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.
Collaborative Research: Multi-scale Modeling of Public Perceptions of Heat Wave Risk
Funded by NSF Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences Program
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.