Recently Funded Research

The following is a list of forthcoming research projects from the Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Research Award Program. Within six months of award approval, researchers submit an abstract and 10-page report detailing their preliminary findings. Completed reports are available on the Quick Response Reports page.

Following the Path to Policy Change: Oregon 2020 Wildfires as a Focusing Event

Leanne Giordono, Oregon State University
Hilary Boudet, Oregon State University

The September 2020 Oregon wildfires were widely described as an unprecedented event with respect to both geographic scope and the number of communities affected by both smoke and wildfire. The proposed research will use a process tracing approach to explore how potential focusing events – in this case, the Oregon 2020 wildfires – yield opportunities for public policy change. The study will offer empirical evidence about how extreme weather events shape public policy, will contribute to ongoing development of focusing events theory, and will highlight strategies by which key policy actors engage in the policy process and influence policy decisions.

Heat and Integrated Thermal Stress Mitigation: Assessing Community Infrastructure and Adaptive Capacities in Subsidized Housing Neighborhoods

Dongying Li, Texas A&M University
Robert Brown, Texas A&M University
Yangyang Xu, Texas A&M University

Residents of subsidized housing are among the most vulnerable to extreme weather-related disasters. There is an urgent need to characterize the physical and social infrastructure related to heat and cold stress in these neighborhoods. The objective of our research is to evaluate human cold stress during Winter Storm Uri using field micrometeorological measurements and examine the extent to which the physical and social infrastructures could mitigate the impacts of the disaster through mixed-method approaches. The interdisciplinary team will leverage data on heat and cold stress and develop a convergent framework for thermal stress mitigation to combat climate inequalities.

Co-Occurring Black Swan Events: Overlapping Hurricanes in the Context of a Pandemic

Alessandra Jerolleman, Jacksonville State University
Shirley Laska, Lowlander Center

Hurricanes Marco and Laura created the first ever overlapping landing of storms in the United States and were layered with the strongest winds since 1857. Within the context of a pandemic (COVID-19) and a missed surge forecast for Hurricane Laura, these unique qualities created a challenging management situation for county leaders and emergency managers. Given changing climate conditions, it is important to refine what is known about local disaster management within this context of the layering of new disaster conditions.

Special Call for COVID-19 Quick Response Research: Round 1


The following is a list of recently funded COVID-19 Quick Response Research. These were awarded as part of a Special Call for research on this global crisis.

Does the Public Ignore Information from Female Governors Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic?: A Survey Experiment of Gender Differences in Public Risk Perception and Risk Protection Behavior

Sebawit Bishu, University of Colorado Denver

Preparedness during public health crises heavily depends on public leaders’ effective communication. Outcomes of effective communication and leadership influence is also shaped by socially constructed gender role-expectations that attribute instrumental leadership qualities to men. The current COVID-19 outbreak offers a natural experiment setting to study if leadership gender bias conflicts with public leaders’ effective communication. This study aims to examine if public leader’s gender explains systemic differences in the public’s risk perception and protective actions. In addition, it examines message design as a possible avenue to mitigate leadership gender bias.

Resilience of Social Capital Networks to Social Distancing: Multiscale Evolution of Physical and Virtual Support Networks

Elisa Borowski, Northwestern University
Amanda Stathopoulos, Northwestern University

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in statewide stay-at-home orders across 30 states at present. The proposed research will examine the effects of distancing measures on physical and virtual social capital networks at the individual-, community-, and organizational-level in the United States. By analyzing data from an online name generator survey, crowdsourcing platforms, and telephone interviews using choice modeling, social network analysis, and qualitative descriptive analysis, the findings of this study will provide valuable insights into social isolation vulnerabilities, the potential for virtual volunteering to fill gaps in support networks, and the long-term impacts of disruptions to social capital.

Health and Social Consequences of Food Environment Disruption Due to COVID-19

Laura Clay, New York University
Britta Heath, D’Youville College

Food insecurity is associated with higher rates of infection, mental health problems, and chronic conditions. Alleviating limited access to food that arises during disasters is the focus of recovery efforts, however there is limited evidence on which to build effective interventions for meeting community food needs. This research will characterize the impact of COVID-19 on food access, availability, sources, and security, identify risk and protective factors for food insecurity, describe how individuals are improvising to meet their food needs when pandemic risk necessarily requires social distancing, and contribute to refining a Socio-ecological Model of the Disaster Food Environment for pandemics.

College Students and the COVID-19 Crisis: Evaluating Psychological Impacts and the Formation of Purpose and Meaning During a Disaster

Betty Lai, Boston College
Belle Liang, Boston College

Responding to the COVID-19 disaster, U.S. colleges have rapidly cancelled in-person classes, displacing students and causing psychological, financial, and social distress. Ensuring that college students are able to complete their degrees when faced with disasters has enormous economic and public health benefits. Students who complete their degrees earn more, are healthier, and happier. Supporting educational continuity for students is critical for substantially reducing risks and losses post-disaster. Yet, we have limited evidence to guide disaster recovery efforts for college students. Filling this evidence gap, the project will assess college student and faculty/advisor experiences during the COVID-19 disaster.

Barbados, a U.S. City, and the Political Economy of a Pandemic

Vanessa Leon, New York University - Wagner

This study explores the political economy of disasters in order to better understand the institutional arrangements, pre- and post-disaster, that contribute to ongoing risks as well as the resulting state-level response in its aftermath. For example, consider that Barbados has only had about 170 confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven deaths as of August 31st, 2020 while Orlando, a U.S. city of comparable population size, has had approximately 35,900 cases along with almost 380 deaths by that time. The study therefore assesses the factors that might be contributing to Barbados' demonstrated ability to manage the pandemic as compared to Orlando, despite the latter’s standing within a country that has greater geopolitical influence globally.

Invisible Variables: Personal Security Among Vulnerable Populations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Danielle Wood, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Katlyn Turner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The rapid spread of COVID-19 requires decision-makers to act quickly to reduce the risk of disease spread. The adverse impacts of government-mandated social distancing measures on individuals are generally unknown. Vulnerable populations, such as low-income individuals, face unique challenges managing their safety, economic means, and autonomy in response to the policies implemented on local levels to curb the spread of COVID-19. This proposal aims to understand the invisible variables that contribute to vulnerable individual’s personal security during the hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and institutional response.

Special Call for COVID-19 Quick Response Research: Round 2

The following is a list of recently funded Quick Response Research. These were awarded as part of a second round of funding dedicated to studying COVID-19. To learn more, read the full Special Call for COVID-19 Research.

COVID-19 and Asian Americans: Vulnerability and Resiliency

Angela Chen, Arizona State University
Wei Li, Arizona State University
Karen Leong, Arizona State University
SeungYong Han, Arizona State University

Asian Americans have experienced both anti-Asian discrimination and COVID-19 infection during the pandemic. This study will use a mixed-methods approach to examine the relationship among resource availability, relative risk, COVID-19 preventive behaviors, healthcare seeking behaviors, and health status in three large Asian American groups (71% foreign born): Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, and to explore the role of racial/ethnic community organizations and advocacy to mitigate damages associated with COVID-19, including anti-Asian discrimination amid pandemic. Our study findings will provide meaningful information to enhance individual, community and policy-level decisions related to our target population.

College Persistence During a Pandemic: Supporting First-Generation College Students to Graduation

Cassandra Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Harriet Hartman, Rowan University
Dara Mendez, University of Pittsburgh
Jason Mendez, University of Pittsburgh
Terri Norton, Bucknell University
Julie Sexton, University of Colorado Boulder
Milanika Turner, Florida A&M University

This project investigates college persistence and barriers to persistence for first-generation college students (FGCS) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FGCS are more likely to be low-income, represent communities of color, and arrive at college with fewer resources as compared to their non-first-generation peers. Funding will support data analysis from Fall 2020 and data collection and analysis for Spring 2021. The team will administer surveys, interviews, and visual aids to FGCS enrolled at seven U.S. universities in the spring. Our results will identify the barriers faced by FGCS and provide recommendations to college administrators on how best to meet students’ needs.

Children and Older Adults in COVID-19

Alice Fothergill, University of Vermont
Christine Gibb, University of Ottawa
Nnenia Campbell, University of Colorado
Gabriella Meltzer, New York University

Children and older adults are two diverse populations deemed vulnerable in COVID-19, due to health risks, educational discontinuity, economic instability, and isolation. Indeed, age vulnerability is central in the pandemic and yet the voices of the young and old are rarely heard. This research project explores the lived experiences of both groups using participant-centered, innovative methods, such as daily journaling, drawings, interviews, online surveys, focus groups, podcasts, and workshops. The results of this project will contribute to better disaster preparedness, responses, and policies and support systems that address the specific challenges and resilience of these potentially vulnerable groups.

Imagining and Building Post-COVID-19 Futures: Tourism, Conservation, and Dryland Communities in Africa

Mara Goldman, University of Colorado Boulder
Joana Roque de Pinho, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
Angela Kronenburg Garcia, Ancient World University of Padua Italy
Jona Heita, University of Namibia
Eduard Gargallo, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa

Global coronavirus control measures have resulted in the sudden drop in travel and tourism. This is having particularly strong implications for rural dryland communities, through the associated decrease in income from community-based conservation. At the same time, the pandemic is also exposing resilience within communities and creating openings to explore and enact alternative futures. This project will study the differentiated impacts and responses among dryland communities by the sudden loss of tourism income and cessation of CBC activities; and how these responses contribute to alternative future livelihood pathways. We will do this by studying cases in Kenya, Tanzania, and Namibia.

Examining Eviction Trends in Nebraska During COVID-19

Pierce Greenberg, Creighton University
Erin Feichtinger, Together Inc.
Danni Smith, Together Inc.
Emily Burke, Creighton University

This project aims to analyze trends in evictions that have occurred in Nebraska during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal is to compile a unique dataset from administrative court records that shows (1) how many evictions occurred at properties that were covered by a federal moratorium, (2) where evictions occurred across the state, with a focus on neighborhood disparities based on race and income, and (3) how the changing federal moratoriums impacted those disparities. The dissemination of these results will include a virtual summit with community partners, policy makers, non-profits, and other community members across the state.

Mental Health Impacts of the COVID-19 Response on the Public Health Workforce in the United States

Jennifer Horney, University of Delaware
Kristina Kintziger, University of Tennessee
Kahler Stone, Middle Tennessee State University
Meredith Jagger, Unaffilated
Sarah Scales, University of Delaware

The prolonged response to COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the mental health of the public health workforce. As we enter the ninth month of pandemic response with COVID-19 cases surging across the U.S., the pressures placed on the public health workforce are intensifying. Given unprecedented simultaneous challenges – the length, intensity, and politicization of the public health response, the potential for overlapping outbreaks of influenza, and the need to plan and implement a vaccination campaign – it is critical to identify protective factors that may mitigate the ongoing mental health impacts on a public health workforce near its breaking point.

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Gender Relations in the Context of Successive Disasters: The Case of Coastal Ecuador

Maja Jeranko, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Four years after a devastating earthquake, coastal Ecuador became an epicenter of another crisis, COVID-19. Housing allocation was a priority in post-earthquake recovery efforts and now, the home became the main site through which COVID-19 is experienced. Households recovering from previous disasters have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 regulations. This project focuses on three rural neighborhoods that were affected by successive disasters, the 2016 earthquake, followed by COVID-19, and received differential support from external organizations. In the aftermath of successive disasters, it seeks to analyze the impacts of COVID-19 on gender relations within different post-disaster housing settlements.

Social Media Interventions Against COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation: Focusing on Rural Populations

Jiyoung Lee, University of Alabama
Kimberly Bissell, University of Alabama

Although COVID-19 vaccination has emerged as an important—yet pending—issue, 50 percent of people in the U.S. are unwilling to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, mainly due to misinformation on social media that states unsafety of COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination hesitancy prevails more among rural populations who are at risk of being exposed to unverified information and face serious health risks during the pandemic. To counter COVID-19 vaccination misinformation, our rapid study uses an online experiment and seeks to design social media interventions that can prevent people, particularly rural populations, from falling for misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

Workplace Safety and Mental Health Distress During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Brian Mayer, University of Arizona

Frontline essential workers have been called upon to perform duties vital to the function of the national economy while taking on increased exposure risks to COVID-19, often with little to no additional compensation. This study aims to examine the mental health consequences of frontline essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic for non-healthcare workers in the state of Arizona. By conducting a second wave of the Arizona Frontline Worker Survey as the pandemic’s second wave unfolds, this study will examine how employers can improve workplace practices and policies to reduce exposures to COVID-19 while promoting worker mental health and well-being.

Diabetes, Food Insecurity, and Mental Distress During COVID-19: Applying Syndemic Theory to Biosocial Interactions and Outcomes in New Mexico Colonias

Kathryn Olszowy, New Mexico State University
Mary Alice Scott, New Mexico State University

COVID-19 has contributed to rapid social and economic upheaval that has not impacted all communities equally. Individuals with conditions like diabetes and who come from multiply-marginalized backgrounds face a confluence of factors, including elevated food insecurity and mental distress, that increase risks to their overall health and well-being. This project proposes to develop a predictive model of interactions between diabetes, food insecurity, and mental distress during the COVID-19 pandemic in colonias (underdeveloped rural US-Mexico border communities) in New Mexico. Understanding how coinciding conditions interact is critical to developing actionable intervention plans for people with diabetes during social and environmental crises.

Second Wave Study: The Role of Civic Networks and Information Sources During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Changing Political and Economic Landscapes

Courtney Page-Tan, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daniel Aldrich, Northeastern University
Summer Marion, Northeastern University
Chelsea LeNoble, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Allison Kwesell, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Civic networks and information sources have played an important role in explaining safe and socially conscious behaviors in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early months of the pandemic, our team found evidence that horizontal and vertical linkages between individuals, communities, and information sources measurably altered behaviors during the pandemic among 800+ individuals in six selected neighborhoods in Boston and New York City. Our second wave survey investigates if these findings have held over time, and if changes in the conditions in the workplace, job and financial insecurities, and the current political landscape have moderated these results.

Asian Immigrant and Asian American Families During COVID-19

Vivian Shaw, Harvard University
Susanna Park, Oregon State University
Kara Takasaki, University of Texas at Austin
Amy Zhang, University of Texas at Austin

This study examines changing dynamics among Asian immigrant and Asian American families and intimate partners due to COVID-19 as they intersect with racism, economic insecurity, and public health policies. We conduct in-depth interviews and a general survey among A/AA individuals who are primary caregivers, adults who live at home, and LGBTQIA individuals to explore family dynamics and access to sexual and reproductive care services. We expect households with individuals who have been negatively impacted economically and/or socially due to the pandemic are experiencing elevated levels of family conflict and violence.

¡Estamos Bien, Puerto Rico!: Compounding Disasters and Young Adults in Puerto Rico

Mellie Torres, New York University
Catherine Garcia, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Anna Hayward, Stony Brook University
Gabriella Meltzer, New York University
Tatiana Elisa Bustos, Michigan State University
Alejandro Silva Diaz, Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción

Drawing directly from the CONVERGE COVID-19 Working Groups for Public Health and Social Sciences Research Agenda-Setting Paper on Puerto Rico and COVID-19, and working closely with a San Juan based community organization, this interdisciplinary, exploratory, mixed-methods study examines the mental wellness, coping, and resilience of young adult Puerto Ricans amidst compounding disasters. This project addresses the research question: How have the recent hurricanes, earthquakes, and COVID-19 (the Dire Trio) affected the mental health and well-being of Puerto Rican college students who have lived through all three disasters?

Developing a Culturally Relevant Metric of Food Insecurity for Native Americans in Western New York: A Pilot with the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

Marlene Wakefield, D'Youville College
Lauren Clay, D'Youville College

Native Americans and Alaska Natives (NAANs) disproportionately experience economic hardships with higher poverty rates and lower average incomes that limit the ability to afford and procure healthy food. NAAN food systems traditionally involve obtaining food through traditional gathering methods and community food sharing practices. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread community disruption with those most vulnerable bearing the greatest burden. This research will develop and pilot a culturally relevant NAAN food security metric. Without a culturally relevant metric for food insecurity in NAAN populations, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food insecurity cannot be fully understood.

Surviving COVID-19: Risk Factors and Risk Perception in Black Communities

Fengxiu Zhang, George Mason University
John Marvel, George Mason University

African Americans experience the most severe consequences from COVID-19. This project complements extant studies and advances understanding about the lived experience, perception and behavior in response to COVID-19 in black communities. Drawing on decision theories under extreme events, we focus on risk perception and develop a theoretical model to synthesize and theorize the relative effects of various risk factors on risk perception. The model further investigates how individuals respond to their risk perception in a way modulated by their differential adaptive capacity and values. We test the relationships with an online survey on a national representative sample of African Americans.

Special Call for California’s Recurring Wildfires


The following is a list of recently funded California Wildfire Quick Response Research Grants. These grants were awarded as part of a Special Call for research to study wildfires that were devastating communities across California.

A First Step Towards Longitudinal Study on Homeowners’ Proactive Actions for Managing Wildfire Risks

Ji Yun Lee, Washington State University
Yue Li, Case Western Reserve University

Individual responsibility plays an important role in improving the resilience of communities exposed to wildfires. Homeowners’ decisions on whether to adopt proactive actions for managing wildfire risks are made based on the characteristics of houses and homeowners and consequently affect the recovery processes of houses and a community. Based on an online survey and field study of residents in Sonoma County, California, whose properties were damaged by the 2019 Kincade Fire, this research serves as a first step towards longitudinal study aimed at understanding homeowners’ proactive actions in response to wildfire.

Modeling of Evacuation Behavior in the 2019 Kincade Fire, Sonoma County, California

Xilei Zhao, University of Florida
Ruggiero Lovreglio, Massey University
Erica Kuligowski, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Daniel Nilsson, University of Canterbury

Wildfires have become an escalating problem in California. In order to adapt to the changing threat of wildfires, it is important to understand the household evacuation process, i.e., how people perceive wildfire threat and respond to it. A survey study with people affected by the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, CA is proposed to better understand the wildfire evacuation behavior in this specific event. The survey will use interpretable machine learning to explore how different key factors affected people’s risk perception, evacuation decision, and subsequent evacuation behavior during the Kincade Fire.

Quick Response Research: COVID-19 and Transportation

The following is a list of recently funded Quick Response Research. These were awarded as part of a special call for research on COVID-19 and transportation.

Content Analysis of Web-based Communication Strategies Used by Public Transit Agencies in Major U.S. Cities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jessica L. Franks, Georgia State University

In times of heightened risk of disease transmission, safe and reliable public transit is essential to ensure all citizens, and particularly those most vulnerable, have access to the services they need. For vulnerable populations, the disproportionate distribution of necessary accommodations and supports within transportation systems and structures may further impact health care access and many other facets of life that connect to health outcomes during this time. Given this heightened risk, and the increased reliance of vulnerable populations on public transportation for necessary services, our rapid study seeks to evaluate how public transit agencies are using the web to communicate COVID-19 related information to the public.

Equitable Mobility in the Pandemic Age

Christopher Wyczalkowski, Georgia State University
Deirdre Oakley, Georgia State University
Fei Li, Georgia State University
Karen Johnston, Georgia State University
Stacie Kershner, Georgia State University
Niklas Vollmer, Georgia State University
Prentiss Dantzler, Georgia State University

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing problems facing urban mobility, particularly for low-income populations that rely on public transportation. Urban social theories suggest that multiple forms of discrimination in conjunction with urban sprawl combine to create inequitable outcomes for low-income and minority populations based on their location and condition of local infrastructure. In this study we address this issue by extending on-going qualitative research on the topic of urban connectivity for low-income and minority groups in Atlanta, GA through a series of semi-structured focus groups to address the mobility needs and challenges in this new environment.

Quick Response Research Reports are based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF Award #1635593). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF or the Natural Hazards Center.