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Post-doctoral Research Fellowship Announcement

Urban and Regional Planning Program
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University of Michigan


    Richard K. Norton
    Associate Professor and Chair
    Urban and Regional Planning Program

Restoring, Retrofitting, and Recoupling Great Lakes Shorelands

The Urban and Regional Planning Program at the University of Michigan (UM) has obtained research funding from the UM Water Center and other sources to conduct an extended research program that will participate in and simultaneously study the development and implementation of local comprehensive planning and shoreland area management planning efforts for selected Great Lakes coastal communities in Michigan. Collaborating with study communities, researchers will develop technical methodologies to evaluate and convey to the public the potential physical impacts to shorelands from Great Lakes shoreline dynamics, including primarily impacts to coastal habitats, wetlands, and developed properties. Researchers will also develop methods to assess potential fiscal impacts under various shoreland area management options. This work will be conducted by urban planners and architects in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in collaboration with researchers with the UM College of Engineering, the UM School of Natural Resources and Environment, the Michigan Technological University Great Lakes Research Center, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Zone Management Program, and LIAA, a non-profit planning firm located in Michigan.

The Urban and Regional Planning Program seeks to hire a post-doctoral research fellow beginning as soon as possible (no later than January 1, 2014) and extending through August 31, 2015 to play a significant role in this research program. This announcement provides an overview of the research program and the post-doc fellow roles, along with instructions for submitting an application.

Project Overview

Great Lakes shorelands are desirable places to build. They are also valuable ecological and dynamic physical systems, appearing to be stable for long periods of time but inevitably receding landward over time and sometimes shifting rapidly from high-energy storms. Recent modeling suggests that Great Lakes water levels will decline because of global climate disruption, but they also predict increased storminess, a natural physical condition that will increase shoreline ecosystem disruption, damage public and private property, and risk public safety. Substantial damage has already been done to Michigan's Great Lakes shorelands from urban encroachment into coastal wetlands, as well as from receding beaches and structures erected to protect developed shorelands. Once structures are built and shifting shorelines threaten, managers and property owners have limited options, such as armoring, constructing bio-structures, nourishing with imported sand, or retreating. Each option has implications in terms of the natural ecological and physical functioning of the shoreland system, as well as short and long-term public and private costs.

The policy goal underlying this research program is to restore Great Lakes shorelands where possible, retrofit them in response to changing dynamics where necessary, and recouple the natural and built functioning of shoreland systems. The two-fold research goal is, first, to develop technical methodologies to address the issues of concern noted above, working in collaboration with study communities, through comprehensive and coastal area management planning efforts, and second, to simultaneously evaluate the efficacy of those methods and processes. Leveraging recent and ongoing work on Great Lakes coastal habitats and shoreline dynamics conducted by the research team, and collaborating with the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes program staff, researchers will analyze shoreland physical and ecosystem dynamics, conduct fiscal impact assessments, and work with selected Michigan coastal communities to assess the potential to restore, retrofit, and recouple Michigan's dynamic shorelands through state shoreland management policies and laws as well as local master plans, regulations, and polices. The full team will contribute to all aspects of this combined planning-research project, with LIAA taking the lead in conducting the community planning efforts and UM taking the lead in conducting the corresponding research efforts.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow

This project will generate research that both contributes to the practice of shoreland area planning and development management along Great Lakes shores and contributes to our knowledge of the factors that influence the design and implementation of those planning and development management processes. The post-doctoral research fellow hired through this grant will play a central role in managing the administration of this research program and generating policy reports and peer-reviewed academic journal publications from those efforts.

The post-doctoral fellow will perform four primary functions under the supervision of the Principal Investigator for this work, Richard Norton. These include: 1) taking the lead in coordinating the various research activities described above and conducting ancillary activities necessary to augment and facilitate that work (e.g., conducting appropriate literature reviews, conducting additional surveys of coastal Michigan communities and other coastal Great Lakes communities to provide control assessments against which to evaluate the planning activities undertaken directly through this grant); 2) taking the lead in preparing project reports, policy report(s), journal publications, and other substantive materials developed through this grant; 3) providing day-to-day research program administration for the grant, including coordinating and managing work conducted by the faculty researchers and the student research assistants conducted under this grant; and 4) serving as the main point of contact and coordination between the UM/MTU research team and the LIAA staff.

With regard to the latter tasks, the UM post-doc will engage the following key activities:

  • Serving as the day-to-day coordinator of the UM/MTU researchers (faculty and students) for the ongoing planning project and research activities involving those researchers, working regularly and closely with the LIAA project staff coordinator;
  • Providing training to and working with the LIAA staff coordinator on qualitative research methods, including observation and documentation methods, to be engaged for the research portion of this project;
  • When able to attend community meetings, observing, documenting, and assisting the LIAA staff with the real-time analysis of the ongoing planning process, including formal meetings and ongoing informal interactions with community members;
  • Coordinating and contributing to the preparation of training materials by UM/MTU researchers, and coordinating with the LIAA staff coordinator on the incorporation of those materials into various training programs being developed through this work;
  • Collaborating with the LIAA staff coordinator to observe, document, and assist with the analysis of efforts to develop and operationalize training materials; and
  • Collaborating with the LIAA staff coordinator to observe, document, and analyze trial training runs.

The post-doctoral research fellow will be housed in the Urban and Regional Planning Program at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. The compensation for this position will be at the annual salary rate of up to $52,000, with benefits, corresponding to the candidate's qualifications.

Qualifications and Application Process

UM seeks a post-doctoral research fellow who has completed the Ph.D. degree in urban and regional planning or a closely related field within the past 5 years. Required qualifications include academic study of land use and environmental planning, sustainability and community resilience in the context of global climate change, local comprehensive and subarea planning processes, participatory and collaborative planning processes, survey and qualitative research methods, and planning program evaluation. Highly desired qualifications include academic study of ocean or large-lake coastal shoreline dynamics and sustainability in the context of culture, human behavior, and social-political decision-making processes. Professional work experience in one or more of these areas is highly desired as well.

The successful applicant will be expected to commit to completion of the appointment through August 2015.

Interested applicants should submit a single pdf file to Michael Hill (mehill@umich.edu) that includes the following: a letter of interest that describes the applicant's qualifications; a curriculum vita; contact information for three references; and a short writing sample (e.g., journal-article-length manuscript or publication). The subject line in the email should state "URP Post-doctoral Fellowship Application."

Review of applications will begin on Monday, October 21 and continue until the position is filled.

Please contact Richard Norton, Associate Professor and Program Chair of the Urban and Regional Planning Program, with questions regarding this announcement at rknorton@umich.edu.

This announcement and any additional details regarding this position can be found at:

Oct 10, 2013

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