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Undergraduate Researchers

Daniel Graham

Daniel Graham, History and Philosophy

The Rising Tides: A Comparative Study of the Circumstances and Outcomes of the North Sea Floods of 1953 and the Hurricane Katrina Disaster of 2005

In early 1953, the North Sea was experiencing uncommonly high tides for the season. On the evening of January 31, this high tide combined with a tidal surge and a fierce windstorm to inundate over 1,000 square miles of the Netherlands, and over 350 square miles along the coast of England. Within six hours, the flooding claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 people in the Netherlands (primarily in the provinces of Zeeland and South Holland), and over 500 British people drowned in the flood waters. The circumstances of the North Sea flood of 1953 shares a number of important similarities with the flooding of New Orleans in 2005 arising from Hurricane Katrina. My study will consist of a comparison of the North Sea disaster of 1953 and the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe of 2005. I will consider water-management efforts in the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the United States, and will analyze the events of each flood in light of these efforts. I will further investigate and compare flood responses in each country.

When and how did you find out that you could do independent research or creative work as a UMBC undergraduate? 

I received several emails through the Humanities Scholars Program, and am close friends with several past URA recipients.

How did you find a mentor and decide on a project? How did you know this was the project you wanted to do? 

As I was preparing to study abroad in the Netherlands, I began to research Dutch history. In doing so, I stumbled upon the 1953 North Sea storm surge. I was taking a class on writing historically about natural disasters, so my interest was piqued. I approached Dr. Bouton, a history professor with whom I had previously taken a class, and whom I get along with quite well. He was on board, and so was I.

How much time will you put into this research/creative work?

I will spend much of the summer conducting preliminary research, and refining my research questions. While abroad, I am planning to take between two and five weekend trips to the British National Archives, and will take a similar number of trips to Dutch archives in Amsterdam, and throughout Zeeland.

What academic background did you have before you started on this research?

I have experience writing about natural disasters. I have also worked with the British National Archives for other projects. I will be taking Dutch language course over the summer and while abroad to further facilitate my research.

How did you learn about applying for the Undergraduate Research Award? Was the application hard? Did your mentor help you?
My girlfriend, a past URA recipient, suggested that I apply. The application was relatively simple, and although I did not ask my mentor for help, I'm sure he would have assisted me had I needed it.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

 JUST DO IT!  I never thought I would receive a research grant, but you cannot succeed if you do not try, and once I committed myself to this project, it was easy to apply, and now I get the opportunity to conduct original research!

What are your career goals?
I intend to earn a Master's degree in history, and hope to work as an historical researcher or analyst for an archive, or the government, or an independent contractor.