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 20 page double-spaced report detailing their preliminary findings. Completed reports are available on the Quick Response Reports page.


Special Call for Proposals: 2021 Boulder County Fires

Drivers of Evacuation: A Multi-Level Study of Social Capital and Mobility During COVID19

Daniel Aldrich, Northeastern University
Courtney Page-Tan, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Takahiro Yabe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tim Fraser, Northeastern University

This project will attempt to understand why some people evacuated early from risks while others did not leave until their lives were directly threatened. We will use a variety of methods, including extended interviews with survivors, surveys of residents from the area, Facebook for Good data, mobility data, and information on the pre-disaster levels of social capital to study evacuation decisions.


Tracking the Effects of the Marshall Fire on Pets and People

Leslie Irvine, University of Colorado Boulder
Casara Andre, Front Range Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps

This project has three goals. First, it will take a census of lost, found, missing, and deceased pets and assess the means by which these numbers are currently tracked with the goal of improving tracking lost animals in subsequent disasters. Second, this project will assess the impact of the disaster on the veterinary clinics within the burn zone, examining the material, staffing, and other needs following the fire. Third, this project will explore and, if possible, implement ways to meet the needs raised by the veterinarians.


The Boulder Fires: Rapid Integrated Damage Assessment

Karl Kim, University of Hawaiʻi
Lily Bui, University of Hawaiʻi
Eric Yamashita, University of Hawaiʻi
Mike Vorce, Site Tour 360

The project will collect perishable data on damage resulting from the December 2021 Boulder wildfire, using 360-image equipment and processing software to map and characterize the impact of the disaster. The information will be used to support and monitor recovery planning and the development of wildfire risk reduction strategies. The data, imagery, and procedures will be made available through workshops and training sessions to the Boulder community to support collective actions to reduce risks and improve recovery capabilities. The lessons will be incorporated into FEMA-certified recovery training courses offered by the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center.


Monitoring the Recovery of the Coal Creek Ecosystem After the Marshall Fire

Diane McKnight, University of Colorado Boulder
Julie Korak, University of Colorado Boulder
Cresten Mansfeldt, University of Colorado Boulder
Lauren Magliozzi, University of Colorado Boulder

The Marshall Fire burn area overlaps much of the Coal Creek drainage area. Fires at the wildland-urban interface (WUI) pose contamination risk to surface waters, which can have a toxic impact on stream biota such as periphyton and benthic invertebrates. This study will measure standard water quality parameters, the concentration of metals, organic contaminants, and benthic invertebrate/periphyton health during the Spring and Summer of 2022 at eight sites along Coal Creek in Superior, Louisville, and unincorporated Boulder County. Limited data on stream impacts due to WUI fires exists, therefore collecting this time-sensitive data will inform local management decisions and launch future scholarly research activities.


Survey of Evacuation Behavior in the 2021 Boulder County Fires

Xiang Yan, University of Florida
Xilei Zhao, University of Florida
Erica Kuligowski, RMIT University
Ruggiero Lovreglio, Massey University
Thomas Cova, University of Utah
Daniel Nilsson, University of Canterbury

This research will conduct a survey to analyze and understand household evacuation behavior in the 2021 Boulder County Fires. Empirical data collected will be examined alongside findings from the the 2016 Chimney Tops 2 Fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County, California, to generate new knowledge on risk perception and evacuation decision-making. The comparison of results from a wide range of wildfire contexts will enrich empirical knowledge and test the existing theories.


Open Quick Response Program Awardees

People with Disabilities and Winter Storm Uri: Struggle, Resilience, and Intersectional Locations of Privilege and Inequity

Angela Frederick, University of Texas at El Paso

Winter Storm Uri, which struck Texas in February 2021, stands as the deadliest disaster in modern Texas history. Individuals with disabilities bore disproportionate levels of danger, facing life-threatening conditions due to multiple public policy and infrastructure failures. This research will draw from 40 interviews with Texans with disabilities who experienced Winter Storm Uri to examine how access to social capital at the individual and community levels shaped how individuals experienced and negotiated the storm and its ensuing infrastructure failures.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.