I direct the Human-Environment Spatial Analysis lab in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State. Our research uses  geographic, spatial, and statistical analysis to investigate questions of how people perceive, experience, and respond to environmental change and extreme events. I am continually seeking new students at either the MS or PhD level to work in these areas.

Prospective students

Current lab members

Funded projects

CAREER: Location-Aware Social Science for Adaptation: Modeling Dynamic Patterns in Public Perceptions and Behavior

Funded by NSF Geography and Spatial Sciences Program and NSF Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences Program (2018-2023)

This research project will investigate geographic patterns of public behavior, perceptions, and attitudes about climate adaptation. The project will advance scientific methods needed to take social data gathered in larger units and apply them to make the data usable at subnational levels in order to measure public responses at geographic scales relevant to decision making. Project insights will be provided to improve decision making about societal adaptation to risks created by environmental variability and change. A publicly accessible, interactive, online mapping and data tool will provide local decision-relevant information to the public, educators, and policy makers across the U.S. and promote public geographic literacy and education. The educational agenda of this project will strengthen the talent pool in science, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students, course development, research, participation in K-12 educational activities, and public outreach activities that integrate science, art, and geographic education. The integrated research and educational activities will advance scientific understanding about adaptation strategies to reduce the negative impacts of environmental risks.

Adaptation to environmental risk involves decision making by individuals and other stakeholders from the local to national levels. The investigator undertaking this research project will collect survey data regarding public perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors relevant to climate adaptation at the national level, and he will use these data for building and validating models and visualization tools. He will develop models that integrate both dynamic changes in public perceptions over time and spatial relationships across individuals. These new methods will facilitate study of the drivers of changes in public risk perceptions and behaviors related to adaptation and provide relevant data to local decision makers. The investigator will develop a publicly accessible, web-based, risk- and adaptation-decision observatory tool to facilitate the visualization, mapping, and communication of the modeled outcomes to the public and decision makers.

RAPID: Responding to extreme heat in the time of COVID-19

Funded by NSF Human Environment and Geographical Sciences Program (2020-2021)

Responding to extreme heat conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic could place many vulnerable populations at further risk during the warm summer months when many people leave their houses to escape the heat and visit cooling centers and other public spaces. People’s vulnerability is likely to vary over time and space, shifting with the extent of exposure to extreme heat, differences in policy and community response, and disease pressure from COVID-19. By assessing experiences, risk perceptions, behaviors, and perceived ability to respond to these conditions, the investigators will improve the understanding of how people cope with and adapt to multiple evolving hazards. The project will contribute to broader efforts to understand and reduce population health risks from extreme weather events during a global pandemic. The project’s findings will be broadly disseminated to researchers, public health and emergency management practitioners, and the public.

This project brings together theory and methods from geography and behavioral sciences to develop new knowledge about the interactions among people, their environment, and multiple evolving hazards. This research will build on existing theoretical foundations and empirical knowledge and will examine how extreme weather conditions, COVID-19, local policies, and environmental and socio-demographic characteristics affect the public’s risk perceptions, behaviors, and ability to take protective measures. The investigators will conduct a series of georeferenced nationally representative surveys combined with spatially explicit modeling with questions about COVID-19 and extreme heat risk perceptions and experiences, self-reported symptoms of heat stress and COVID-19, household coping capacity, self-efficacy, and protective behaviors undertaken to reduce vulnerability. The project findings will inform risk communication and public health intervention strategies aimed at reducing extreme heat and COVID-19-related impacts that can be generalized for other multi-hazard events.

Collaborative Research: Multi-scale Modeling of Public Perceptions of Heat Wave Risk

Funded by NSF Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences Program (2015-2018)

Extreme heat events are currently the leading weather-related cause of death in the U.S. and have numerous impacts on important social systems including food, water, energy and infrastructure. It is vital to understand how both the public at large and vulnerable populations perceive the risks of extreme heat, how they decide to take action to mitigate these risks, and how their prior experiences shape future responses. People can take action to reduce the health risks of extreme heat, including the use of fans and air conditioning, proper hydration, and avoiding overexertion, but they must first be aware of the risks and appropriate mitigation behaviors. This research project will identify the psychological, social, cultural, and geographic factors that are associated with public perceptions of extreme heat risks, map these risk perceptions at high resolution across the United States, and analyze how vulnerability to extreme heat events corresponds with public risk perceptions. The results will enable emergency managers and policymakers to precisely target preparedness efforts, risk communication strategies, and other resources to protect vulnerable populations from harm.

Little is known about the factors that influence risk perceptions of heat waves, even though such perceptions are known to be a key determinant of how people respond to environmental hazards. To investigate the factors and context that shape public risk perceptions and responses to heat waves, we will conduct a nationally representative survey over the duration of the warm season (May-September) in the U.S. The data will be used to create a spatially explicit statistical model to identify factors related to heat wave risk perceptions, including personal experience with heat waves, local climate, land cover, and socioeconomic variables at the individual, neighborhood, and regional scales. Research on other hazards suggests that recent personal experience is likely to play a major role in risk perception, along with individual-level factors, such as age and gender. Contextual factors, such as location relative to urban heat islands, may amplify risk perceptions. Results from the statistical model will be applied to create a high-resolution national map of risk perceptions at the county and census tract levels, and model projections will subsequently be validated by independent surveys.