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Our Research

A hurricane has damaged a building.

Discover the important, on-going research of the Disaster Research Lab at D'Youville.

RAPID: Understanding Evacuation, Sheltering, and Re-entry decisions (National Science Foundation Award # 2051578)

PI: Wu; Co-PIs: Greer, Murphy, Clay

This project will study emergency mangers’ and households’ evacuation decisions and their sheltering considerations during Hurricane Laura as individuals cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important for social scientists and emergency managers to understand how the simultaneous threats of a hurricane and a pandemic affect an individual’s decisions about protecting themselves during these events.

The findings from this project will help emergency managers and policymakers develop appropriate public health and population protection strategies to help communities be prepared for future events. With a better understating of the determinants of hurricane and pandemic protective actions (e.g. evacuation, social distancing, sheltering) compliance, emergency managers can develop better evacuation plans and warning messages to help reduce the impact of both the pandemic and hurricane, as well as to advance national health and welfare.

More specifically, the scientific progress generated by this research will increase understanding of differences between emergency mangers’ and citizens’ concerns regarding the maintenance of shelters and sheltering locations (public shelters, hotels, friends’, and relatives’ house) during a pandemic. Emergency managers will be able to better design shelters and encourage households to take appropriate protective actions in the future when facing similar threats. 


RAPID: A Multi-Wave Study of Risk Perception, Information Seeking, and Protective Action in COVID-19 (National Science Foundation Award # 2028412)

PI: Penta, Co-PI: Clay, Silver

This study will survey adults in the states of New York, Louisiana, and Washington about their risk perceptions, information preferences, and the actions they are (and are not) taking to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to capture any changes in these patterns for each state over time, the survey will be conducted every month for six months.

These changes become even more critical as states move to reduce restrictions on people’s movements and the looming probability of a second wave of COVID-19 later this year. This study will improve the research and health community’s understanding of how people perceive risks, particularly when the threat itself is not visible.


Quick Response: Health and Social Consequences of Food Environment Disruption Due to COVID-19. Funder: Natural Hazards Center

PI: Clay; Co-I: Heath*

This project aims to 1) characterize the impact of COVID-19 on food access, availability, sources, and security in NY state and identify risk and protective factors for food insecurity during a pandemics, and 2) describe how families are innovating or improvising to meet food needs when the pandemic risk necessarily requires social (physical) distancing in comparison to traditional convergence to meet food needs as observed following natural hazard events like a hurricane. 

 *denotes student


COVID-19 and Food Security Working Group. Funder: National Science Foundation-funded Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) network and the CONVERGE facility at the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder (NSF Award #1841338)

PI: Clay; Co-PI: Colon-Ramos, Hossan, Josephson, Marks, Belarmino, Neff, Niles, Slotter

Existing food security assessments miss important disruptions to the food environment created by disasters therefore limiting the design of interventions. This Working Group aims to coordinate to align measures across COVID-19 studies, partner on analyses, and disseminate recommendations for food environment assessment post-disruption.


Continuing Training Grant (CTG), Subject Matter Expert (Lifeline 1b. Food, Water, and Sheltering) Funder: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Subject Matter Expert: Clay



SCALE-UP East Boston: Developing a practical model for a climate-resilient community in East Boston to enhance residents’ preparedness Funder: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Resilience Grant

Consultant: Clay

In order to understand whether improved social cohesion can make vulnerable communities more resilient to climate risk, SCALE-UP East Boston has designed four activities that will assess, analyze, and cultivate leadership and organizational resilience. The four elements include: (1) a residential survey; (2) an organizational network mapping initiative; (3) a planning assembly; and (4) leadership development.


Early Career Research Fellowship: The Post-Disaster Food Environment Funder: National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine

PI: Clay

The post-disaster food environment is influenced by factors from multiple levels including: individual level factors that were associated with food insecurity such as physical and mental health, race and ethnicity, income, and partnership; social level factors including social support, coping, and family decision making under financial constraint and increased stress; community and environmental level factors including community cohesion, built environment, and local food sources; institutional level factors including food safety net services available, changes in those services post-disaster, and civic and social institutional roles in food provision; and finally policy and societal level factors will contextualize findings in the context of allocation of resources and social, economic, and political forces that influence food insecurity across all levels of the ecological model.

This fellowship focuses on understanding disaster disruption to the local food environment; from farmers growing food to families putting food on the table through an in-depth longitudinal critical incident case study of Hurricane Florence (2018) in North Carolina.


For questions and opportunities, connect with the Disaster Research Lab.