The landscape throughout Aotearoa was created by natural disasters and continues to be shaped by these events. However, it is often difficult to connect the dots between the ‘scientific world’ of natural hazards and climate change and our day-to-day life, often in a heavily human-modified environment. People are great at smoothing over and trying to shut out the past impacts of natural disasters on our landscapes because this suits us for the present. But by engaging with the natural history of our communities and investigating the geological processes that shape them, we can develop an understanding of how disasters shape us and how we might come to live with them in the future.
Sharon is skilled at bringing the human worldview and the geological timescales together through the use of local field trips and helping people see their lived experience as scientific data, which builds a bigger picture of our landscape’s history and behaviour. Simple resources such as maps drawn in the field, a quick sample pit with a spade, looking at old aerial photographs, or new GIS-based elevation models can all help us build an understanding of environmental processes. When they understand the why of natural disasters, students and communities are amazing at coming up with possible solutions (and the scientific method can then be used in an engaging way to test those solutions!)
Sharon loves to help people build their science – confidence and understanding of environmental processes, especially as climate change adaptation and managed retreat become the lived reality of many communities around Aotearoa.