Geography Professor Conducting Research in Haiti

Posted on March 2nd, 2010 by

A photo taken by Assistant Professor of Geography Anna Versulis of a damaged building in Haiti.

Gustavus Adolphus College Assistant Professor of Geography Anna Versluis is currently in Haiti conducting research on the extent and impact of familial and neighborly aid following the earthquake that devastated the small island country on Jan. 12.

Versluis arrived in Haiti on Feb. 28 and will stay there through March 7 thanks to a grant from the Natural Hazard Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“In a country in which government services are extremely rare even in terms of basic infrastructure, civil protection, and education, one cannot assume that government or even international aid will be readily available following disaster,” Versluis said. “Even in countries with more functional governments, the role of family and neighbors in supplying “informal” aid during and after disaster is a major one.”

Versluis is hoping to determine the extent and impact of familial and neighborly aid immediately following a natural disaster in Haiti by conducting in-person interviews with at least 60 households in a variety of neighborhoods chosen at random. Versluis then hopes to be able to conduct a comparative analysis regarding the extent of “informal” aid from friends and family relative to “formal” aid from governments and other organizations.

“The research will add to our understanding of the important yet often overlooked role of kinship groups and friends in informally providing assistance following a disaster,” Versluis said. “Additionally the research will provide insight into a particular natural disaster to impact a country so vulnerable to disaster yet so rarely studied by the academic disaster community.”

Versluis also brought eight tents with her to Haiti to give to homeless families affected by the disaster. The tents were donated by Gustavus students, staff, and faculty.

Versluis is blogging and posting pictures on the Gustavus Geography Department’s blog while she is in Haiti. You can visit the blog by going to

Upon her return, Versluis will deliver a free public lecture at 7 p.m. Monday, March 15 in Alumni Hall.

Here is a short video documenting how Gustavus students and staff are helping earthquake victims in Haiti:


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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