child friendly principles into larger urban processes can thus encourage the transformative processes that cities seek to create through resilience planning.

Victoria Derr is a Senior Instructor in the Program in Environmental Design at the University of Colorado, Boulder. For more than 20 years, Victoria has engaged communities in participatory research, design and planning for natural and built communities. Her published research and work includes topics of biophilic and restorative design, community engagement, and planning for neighborhood and community vibrancy and resilience. Victoria holds a masters and Ph.D. from Yale University.

@ Kittredge Hall on CU campus

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