Research Projects

Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Towns and Small Cities

2017 - Present, Aalborg University, Denmark

The two-year project will initiate a move forward to address the adaptation needs of small coastal communities (<100,000 people) by providing focused input to the four steps needed for such progress identified in Major & Juhola (2016) who provide a robust framework to which the proposed research will make significant contributions. These steps include: First, estimates of the number of small coastal towns and cities worldwide likely to be impacted by climate change, and their types and characteristics. Second, initial estimates of costs for adaptation for these settlements. Third, focused, practical adaptation guidance for small coastal settlements. Fourth, guidance for national and external funding agencies (including NGOs).

While the first part intends worldwide coverage, the main initial geographical focus of the research in steps two to four identified above will be on Nordic communities and conditions with a particular emphasis on Northern Denmark as well as regions in other Nordic countries, e.g. Finland and Norway. In addition, the project will build on project members' previous work, networks and experience and thereby feature additional Scottish cases. The team will also collaborate with other UCCRN (Urban Climate Change Research Network) scholars from around the world and along the way attract further national, Nordic and EU funding to expand the geographical coverage.

National Coastal Change Assessment (NCCA) - Dynamic Coast

2015 - 2017, University of Glasgow, UK

The NCCA used 2,300 maps and data to analyse all 21,000 km of the Scottish shoreline to a level of detail never achieved before. It mapped the position and type of the soft coastline in 1890, 1970 and today, assessing the likelihood of its present and future erosion. Areas of erosion were projected to 2050, to provide indicative figures of the natural and built assets at increased risk if past changes and rates continue. The NCCA took no account of future management (improving resilience) or accelerating erosion due to climate change (increasing risk). Managing these assumptions, NCCA mapped the proximity of assets along the whole coastline to understand coastal erosion resilience and exposure to hazard. Several web-maps allow public access to the underlying data and evidence base. NCCA source data is available to public sector organisations to support delivery of statutory duties, particularly flood risk management and climate change adaptation planning. It allows a step-change to occur in public sector adaptation planning.

See for the project outputs and more information.

PhD: Coastal Erosion Susceptibility Model

2011 - 2016, University of Glasgow, UK

My PhD involved developing innovative GIS based models to assess both the geomorphological hazard of coastal erosion and the socioeconomic vulnerability of the population and key assets to identify coastal erosion risk. The outputs emanating from this research are used within the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) flood risk assessments to identify where coastal erosion could exacerbate coastal flooding by removing natural flood defence assets.

My thesis can be accessed here, and two papers that emanated from this research are accessible here:

Fitton, J.M., Hansom, J.D., and Rennie, A.F., (2018) A method for modelling coastal erosion risk: the example of Scotland, Natural Hazards, 91(3), 931-961,

Fitton, J.M., Hansom, J.D., and Rennie, A.F., (2016) A national coastal erosion susceptibility model for Scotland, Ocean and Coastal Management, 132, 80-89.