Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level



Environmental Dynamics


Thomas R. Paradise

Committee Member

Fiona Davidson

Second Committee Member

Kirstin Erickson


Flood, Hazard, Mitigation, Panama, Perception, Risk


Flooding is the natural hazard with most occurrences in Panama. Its frequency and magnitude have increased over the years. This dissertation analyzes Panama’s flood activity in order to better understand flood hazards, the current evolution of Panamanian perceptions of flood risk, and the incorporation of indigenous knowledge used to mitigate flood hazards. The first chapter developed a baseline of past and current flood inventory in Panama, which required the use of flood historical data, thematic cartography, and Geographic Information Science (GIS). This chapter shows Panama has experienced floods in varying degrees. Through the spatial and temporal distribution of floods from 1950-2016, it was shown that overpopulated areas like Juan Diaz tend to flood the most. Another finding in this chapter suggests that urban development plays an important role in the occurrence (higher frequency) of flood hazards and that a proper dredging schedule of the Juan Diaz River reduced flood extents in high percentages. The second chapter assessed the risk perception of individuals in Juan Diaz, Panama through the administration and analysis of survey instruments. The results of this analysis indicate that the residents of Juan Diaz are aware that they live in flood-prone areas. There is an agreement in these communities on what is causing floods, which suggests the prompt need to work on policies that make people stop irresponsible behavior. The third chapter examines the techniques used by indigenous groups to mitigate the occurrence of natural hazards. The contribution of indigenous practices to hazards/risks mitigation is valuable—and that such practices and knowledge should be included in our adaptations in disaster research. An overall plan in order to decrease risk can be achieved once flood hazard recurrence and its consequences are better understood—with hopes of reducing death, damages, and loss of property.